Re: theos-l digest: September 30, 1999
Oct 03, 1999 05:21 PM
In a message dated 10/3/99 5:57:53 PM Central Daylight Time,
> Alan Writes:
> Good grief! This isn't about statistics, it's about history.
I wondered who you were responding to but since it is my post on bottom
I assume it is to me. First, as I immediately indicated in the next post, I
intended it to be a private email. But since it is now out in the open, in
responding to Bart, Kym Smith made a statement about the relative frequency
of how often and how widespread a type of event (i.e. marriage killing women)
That kind of statement, while about the historical past, is nevertheless a
statistical one. A pure historical statement would be about a singular and
unique event such
as Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, Hitler committed suicide in 1945,
Kennedy was killed in Dallas. But if one is making a claim about how often
something happened (past, present, future), one is making a statistical
statement. For most of the past, we lack that knowledge about everything.
We don't know the murder rates in ancient Rome, the rates of
food-poisoning in the Renaissance, crop yields for Egypt, and etc.
Sometimes we can predict the relative frequency of certain kinds of
geological events from the geological record but not social ones.
Spousal and child abuse are doubtless widespread. But how widespread
or its relative frequency is a statistical statement. We don't have that kind
of knowledge about any past further back than 20th century. Women
statisticians I've talked to say we are just now collecting the relevant
Further, we don't have much knowledge of anything except what was recorded by
social elites. The peasants/slaves of Babylon were not literate, nor had
clay tablets to write their expose' version of history to be preserved. With
literacy being restricted to an elite, what was recorded (and what could be
the only thing preserved) was that of some elite. So while these is itself a
clear indication of the social inequities of the past upon which it is
reasonable that the lower 98% of society suffered under, it is still not an
evidential basis for making statistical predictions about how the underclass
lived nor for reconstructing their story.
And I'm sure that spousal abuse and child abuse would not have been something
that a state would have concerned itself with in the ancient or medieval
world. That it was a patriarchal world is not doubtful. That it was a
violent world is not doubtful although I point out that ability to carry our
mass genocide requires a technological degree of development to have an
advanced transportation and communication system to carry it out. The
Holocaust was barely technologically feasible. So, to the extent that
degrees and scope of violence needs technology to be possible, the medieval
and ancient world doesn't compare to our own.
Nevertheless, to make a statement of how frequent an occurrence was, such as
Kym Smith made in response to Bart, is to make a statistical statement
whether or not one has the data to back it up. Since originally she made an
unconditional statement about what marriage itself does to women rather than
what many marriages do to many women, her unqualified statement indicated a
personal animosity rather than a balanced opinion.
When challenged (not by me) for some evidence, she made a statement about
predicting the relative frequency of domestic violence by counting the
tombstones of how many women died before they were 30. That is a statistical
statement. But the data offered does not itself support the claim that it
indicates the frequency of domestic violence since other writers, mainly
women by the way, have attributed it to the dangers and high mortality rate
Notice I did not rush to defend Bart's counter-claims amounting to "it wasn't
that bad." I challenged the offered evidential basis of Kym's statements.
In the post you
respond to, I challenged her use of tombstones as data supporting a
statistical statement about how marriage kills women. In this post, I
elaborated on that challenge plus added the point that she initially made an
about marriage itself (not some, many, nor most - but an unconditional
staement meaning all the time, everywhere, to every woman) killing women.
That seems a bit much. Do you agree with the unconditional version, Alan?
Never Make General Statements, Categorical or Statistical Around
a [Retired] Physicist - He'll Always Ask For The Evidential Basis
To Make Such a Claim (or its a pet peeve as a professional
legacy or liability)
P.S. Or, as happened in posts about Space, be careful talking
about physics around a physicist.
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