Arrogant values?

From Greg Williams (930326)

Bill Powers (930325.0850)

Is it arrogance to set standards for accepting knowledge claims
so high that even one's own attempts to make claims are more
likely to fail than succeed?

It is arrogance to suppose that one's own goals are the only, or even
the most, important ones. Such a view then can lead to the belief that
the methods useful in achieving one's own goals are the best methods
for everyone. Just try selling an insurance exec on the method of
modeling -- he/she does fine with statistical descriptions of
populations and doesn't care about predicting individual behaviors. In
fact, the method of modeling individuals would be unwieldy here, to
say the least, not to mention the fact that it is still in its infancy
and cannot be applied to "high-level" behavior now (or, I predict, for
decades to come).

I agree with you that there are other approaches to knowledge,
but in my view that is all they are: approaches. We have to spend
a lot of time mulling over imperfectly stated propositions and
guessing how we might investigate them, but I don't think that
this kind of preliminary activity belongs in the category of
"knowledge claims." It's the sort of thing you do while you're
looking for an idea that has enough solidity to be put forth as a
candidate for a knowledge claim.

As Phil Runkel pointed out in his book, there is a lot which can be
accomplished by the "Grand Method" (his term) of descriptive
statistics of populations. I would suggest that there are some human
goals which can be met more efficiently by using descriptive
statistics than by using the (again, "Grand Method") of individual
models. Yes, the user of statistics must be careful in the ways which
have been abundantly discussed on this net. But I believe that
statistics of populations IS a kind of knowledge. It is not as
detailed a knowledge as models of the population individuals; this
confers both disadvantages AND advantages. Surely you don't expect
epidemiologists sometime in the (far?!?!) future to replace
statistical description with individual models. Some physicists still
work with thermodynamics and statistical mechanics while others model
individual molecules (SMALL ones!) -- why? because they have varying
goals, for which varying approaches are appropriate, mainly in terms
of efficiency.

Even Newtonian mechanics is still the undisputed theory of choice
in very nearly all macroscopic situations -- and has been for
over three centuries. This is what you get when you cross the
boundary between verbal reasoning and precise analysis -- when
you're able to do it.

Ah, there's the rub... when you're able to do it. When you're able,
I'd be happy to submit to a tracking experiment (say, at a CSG meeting
however many years from now when you are ready); you tell me what the
task is supposed to be and then try to predict what I actually do.
When will your modeling and associated methodolgy be sufficiently
sophisticated to predict when I will COOPERATE and when I won't? Not
for a long time, of course. And when PCT has leapt that hurdle, the
next one is to make models for THOUSANDS of individuals and combine
them some way to predict population measures. Lots of luck. No, it is
better to follow the example of physics and stick with descriptive
statistics for generating SOME kinds of knowledge.

As you know, I am very sympathetic to the method of modeling in
general and to PCT models in particular. But I am not arrogant enough
to think that modeling individuals is the only path to knowledge. It
IS the only path to SOME kinds of knowledge. But some people don't
need that kind of knowledge.

As ever,