Torkild Hovde Lyngstad writes:
I wondered what your reaction would be to this paper from a recent issue of European Political Science.
It came out already in March this year, so you might have seen it or even commented on it before. Is is a joke at the expense of the whole polisci discipline, a joke the Editors did not catch, or the sequel to the Sokal affair, just with quanto social science as the target?
My reply: Yes, several people pointed me to this article. I don’t think it’s a hoax, it’s more of a joke: the author is making the point that with fancy statistics you can discover all sorts of patterns that don’t make sense. The implication, I believe, is that many patterns that social scientists do find through statistical analysis are not actually meaningful.
I agree with this point, which could be even more pithily stated as “correlation does not imply causation.” I am irritated, however, by the singling out of multilevel models here, as the point could be made just as well using a simple correlation.
As my French friend said to me many years ago when I asked her what she thought of the Pink Panther movies, it’s not that I mind that this article makes fun of multilevel models, I just don’t find it funny. I think my zombies paper is much funnier. Then again, I didn’t try to publish that one in a real journal, hence I was able to get to the point right away.