The Value of SkepticismEinstein's Theory of Relativity has led to countless scientific breakthroughs and greatly increased our understanding of the universe, yet physicists are still constantly running experiments to test it and make sure that it provides the most valid description of how gravitational fields work. This is because real science is based on skepticism, doubt and questioning--not credulity, certainty and censorship of opposing ideas.
I used to be an active contributor at APBRMetrics, the website for the "stat guru" wing of the Association of Professional Basketball Research, but I stopped going there after several discussions degenerated into name-calling and after it became apparent that many "stat gurus" have no understanding of (or interest in) the methods of genuine scientific inquiry.
Recently, I stumbled on an article that argued that Gilbert Arenas had once been an elite player. Since I strongly disagree with that idea, I posted a respectful comment and then I wrote a brief article here that linked to the ongoing discussion. The original author of the Arenas piece never really directed addressed my points--let alone attempt to refute them--but some other people offered their opinions and I have been responding to those comments over the past few days. The Basketball Reference.com blog used to contain a link to 20 Second Timeout but, oddly, after I posted my most recent comment there I noticed that the sidebar link to 20 Second Timeout had been removed. Perhaps Neil Paine and his Basketball Reference cohorts don't want to have too many people visiting here and possibly getting the idea that "advanced basketball statistics" have not completely solved all questions regarding individual and team evaluations. That's too bad, because the truth is that if the "stat gurus" refuse to listen to valid criticisms regarding their methodologies and conclusions then it is unlikely that they will ever achieve their goal of better understanding basketball (if, in fact, that is really their goal).
posted by David Friedman @ 4:22 PM