Evidence and Interpretation: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Robert Aronowitz wrote an interesting historical analysis on the background of the current mammogram debate titled: Addicted to Mammograms.  His analysis provides another layer of meaning to the debate, which is my point.  Evidence must be interpreted. Aronowitz infers that the people at the Preventive Services Task Force, who made recommendations based on their interpretation of the evidence, didn’t understand how it would be re-interpreted in the media and the health industry, especially in the context of the current health insurance reform debate. But evidence and interpretation are two sides of the same coin.  One side may be stamped with permanent maker and the other with erasable marker, but you can’t have a one sided coin.  . . . Well, . . . maybe physicists can have a one sided coin, but not the rest of us mortals.

3 thoughts on “Evidence and Interpretation: Two Sides of the Same Coin

  1. Hi Howard,
    Have you ever heard of Clifford Stoll. He is the brilliant guy who makes Klein Bottles (zero volume bottles, the ultimate in non – orientability). More info on http://www.kleinbottle.com/
    On TEDTalks he has a presentation called 18 minutes with an agile mind. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/clifford_stoll_on_everything.html This is the closest I can come to an example of a one sided coin.

    I find your metaphor a bit difficult to grasp. The point your trying to convey is: Evidence does not speak for itself. It always needs to be framed into context.

    Example: A gun in your hand, does not make you a killer.

    Hope ‘m grasping your point.

  2. Hi Howard,
    Somehow the comment I made last night got lost. I would like to start with answering your last remark. Is there something close to a one sided coin. I think the answer is yes. They are called klein bottles (Zero volume bottles with non orientability). You can purchase them at http://www.kleinbottles.com/

    The designer is called Clifford Stoll. He also gave a presentation at TED. The presentation can be found at http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/clifford_stoll_on_everything.html .

    To answer your observation about evidence and interpretation. This is an import point. Evidence does not speak for itself. It is always about the context and the sitution. For example. Bullets from gun can kill people. However, a person holding a gun is not always the killer. Do you think this is a problem (if you compare this to evidence based medicine?). If so, how do we resolve this?

    Beste wishes,

  3. Sorry Richard;
    Your 1st comment was waiting for me to moderate which I didn’t do yesterday. I’ve written around this topic before, but I think I’ll write another post in response and see if I can tie some thoughts together a little better, especially in how I think evidence interpretation and design hang together. Hopefully I’ll get that done by tomorrow.

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