Staten förstör vetenskap #2

Thomas Sowell har skrivit en ny kolumn som tar upp ämnet, ”‘Studies prove…'”:

Whenever I hear the phrase ”studies prove” this or that, it makes me think back to the beginning of my career as an economist at the Labor Department in Washington.

Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg was scheduled to appear before Congress to argue in favor of some policy that the Labor Department wanted enacted into law. Down at the bottom of the chain of command, I was given four sets of census data that had not yet been published and was told to analyze these data for a report to go to the Secretary of Labor.

Two of these sets of data seemed to support the Labor Department’s position but the other two went counter to it. When I wrote up a paper explaining why this was so and concluded that the statistics overall were inconclusive, there was much dismay among those in the hierarchy between me and the Secretary.

They were also puzzled as to why anyone would write up such a paper, knowing what the Department’s position was on the issues. They took my paper, edited and rewrote it before passing it up the chain of command.

Secretary Goldberg then made his usual confident presentation of the rewritten study to Congress, probably unaware of the contradictory data that had been left out.

It was a valuable experience so early in my career to learn that what ”studies prove” is often whatever those who did the studies wanted to prove.

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