Preface to Radical Statistics

I have recently complete a new textbook on elementary statistics which rejects the century long developments based on the approach created by Sir Ronald Fisher in the early 20th Century. It advocates rebuilding the discipline on new foundations. In particular, statistics should be treated as a modern branch of rhetoric: the art of persuasion using data. The video/blogpost below provides an introduction to the ideas that went into the creation of this new approach. Because it is in early draft form, the entire course is currently available online for beta-testing from https://portal.alnafi.com/courses/descriptive-statistics. I would request especially teachers of introductory statistics in the Islamic world to go through this course and provide me with feedback directly or on the website.

The Ghazali Project is based on the idea that a Western education imparts a Eurocentric worldview, as well as toxic moral ideas, to all students. But it also imparts essential skills for the modern world. This makes it essential to develop alternatives which impart the necessary skills but are built on Islamic moral foundations, and framed within an Islamic worldview. Understanding why a secular modern education causes damage to Muslim youth requires a study of European history of thought, very briefly sketched below.

Radical Transition in European Epistemology

  1. Over a century of wars between Christian factions led to the necessity to build political science on secular foundations.
  2. This first step eventually led to the creation of secular modernity, built on “objective” knowledge, derived purely from reasons and observations, without any moral inputs.
  3. The idea of “objective knowledge” is an illusion. ALL useful human knowledge is necessarily built on moral foundations.
  4. Knowledge created by European intellectuals over the past few centuries pretends to be objective and rational, but is built on concealed toxic moral foundations

The Ghazali Project

  1. Standard Diagnosis of Ills of the Muslim Ummah: We have fallen far behind the West in acquisition of knowledge, commanded by God.
  2. Standard Solution: Acquire Western knowledge, build schools & universities.
  3. Ghazali Diagnosis: The Western education being provided all over the globe is the SOURCE of the disease, because it is built on toxic moral foundations. Nonetheless, it also imparts skills essential for today,
  4. Ghazali Solution: Build an Islam alternative to Western education which provides the required skills, but builds them on Islam moral foundations.

Proof-of-Concept:  A Statistics Textbook

  1. Real Statistics: A Radical Approach – Rebuilds discipline of statistics on Islamic epistemological and moral foundations.
  2. Rejects conventional statistics – a century of developments building on foundations created by Sir Ronald Fisher in early 20th Century
  3. Preface to textbook, outlined below, describes some of the key ideas which went into the development of this approach

Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation & Marginalization of Morality

This book provides confirmation and evidence for the Ghazali Diagnosis: Western education is the source of the disease. Julie Reuben’s book explains a radical transformation in education which occurred in early 20th Century. Knowledge was thought of as a whole – all components connected by a common vision of purpose and meaning of human lives given by God. Character building, social and civic responsibilities were central functions of education.

The Emergence of Logical Positivism (LP – see http://bit.do/azelp ) changed the meaning of “knowledge” and thereby also, the goal of education.

  1. LP is a (failed) theory of knowledge.
  2. According to LP, all (valid) knowledge is based on observations and logic
  3. Also, science is based purely on observations and logic (FACTS)
  4. Morality and Religion cannot be derived from observations and logic. Therefore, these are meaningless noises, not knowledge (VALUES)
  5. Social Sciences were RE-FORMULATED in early 20th Century by LP
  6. Founders of Statistics and Probability deeply influenced by this philosophy.

Recreation of Human Sciences in 20th Century

  1. The UNOBSERVABLES were removed from “scientific” theories
  2. In Economics – satisfaction felt from consumption was replaced by observable choices – removing the possibility of differentiating between needs and wants.
  3. In statistics, real-world causal mechanisms were removed from inferential apparatus and replaced by observable correlations.
  4. In probability, what might have occurred was replaced by long run frequency of occurrence, creating an incoherent theory of probability, which continues to be taught to confused students around the world.

Remedy is possible

  1. Real Statistics is based on rejecting logical positivist ideas.
  2. Discovery of unobservable real-world mechanisms is the goal of statistics.
  3. Numbers or Observations do not matter for themselves, but only as clues to hidden real world structures.
  4. We cannot make arbitrary assumptions about imaginary parent populations from which the data is a random sample – the starting point of conventional statistical analysis.

Methodology of Real Statistics

  1. Hidden Structures of Reality give rise to observables – both qualitative and quantitive. Both types of information is used to reconstruct – intuitively – these hidden structures.
  2. One of these hidden structures – never observable – is CAUSALITY
  3. Goal of real statistics is to guess hidden real structure
Real Methodology

Methodology of Conventional Statistics

  1. In conventional statistics, the goal is no longer to discover hidden real-world structures.
  2. Logical positivism says that science is NOT concerned with hidden unobservables (like God).
  3. Instead, we create an IMAGINARY class of parent populations from which the observed data COULD HAVE been chosen as a random sample.
  4. GOAL of statistical inference is then to learn about more about this IMAGINARY class of parent populations
Nominal Methodology

More Information

This leads to a radically different approach to statistics. Online Course: Real Statistics; A Radical Approach is available from Al-Nafi Online Educational Platform

https://portal.alnafi.com/courses/descriptive-statistics

As a beta-test, this course is currently available for free registration for this September. Students can enrol directly and take online lessons. Teachers of statistics who would like to use this approach under my supervision, with weekly or occasional guest lectures by myself, please contact me directly at: asad.zaman@alumni.Stanford.edu

Sequence of Webinars about the Ghazali Project: http://bit.ly/AZwebinars

Sequence of lectures on How to Launch an Islamic Revival: http://bit.ly/azlir

Draft version of textbook: Real Statistics: A Radical Approach in word format is available for comments from https://t.ly/-T3G Comments/questions/requests for further explanation, from teachers are especially welcome. A pdf version of this draft textbook is also available from: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AqUg6YsQpPb1g5dB-UIj0iMeJu1lOg

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About Asad Zaman

BS Math MIT (1974), Ph.D. Econ Stanford (1978)] has taught at leading universities like Columbia, U. Penn., Johns Hopkins and Cal. Tech. Currently he is Vice Chancellor of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. His textbook Statistical Foundations of Econometric Techniques (Academic Press, NY, 1996) is widely used in advanced graduate courses. His research on Islamic economics is widely cited, and has been highly influential in shaping the field. His publications in top ranked journals like Annals of Statistics, Journal of Econometrics, Econometric Theory, Journal of Labor Economics, etc. have more than a thousand citations as per Google Scholar.

11 thoughts on “Preface to Radical Statistics

    • Philosophy is useful as in intermediary to producing some output of value — my critique of western epistemology led me to the understanding of how to correct these defects, and then how to use these corrections to create an alternative to a conventional discipline currently being taught in the wrong epistemological framework all over the world. This is also what I would like to see from MA Choudhury, going from the philosophy to a useful product based on this philosophy

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