WM Briggs, the Statistician to the Stars!

This is a version of a talk I gave at a conference recently.

In early 2020, Neil Ferguson's group at the Imperial College of London issued a model which terrified the world. More than two million dead in the USA! Half a million dead in the UK! But we could be saved if only we locked down, closed schools, and social distanced.

How did that model do? If you are short of time and can't watch the video, here's the gist: it stank. It should never have been believed. It was outrageous, asinine, and went directly against guidance issued by the WHO only months before. Too, Ferguson had a long track record of trying the panic the world.

There was no reason whatsoever to believe the model. But it was believed. Willingly, eagerly, and immediately.

Please comment and send future video requests at https://wmbriggs.com/post/28123/

The Epidemiologist Fallacy marries the Ecological Fallacy with the P-value Fallacy. The Ecological Fallacy is when it is said X causes Y, but X is not measured, and instead a proxy is. The P-value fallacy is to suppose a wee p-value has confirmed X causes Y. The P-value Fallacy can also be done with Bayesian methods, as in the example given.

The paper shown does not use P-values, but does use parameter-based Bayesian measures which exaggerate evidence. See the above link for an explanation.

See the video for the Double Epidemiologist Fallacy!


Created 2 years, 4 months ago.

2 videos

Category Science & Technology

See https://wmbriggs.com for a complete description. I am a wholly independent vagabond writer, statistician, scientist and consultant. Previously a Professor at the Cornell Medical School, a Statistician at DoubleClick in its infancy, a Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, and a sort of Cryptologist with the US Air Force (the only title I ever cared for was Staff Sergeant Briggs).

My PhD is in Mathematical Statistics, though I am now a Data Philosopher (I made that up), Epistemologist, Probability Puzzler, Unmasker of Over-Certainty, and (self-awarded) Bioethicist. My MS is in Atmospheric Physics, and Bachelors is in Meteorology & Math.

Author of Uncertainty: The Soul of Modeling, Probability & Statistics, a book which calls for a complete and fundamental change in the philosophy and practice of probability & statistics; author of two other books and dozens of works in fields of statistics, medicine, philosophy, meteorology and climatology, solar physics, and energy use appearing in both professional and popular outlets.