Elements of Statistical Reasoning

Elements of Statistical Reasoning

Elements of Statistical Reasoning

Elements of Statistical Reasoning

Excerpt

Much more than a trifle of truth is embodied in a simile drawn at the expense of many research workers who prop their argument with statistical proof. Likened to inebriated gentlemen affectionately clinging to lamp-posts, they are said to regard statistics as a source of support rather than as a center of illumination. One need not emphasize here the all too frequent appropriateness of the criticism. Rather, one is concerned with the frank admission of the critic that statistics do form a source of illumination for those whose wits are not dulled by number. Those whose intellectual activities find stimulus in the attainment of rigorous analysis turn toward statistical reasoning for illumination in the study of variation systems.

The steadily increasing acceptance of statistical methodology as a desirable tool in scientific analysis is reflected in the widening provision made in university curricula for the teaching of the subject. It has been the privilege of the author to be engaged in such instruction at the University of Minnesota for the past ten years. Built on foundations laid by Professor J. Arthur Harris, the exposition given in this book reflects the experience acquired during that period. The author's classes have been composed principally of graduate students with a great diversity of objectives. The urge to secure an understanding of the principles of statistical reasoning has, in these classes, made companions of entomologist and educator, of clinician and chemical engineer, of sociologist and mathematician, as much as of anatomist and geneticist.

An interest in the cultivation of logical analysis in science is all that has been asked as a prerequisite. Uncommon in these times is the student of biological phenomena who has been instilled with a keen appreciation of the analytical power in quantitative logic which a knowledge of mathematics may open to him; rare indeed is the one whose fortune it has been to acquire that power from formal courses in pure mathematics. Nevertheless, some aptitude for logical analysis in quantitative thinking is innate to most students who choose science as a prospective profession. A course in statistics may well be arranged to develop that aptitude through appeal to realities, whereas a prerequisite requirement of further training in theoretical mathematics oft-times conjures fears that effectively block further progress. Experience has amply shown that such . . .

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