by Bob Whitesel Ph.D., 6/18/15.
Statistics can be deceptive can’t they? For they can be manipulated to create all sorts of results, some that even defy reality.
Here are some of my favorite quotes about statistics (garnered from “Statistically Speaking: A Dictionary of Quotations” edited by Carl C. Gaither and Alma E. Cavazos-Gaither, 1996).
“There are lies, darn lies, and statistics!” – B. Disraeli, English Prime Minister and political thinker (minced oath was utilized to replace Disraeli’s more base terminology)
“Like dreams, statistics are a form of wish fulfillment.” – J. Baudrillard, French social theorist.
“The only useful function of a statistician is to make predictions, and thus to provide a basis for action.” – W. E. Deming, famed statistician, best known for his work in the area of industrial quality control
“The most powerful mathematical tools are sometimes less important to the engineer than some of the simpler or less powerful tools. But often, for lack of information about either, neither is used.” – C. M. Ryerson, statistical theorist.
And, just for fun some humorous perspectives on statistics:
“Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” – Samuel Clemens (alias Mark Twain)
“A statistician drowned while crossing a stream that was, on average, 6 inches deep.”
“Most people use statistics the way a drunk uses a lamp post, more for support than enlightenment.”
“An engineer, a physicist, and a statistician were moose hunting in northern Canada. After a short walk through the marshes they spotted a HUGE moose 150 meters away. The engineer raised his gun and fired at the moose. A puff of dust showed that the bullet landed 3 meters to the right of the moose. The physicist, realizing that there was a substantial breeze that the engineer did not account for, aimed to the left of the moose and fired. The bullet landed 3 meters to the left of the moose. The statistician jumped up and down and screamed ‘We got him! We got him!’” (Also recounted in my book Preparing for Change Reaction, 😉
I hope this quotes remind you about the potentially fallacious nature of statistics and evaluation. While it behooves us to use evaluation, we must use it carefully, prayerfully, tactfully and suitably to ensure we do not interject personal predilections into our evaluation.