Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Total Drek Players Present…

We begin our tale in the home of Mr. Empiricist Science and his partner Ms. Positivist Philosophy-Science. Ms. Philosophy-Science has just returned from work to find that the house is a mess. Her twin sons, Qualitative Science and Quantitative Science, have been fighting again. She finds them exchanging blows in the back yard.

“Okay, okay, stop it you two, stop it right now!” mama Pos bellowed, stalking across the grass with an unshakeable confidence.

“He started it!” Quant said angrily.

“I did not!” Qual replied, adding a kick for emphasis.

Quant stumbled back out of the way, pawing at a bloody lip, “Did too!

Mama Pos grabbed one in each hand and hauled them apart by their shirt collars. The two boys glared at each other, but neither was fooling enough to struggle.

“I don’t care who started this, you’re both in trouble! What on earth is all this about, anyway?”

The two boys started talking at the same time, one trying to drown out the other. After scant moments, Mama Pos shook her head and interrupted.

“Stop! Stop! Enough! I’ve changed my mind, I don’t care what this is about. It doesn’t matter.”

The harried woman released the boys and stepped back. After taking a deep breath, she lowered her voice and tried again.

“Okay, let me guess, you were trying to build a theory again and things got out of hand. Am I right?”

The boys exchanged a glance, but said nothing.

“Right. That’s what I thought. Fine, we’ll take this one at a time.”

Mama Pos turned to Quant and nodded, “You first, what’s your side?”

Quant answered his mother in his normal fashion:

“Number of iterations = 82
Converge criterion = 0.0000009676

X-squared = 27.3506 (0.0001)
L-squared = 27.4479 (0.0001)
Cressie-Read = 27.3799 (0.0001)
Dissimilarity index = 0.0113
Degrees of freedom = 6
Log-likelihood = -57541.90776
Number of parameters = 18 (+1)
Sample size = 19912.0
BIC(L-squared) = -31.9465
AIC(L-squared) = 15.4479
BIC(log-likelihood) = 115261.9989
AIC(log-likelihood) = 115119.8155

Eigenvalues information matrix
23383.4550 6769.6308 4586.7966 3230.9675 2020.4083 1652.4329
1430.8572 1323.9839 1074.3686 970.0965 838.2310 558.1981
526.1280 430.5837 370.0170 297.4412 284.4832 28.1028”

Silence fell over the yard.

“Is that it?” Pos asked.

Quant opened his mouth to continue, but his mother waved her hands before he could speak.

“Never mind, I know, I know, you’re going to give me the conditional probabilities.”

Though he obviously wanted to continue, Quant allowed himself to be shushed.

“Answer me this, Quant: what does all that mean?”

After thinking a moment, the boy answered, “P<0.0001?”

“So?” his mother asked.

Quant remained silent. Finally, he shrugged.

With a sigh, mama Pos turned to her other son, Qual, who had been watching the proceedings with an increasingly smug look.

“Okay, let’s have it, Qual.”

Qual, like his brother, answered in his characteristic manner, “A deep examination of the interview diaries provided by a series of individuals at all levels of occupational status within the United States were compiled and evaluated. This evaluation provided substantial detail on the patterns of mobility from generation to generation or, more specifically, between the social position of the father and the social position of the son. These diaries, in conjunction with the account of my seven month employment at a telemarketing call center, will provide the foundation of the deep-ethnography that I will now report. Chapter 1: Selecting the Site and Inserting the Researcher…”

Young Qual continued like that for several minutes before his mother became impatient.

“Okay, fine Qual, that’s very good. Where’s your proof?”

“Proof? What do you call my interviews!?” Qual responded, indignant.

Pos sighed, “Qual, you have a tremendous amount of information, and it’s good information, but you only have about ten diaries and, yes, you spent seven months in one job gathering information, but it was just one job…. And we’re going to talk about that later, young man, as you had better not have blown all your money on NUD*IST licenses and micro-cassette recorders,”

Qual suddenly looked very guilty.

“The problem, Qual, is that despite the depth of your research, you only have information on ten families, and your own experiences. That doesn’t mean you actually know anything about the world. Are those results generalizable? Are they just an artifact of the way you did your interviews? Who knows? Not you.”

“Okay, mom, fine, so who is right? Me or Quant?” Qual asked with annoyance in his voice.

“Bacon help me,” Pos murmured to herself, “Empiri is so much better at tackling these issues than I am.”

After a moment of silence, Pos continued at a normal volume, “Look, neither one of you is right.”

For once both boys were united, if only in their indignance.

“What? We can’t BOTH be right!” Qual exclaimed.

“Yeah,” Quant agreed, “talk about misspecification!”

“No, boys, listen: you, Quant, can tell me chapter and verse about something, you can even tell me exactly how accurate your inferences are, but you cannot tell me what any of it means.”

Quant looked defiant, but said nothing.

“And you, Qual… you can give me more depth on something than I ever needed, more depth than I can even believe possible, but you still can’t demonstrate that something holds true for an entire group. You have so much data, Qual, but so much of it is just totally irrelevant. It's all depth with no breadth.”

Qual sighed heavily, looking with deep sadness at the stacks and stacks of interviews he had accumulated.

“Great. We can’t do anything right,” Qual sighed.

Mama Pos tousled her son’s hair fondly, “I didn’t say that, Qual. You’re both very, very good at certain things, but you can’t get the job done alone. So, have you ever thought of working together?”

“Together?!” the boys asked, looking back and forth from their mother to each other.

Mama Pos chuckled, “Yes, sillies, together! You, Quant, can tell me precisely what’s happening, but you can’t tell me what it means. You, Qual, can’t tell for sure what’s happening, but you can produce wonderful stories about what Quant is finding out.”

“So, what, I’m supposed to do what he tells me?” Qual asked sullenly.

“Sometimes,” Pos said calmly, “But sometimes you’ll take all your material and tell him what you think is going on. Then it’ll be his job to see if you’re right.”

“So… it’s like we’re positively correlated?” Quant asked slowly.

“Something like that, Quant,” Pos replied with approval, “When one of you is going up, the other is too, and when one of you is failing-“

“We’re both failing,” Qual finished.

There was a moment of silence as Quant stared at his brother in disbelief.

“What? Just because I don’t talk that way doesn’t mean I don’t understand it when you do!” Qual said in exasperation.

After a few more moments of staring Qual sighed and kept talking, “Fine, fine. Most of the time I don’t get it. I still understand correlation, though.”

Quant nodded, and then smiled, “Maybe mama is right. Maybe we’d do better if we worked together instead of fighting all the time.”

“Well,” Qual answered, “we can’t do any worse. We aren’t getting anywhere by ourselves.”

The crisis ended, mama Pos clapped her hands, “All right you two, go on in and wash up for supper.”

“Oh boy!” Qual said, “What are we having?”

Quant and Qual raced off, but Pos overheard her other son answer, “Who cares what we’ve having? How much is there?”

Mama Pos smiled. It was a normal day in the Science household.


Blogger Dex said...

Wow... a really amazing story, and quite descriptive... :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 6:56:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

Well, thank you Dex. Seriously, though, how did you come across this post?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 8:39:00 PM  

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