In keeping with the “Anti-” theme from my last post I thought I’d share something I found in the treasure trove of rants that J. Michael Steele’s has put on the web for our edification.

Antihubrisines, according to John W. Tukey in his 1986 paper, Sunset Salvo, are little pearls of wisdom to keep in mind if you suspect you are being afflicted by hubris. They are to “suffering philosophy” what antihistamines are to suffering sinuses:

To statisticians, hubris should mean the kind of pride that fosters and inflated idea of one’s powers and thereby keeps one from being more than marginally helpful to others. … The feeling of “Give me (or more likely even, give my assistant) the data, and I will tell you what the real answer is!” is one we must all fight against again and again, and yet again.

Included in Tukey’s prescription are number of strains of advice, both qualitative and quantitative. Among my favourites is this very bracing tonic that should be administered whenever you plan to start number crunching:

The data may not contain the answer. The combination of some data and an aching desire for an answer does not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data.

Mark Reid October 3, 2007 Canberra, Australia
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