Postmodern Statistics

You probably never heard of Postmodern Statistics because it seems that until now no one ever spoke of it. Certainly, that does not imply that one cannot conceive of postmodern statistics, although, to an alive mind, it may suggest that there is something about statistics that makes it incompatible with the standard postmodern dialectic. That is precisely the point of this essay.

Say What?

My thesis, in a nutshell, is that there is no postmodernist movement in statistics because the vast majority of statisticians lack a sufficiently elevated sense of self-consciousness, especially historical self-consciousness. Put so plainly, the thesis is almost self-evident. Still, if clarification is needed, Umberto Eco has a paragraph in Reflections on the Name of the Rose which gets to the crux:.

The postmodern reply to the modern consists of recognizing that the past, since it cannot really be destroyed, because its destruction leads to silence, must be revisited: but with irony, not innocently. I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows he cannot say to her, "I love you madly," because he knows that she knows (and that she knows that he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say, "As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly."

A Pony Buried Here

Statisticians have no sense of the past; certainly no sense of what was said in the past. The statistician, if he knew a very cultivated woman, would therefore have no need to tee up "I love you madly." The statistician would not know that this exact phrase had already been developed by Cartland, and, if he happened to know, he simply wouldn't care.

So, there you have it: No Postmodern Statistics. Not now, not ever.

Inevitable Revisionism

This snippet was written in 2003. A Google Search July 2006 for exact match on "postmodern statistics" turned up 20 hits, of which this page was ranked first, most likely because I used the phrase a few more times.

little gold line ...

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