The Ten Commandments of Statistical Inference

As Handed Down to Lenski by Sir Ronald Fisher

1.  Remember the type II error, for therein is reflected the power if not the glory.

2.  Thou shalt not pseudoreplicate or otherwise worship false degrees of freedom.

3.  Respect the one-tailed test, for it can make thine inferences strong.

4.  Forget not the difference between fixed treatments and random effects.

5.  Thou shalt not commit unplanned comparisons without adjusting the rate of type I error for thy transgressions.

6.  Honor both thy parametric and thy nonparametric methods.

7.  Consider not the probability of a particular set of data, but rather the probability of all those sets as or more extreme than thine own.

8.  Thou shalt confuse neither manipulation and observation, nor causation and correlation.

9.  Thou shalt not presume statistical significance to be of scientific importance.

10.  Thou shalt not be fearful of paying homage to a Statistician or His Holy Book, especially before planning an experiment; neither shalt thou be fearful of ignoring the Word of a Statistician when it is damnable; for thou art alone responsible for thine acceptance or rejection of the hypothesis, be it ever so false or true.

The Golden Rule:  Review unto others as you would have them review unto you.


Notes:  I wrote this for a graduate course on quantitative methods in ecology and evolutionary biology that I taught in Spring, 1989, at UC-Irvine.  The course focused on experimental design and frequentist methods for drawing inferences.


Filed under Humor, Science

7 responses to “The Ten Commandments of Statistical Inference

  1. Marvelous! I wish I’d seen these while I was still working as an environmental laboratory QA manager. I argued long and loud for implementing a test protocol to ‘remember the type II error’ with a standardized check sample for false negatives (FNQS – False Negative Quality Sample). After a few papers, conference presentations, and one-on-one with managers I did prevail and even got some national attention for the concept. It would have been so much easier had I known about the tablets!

  2. #9 is one for the next-generation sequencing age and reminds me of the xkcd’s 4th layer of Scientific Hell (Fig1)

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  6. I still have my copy of this list from Rich’s 1990 offering of the course at UCI. I now pass along a copy to my own stats students.