Thoughts on reading the Introduction to “The Structure and Confirmation of Evolutionary Theory” by Elisabeth A. Lloyd


Lloyd describes J. J. C. Smart’s opinion that biologists use statistics only to do significance testing on experimental data and not to extract trends and create generalizable models of underlying fundamental processes as scientists in other disciplines (notably physics and chemistry) do.

In my experience of learning statistics and talking with others about statistics, this is not an entirely unfair accusation. The only statistics I learned during my undergraduate studies in biology were related to basic significance testing (e.g. t-tests and chi-squared tests) and how to formulate hypotheses testable by these methods. It wasn’t until after completing my masters degree that I have started to learn in depth, through self-motivated study, about linear modeling, how that relates to principles of experimental design and power analysis, and how to generalize responsibly. Continue reading