Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The need for theory

hmmm, that doesn't rhyme quite as well. Ben Bolker brought the following quote from Efron and Tibshirani (1986; "Bootstrap methods for standard errors ...") to my attention:
An important theme of what follows is the substitution of computing power for theoretical analysis. This is not an argument against theory, of course, only against unnecessary theory.
I've often thought of the need for theory as falling along a continuum of 1/n, so when your sample size is small you need strong theory to make predictions, and when large you can get away with less theory. In either case it helps if your theory is well tested in other cases, or you risk making predictions that are completely bogus.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wolf Management reprise

On The Wildlife Society Blog Michael Hutchins criticized Deborah Peter's article in the Huffington Post on the current wolf harvest. One section in particular emphasizes why wolf management will be political, not scientific, and thus not a good candidate for AM:
I hate the fact that Congress intervened in the ESA with regard to wolf management. Management and conservation should be in the hands of scientists and professional managers and not in the hands of politicians. But why did this happen? Precisely because extreme animal rights proponents (and some extreme environmentalists)–unwilling to acknowledge that wolves have indeed recovered, pushed things too far, arguing for no control what-so-ever.
The reason it is political is precisely because different groups hold different values for wolves - ranchers vs. cool headed wildlife scientists vs. extreme animal rights proponents. Last time I looked, people are allowed to have different values, and when they do, politics, not science, will carry the day.