unspun 6-7

unspun 6-7 - CHAPTER SIX: The Great Crow Fallacy: How to...

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CHAPTER SIX: The Great Crow Fallacy: How to Assess Evidence · One published report, based on only a few isolated observations (anecdotal evidence), of crows dropping nuts in front of oncoming cars to get them cracked open inspired wide-spread belief that crows are much smarter than we had thought. More systematic studies showed no evidence of crows doing anything more than just dropping nuts on hard surfaces to try cracking them open. The passing cars were purely incidental. LESSON: Don’t Confuse Anecdotes with Data · Anecdotes are stories. Anecdotal evidence is evidence based on merely a few interesting stories; it is not enough evidence to support a general conclusion and it is usually not typical or representative of the bigger picture. LESSON: Remember the Blind Men and the Elephant · Very limited evidence (anecdotal evidence) usually leads to wrong conclusions about “the big picture.” · Our own first-hand life experiences often do not add up to anything more than anecdotal evidence. Our own experiences rarely add up to anything we could call systematic evidence . · What Americans saw regarding so-called “smart bombs” during the 1991 Persian Gulf War was a very limited body of evidence subject to an extreme selection bias. We did not see a representative cross-section of all our military weaponry used in Iraq. More than 90% of our munitions were not “smart weapons,” and many of the “smart weapons” did not perform adequately. · “The Great Fertilizer Scare” Newspapers ran with the idea that the cases of Lou Gehrig’s disease among members of the 1964 49ers were caused by Milorganite, a fertilizer that a groundskeeper claimed to remember using on the field that season. More systematic scientific study found no evidence of a connection. The cases of ALS among the 1964 49ers is probably just a randomly occurring cluster . · The estimate of 3 million homeless people in 1983 was way off the mark because it was based on
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unspun 6-7 - CHAPTER SIX: The Great Crow Fallacy: How to...

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