Uncertainty


“We think that we know about uncertainty, and that when we have added a standard error or a confidence interval to a point estimate we have increased knowledge in some way or other. To many people, it does not look like that; they think that we are taking away their certainties – we are actually taking away information, and, if that is all that we can do, we are of no use to them. This was brought home to me forcibly when Peter Moore and I appeared before the Employment Select Committee of the House of Commons – which is not a random sample of the population at large. Our insistence that we could not deliver certainties was regarded as a sign of weakness, if not downright incompetence. One may laugh at that, but that is the way it was – and that is what we are up against. We must persist…” (David Bartholomew, discussion of Goldstein and Spiegelhalter 1996, p. 428).