How statistics are twisted to obscure public understanding
Goodman (Jonathan R.)
Source: Aeon, 11 July, 2016
Paper - Abstract

Paper SummaryNotes Citing this Paper


Author’s Conclusion

  1. The sociologist Joel Best argues that we ought to avoid calling statistics ‘lies’, and instead educate ourselves so that we can question how and why statistical data are generated. Statistics are often used to support points that aren’t true, but we tend to attack only the data that conflict with some pre-existing notion of our own. The numbers themselves – unless purposefully falsified – cannot lie, but they can be used to misrepresent the public statements and ranking systems we take seriously.
  2. Statistical data do not allow for lies so much as semantic manipulation: numbers drive the misuse of words. When you are told a fact, you must question how the terms within the fact are defined, and how the data have been generated. When you read a statistic, of any kind, be sure to ask how – and more importantly, why – the statistic was generated, whom it benefits, and whether it can be trusted.

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