Galileo, to my knowledge, never used his scientific genius to apply data mining and modeling techniques to marketing. Perhaps he felt that being the first to study the cosmos through a telescope had stronger implications for science and society. However, those of us who practice the humbler pursuit of database marketing still follow the empirical method (use of direct observation to draw conclusions) that he and others pioneered.
Stephen Jay Gould, in his essay entitled “The Sharp-Eyed Lynx, Outfoxed by Nature,” 1 describes Galileo’s belief in observation and the trouble in which it landed him with the Catholic church convicted of heresy for advocating the Copernican view that the earth orbits the sun. Fortunately, today’s data miners and modelers are free to observe and draw conclusions without fear of such drastic reprisal. However, we are also free, and all too able, to make some of the same scientific mistakes as Galileo. In fact, the point of Gould’s essay is not to celebrate the power of the empirical method, but to point out the dangers of relying on observation alone in drawing conclusions.
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