Damned Lies and Statistics

Gems from the book "Damned Lies and Statistics" :

1. Most of the time, most people simply accept statistics without questioning.
2. Bad statistics live on; they take on lives of thier own.
3. The media like to report statistics because numbers seem to be "hard facts" - little nuggets of indisputable truth.
4. Innumeracy is the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy; it is "an inability to deal comfortably with the fundamental notions of number and chance". Just as some people cannot read or read poorly, many people have trouble thikning clearly about numbers.
5. Because many people have trouble appreciating the differences among big numbers, they tend to uncritically accept social statistics (which often, of course, feature big numbers). What does it matter, they may say, whether there are 300,000 homeless or 3,000,000?-either way, it's a big number. They'd never make this mistake dealing with smaller numbers; everyone understand that it makes a real difference whether there'll be three people or thirty coming tonigh for dinner.
6. One reason we tend to accept statistics uncritically is that we assume that numbers come from experts who know what they're doing.
7. There are 3 basic questions that deserve to be asked whenever we encounter a new statistic:
A. Who created this statistic?
B. Why was this statistic created?
C. How was this statistic created?
8. Reporters are faced with the daily choice of painstakingly researching stories or writing whatever people tell them. Both approaches pay the same.
9. People who create or repeast a statistic often feel they have a stake in defending the numbers.
10. Any estimate can be defended by challenging the motives of anyone who disputes the figure.
11. Whenever examples substitute for definitions, there is a risk that our understanding of the problem will be distorted.
12. Public attitudes toward most social issues are too complex to be classified in simple pros and cons, or to be measured by a single survey question.
13. Survey researchers know that how questions are worded affects results.
14. The representativeness of a sample is actually far more important than sample size.

Will write more about Mutant statistics later ...

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