« vinegar and Excel |
| "The Odyssey Years" ? »
An interesting nytimes.com piece today:
Are iPods to Blame for Rising Crime?
Posted by Karin Cox on 27 de Septiembre 2007 a las 07:02 PM | Permalink
Wow, this article has provoked quite the discussion in the section below it! I know your opinion of the iPod is unfavorable, but how do you respond to those crying out against the argumentative fallacies of the article (e.g. discussion post #21)?
27 de Septiembre 2007 a las 08:20 PM
well, to reproduce the nytimes.com comment here, made by "John" on 9/27/07:
Post hoc ergo propter hoc - a true error in logic.
In the report the authors state:‚Ä?rigorous empirical tests of any hypothesis about the cause of the spike in violence are not possible‚Ä?. If this is the case then what was the purpose of the report other than to see their names on a published paper. This is academic hog wash!
I don't know what that latin phrase means--I'm stuck on the word "propter" --
but I disagree with this person's opinion. First, their comments that "rigorous" tests are not possible do not necessarily imply that their ideas are uninformative. They do offer some suggestions for law enforcement -- in particular, pay more attention to the relevance of the iPod -- which could be turned into social experiments in and of themselves. For example, what happens if you have a PR campaign to make people more aware of their iPods and more aware of how easily they can be distracted by them? Will the crime rate go down? Someone who is just interested in the empirical rigor of this social experiment will complain that even if you get a positive result -- crime rate goes down -- that doesn't mean that you've explained why the crime rate went up in the first place (and you can't even necessarily prove that your PR efforts were the direct or even indirect cause of the decline in crime rate). However, the unsatisfactory nature of this intervention from a scientist's viewpoint might be more satisfactory from the viewpoint of someone who is just finding a way to reduce crime -- if you have a reasonable suggestion for what you can do to address the problem, and it's not an intervention that is associated with huge risk (no one should get hurt too much by a PR campaign) then isn't it worth a shot, even if it can't be "rigorously" tested?
Anyways, that was my attempt for a counter-argument.
11 de Octubre 2007 a las 03:03 PM
It seems to be a matter of correlation versus causation in the chronological way the conclusion was drawn from the premises. It is academic nitpicking as this is simply the nature of social experiments - they (the experimenters) obviously carried out such an experiment understanding that it will be a correlation rather than a causation since they are isolating one of myriad complex and intertwined causes of an event to see how strongly they correlate.
The correlation between iPod usage and crime rate is certainly a worthy inquiry if not, as you said, only for the non-risky and non-harmful nature of a PR campaign intervention.
I think you both have valid points, but your analysis is much more open minded, allowing for the study to be of some benefit to society rather than dismissing it altogether without weighing the possible benefits despite the "error" (albeit likely intentional error) in logic.
12 de Octubre 2007 a las 08:19 AM