Why Not to Trust Statistics

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121 thoughts on “Why Not to Trust Statistics

  1. More like “Why you need to be very careful about how statistics are presented to you!”

    I get the humorous side of it, though.

    But really it is about data presentation … which is a very serious issue: the way in which data is presented is crucial to making a point, and it’s in presentation that people can make statistics appear to back up ideas that are not correct.

    • It seems to me that good ideas don’t really need backing up. People do need to back up something, correct or not. They can use statistics to try and satisfy that need. But they will fail because most people won’t understand how important it is whatever they need to back up. That is what life is all about: searching a new and bigger disappointment, like Sisyphus playing pokemon.

      • All ideas need backing up. The good ideas will have that back-up. The crap ones will fail to obtain it.

        Unless people fuck with the numbers.
        But that’s research fraud, not science.

  2. Actually, the correlation illustration is somewhat faulty or too benevolent to schemers. In reality there would be a lot of results obtained by measuring the results of subjects who guzzle the stuff and do not have any athletic achievements AND some of the results (if not all, mind you) would have been in the negative territory.

  3. Haha! this is really awesome…

    Thats why you might require a person who is not biased and a good analyst/ statistician to confirm that result.

    All story telling with the shield of statistics might not be true! Beware of these kind of results..

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  10. Hilarious post, am glad to have found your blog. I really respect what you’re trying to do – make math less scary for students. School is where you go to learn, you’re not expected to know all the answers, so I wish students could be more confident to be LESS confident! Making mistakes is all part of the learning process.

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  12. I love the “Statistics are like bikinis” ,here is another one about averages: My head is in the oven, my feet are in the freezer, my average temperature is OK, but I am really uncomfortable at both ends.

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  20. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics (attributed to Benjamin Disraeli) and favoured by Samuel Clemens. But then again maths can also prove women= all evil. Anyway how can you trust a subject where a number that cannot exist, exists!!!!

    • This is not exactly on topic, but what the hell.
      I got interested in the origin of the lies, damn lies and statistics remark three or four years ago.
      I’m feeling too lazy right now to dig into my poorly organized stash of notes, so the following account is based solely upon recollections extracted from my rapidly deteriorating memory.
      The attribution of the lies, damn lies and statistics remark to Disraeli was first made in a letter to the Times. The author of the letter was objecting to statistics cited about some zoo. He disagreed with the position the statistics were supposed to support, so the author tried to dismiss the statistical support with the lies, damn lies and statistics remark. Attributing the remark to a dead, but still revered, Benjamin Disraeli presumably gave the remark more weight than it would otherwise have had.
      There was, however, a similar remark made well before the first appearance of the lies, damned lies, and statistics remark that could have been the “seed” from which lies, damned lies, and statistics sprouted.
      A British jurist observed that there were liars, damned liars, and expert witnesses. It seems plausible to me that the liars, damned liars, and expert witnesses was the ancestor that begat the lies, damned lies, and statistics remark.
      Sorry for wasting your time on this (not really).

  21. Some of these doodles would be good in print form. I hereby express my interest. Get to it! I’d also accept rubber stamps so that I can place one firmly on the forehead of my enem^H^H^H^Hcolleagues who sometimes overlook these facts. Thank goodness we don’t work with lots of money.

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