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“Imaginary gardens with real data”


by Marianne Moore, almost

I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond
      all this fiddle.
   Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
      discovers that there is in
   it after all, a place for the genuine.
      Hands that can grasp, eyes
      that can dilate, hair that can rise
         if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
      they are
   useful; when they become so derivative as to become
      unintelligible, the
   same thing may be said for all of us--that we
      do not admire what
      we cannot understand. The bat,
         holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless
      wolf under
   a tree, the immovable critic twinkling his skin like a horse
      that feels a flea, the base-
   ball fan, the poet--case after case
      could be cited did
      one wish it; nor is it valid
         to discriminate against “business documents and

school-books”; all these phenomena are important. One must
      make a distinction
   however: when dragged into prominence by half statisticians,
      the result is not statistics,
   nor till the autocrats among us can be
     “literalists of
      the imagination”--above
         insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, imaginary gardens with real data in them,
      shall we have
   it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand, in defiance
       of their opinion--
   the raw material of statistics in
      all its rawness, and
      that which is on the other hand,
         genuine, then you are interested in statistics.

Original here.


  1. Lahdedah says:

    Check out W.H. Auden’s The Unknown Citizen

    He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
    One against whom there was no official complaint,
    And all the reports on his conduct agree
    That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a

    • Dzhaughn says:

      Also by Auden:

      “Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
      Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
      Nor with compliance
      Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
      With statisticians nor commit
      A social science.”

      • Andrew says:

        Also by Auden (almost):

        Yesterday all the past. The language of effect size
        Spreading to Psychology along the sub-fields; the diffusion
        Of the counting-frame and the quincunx;
        Yesterday the shadow-reckoning in the ivy climates.

        Yesterday the assessment of hypotheses by tests,
        The divination of water; yesterday the invention
        Of cartwheels and clocks, the power-pose of
        Horses. Yesterday the bustling world of the experimenters.

        Yesterday the abolition of Bible codes and hot hands,
        the journal like a motionless eagle eyeing the valley,
        the chapel built in the psych lab;
        Yesterday the carving of instruments and alarming findings;

        The trial of heretics among the tenure reviews;
        Yesterday the theoretical feuds in the conferences
        And the miraculous confirmation of the counterintuitive;
        Yesterday the Sabbath of analysts; but to-day the struggle.

        Yesterday the installation of statistical packages,
        The construction of findings in available data;
        Yesterday the evo-psych lecture
        On the origin of Mankind. But to-day the struggle.

        Yesterday the belief in the absolute value of Bayes,
        The fall of the curtain upon the death of a model;
        Yesterday the prayer to the sunset
        And the adoration of madmen. but to-day the struggle.

        As the postdoc whispers, startled among the test tubes,
        Or where the loose waterfall sings compact, or upright
        On the crag by the leaning tower:
        “O my vision. O send me the luck of the Wilcoxon.”

        And the investigator peers through his instruments
        At the inhuman provinces, the virile bacillus
        Or enormous Jupiter finished:
        “But the lives of my friends. I inquire. I inquire.”

        And the students in their fireless lodgings, dropping the sheets
        Of the evening preprint: “Our day is our loss. O show us
        History the operator, the
        Organiser. Time the refreshing river.”

        And the nations combine each cry, invoking the life
        That shapes the individual belly and orders
        The private nocturnal terror:
        “Did you not found the city state of the sponge,

        “Raise the vast military empires of the shark
        And the tiger, establish the robin’s plucky canton?
        Intervene. O descend as a dove or
        A furious papa or a mild engineer, but descend.”

        And the life, if it answers at all, replied from the heart
        And the eyes and the lungs, from the shops and squares of the laboratory
        “O no, I am not the mover;
        Not to-day; not to you. To you, I’m the

        “Yes-man, the associate editor, the easily-duped;
        I am whatever you do. I am your vow to be
        Good, your humorous story.
        I am your business voice. I am your career.

        “What’s your proposal? To build the true theory? I will.
        I agree. Or is it the suicide pact, the romantic
        Death? Very well, I accept, for
        I am your choice, your decision. Yes, I am Science.”

        Many have heard it on remote peninsulas,
        On sleepy plains, in the aberrant fishermen’s islands
        Or the corrupt heart of the city.
        Have heard and migrated like gulls or the seeds of a flower.

        They clung like burrs to the long expresses that lurch
        Through the unjust lands, through the night, through the alpine tunnel;
        They floated over the oceans;
        They walked the passes. All presented their lives.

        On that arid square, that fragment nipped off from hot
        Inquiry, soldered so crudely to inventive Emotion;
        On that tableland scored by experiments,
        Our thoughts have bodies; the menacing shapes of our fever

        Are precise and alive. For the fears which made us respond
        To the medicine ad, and the rumors of multiple comparisons
        Have become invading battalions;
        And our faces, the institute-face, the multisite trial, the ruin

        Are projecting their greed as the methodological terrorists.
        B-schools are the heart. Our moments of tenderness blossom
        As the ambulance and the sandbag;
        Our hours of blogging into a people’s army.

        To-morrow, perhaps the future. The research on fatigue
        And the movements of packers; the gradual exploring of all the
        Octaves of embodied cognition;
        To-morrow the enlarging of consciousness by diet and breathing.

        To-morrow the rediscovery of romantic fame,
        the photographing of brain scans; all the fun under
        Publicity’s masterful shadow;
        To-morrow the hour of the press release and the Ted talk,

        The beautiful roar of the audiences of NPR;
        To-morrow the exchanging of tips on the training of MTurkers,
        The eager election of chairmen
        By the sudden forest of hands. But to-day the struggle.

        To-morrow for the young the p-values exploding like bombs,
        The walks by the lake, the weeks of perfect communion;
        To-morrow the revisions and resubmissions
        Through the journals on summer evenings. But to-day the struggle.

        To-day the deliberate increase in the chances of rejection,
        The conscious acceptance of guilt in the necessary criticism;
        To-day the expending of powers
        On the flat ephemeral blog post and the boring listserv.

        To-day the makeshift consolations: the shared retraction,
        The cards in the candlelit barn, and the scraping concert,
        The tasteless jokes; to-day the
        Fumbled and unsatisfactory link before hurting.

        The stars are dead. The editors will not look.
        We are left alone with our day, and the time is short, and
        History to the defeated
        May say Alas but cannot help nor pardon.

  2. Mikhail says:

    This is one of the most beautiful urls in the Internet.

    • Klöntti says:

      This has been bothering me since I read your message. Do you mean that the address ( etc. etc.) is one of the most beautiful addresses on the Internet? If so, may I ask, how so. I haven’t really been paying attention to the aesthetics of urls. Maybe indeed this one is from the more beautiful side of urls!

  3. Enjoyed this twist:

    “the base-
    ball fan, the poet–“

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