Figures dont lie and liars dont figure  

honestjohn4u 57M
1175 posts
5/23/2006 7:20 pm

Last Read:
7/12/2009 3:25 pm

Figures dont lie and liars dont figure


Its is a curious cultural phenomenon how statistics are used to skew perceptions. With the trained mind of a mathematician any time I hear statistics used in the media, I want details. Using statistics even bad news can be made to look good. Here is a favorite of mine, "we have cut the rate of increase in government spending".
Now let me get my 23rd century universal governmental translator out. What they are saying is spending is still out of control but we are showing progress. At least that is the literal translation. The key operating phrase is "cut the rate of" it creates a perception in the mind that is contrary to the literal truth of the message.
Another peculiar use of statistics to justify social policy. I look at the campaign against second hand smoke and I don't see a real world correlation with what they say is the increased level of risk of cancer and what actually happens. In reality non smokers getting cancer is so rare its hard for any statistics to be anything but anecdotal, and as any good school boy knows anecdotal evidence is proof of nothing. Now I am not here to praise cigarette smoking, never much cared for it myself but I realize some people get a great deal of enjoyment from it. I don't know the details of how they come to a statistical conclusion but I am captious of any conclusion of fact that comes without details.
Ultimately no definitive conclusion can be drawn here other than to be alert when statistics are cited. I bet you dollars to doughnuts the real proximate cause is more genetic in nature than anything else. I was gonna end my blog right there but I got to thinking about the anti cigarette thing and came up with more to say. I agree with using regulation to shape social policy, their called laws and they have worked for a while. What I can't agree with is the illogical way it is written. Take for example the regulation where you cannot smoke within 25' of a commercial business entrance. You come within 25' driving by in your personal automobile. There I am driving through Bumfuck Idaho with a cigarette hanging out the window and they give me a $300.00 fine as I drive down the boulevard. Don't laugh it is a theoretical possibility, there are practical limitations to how far the goverment can go to achieve their ends. Now if they just knew what those limits are.
One last complaint and then I'm done and we can go back to talking about last night. A lack of leadership, what is the law? It changes wildly from city to city, I am afraid to ride a bicycle for fear I may travel through a town with some draconian helmet regulation. If helmets are so great how come I never see them worn in a marathon? Things like this should be regulated in a more universal way at the state and national level not by the local city counsels. What do they know they don't smoke or ride a bike? On the other hand what works in Las Vegas doesn't work in Elko. Ultimately the best way to influence social behaviors is one where the hand of government is kinder and gentler, now that works in Las Vegas and Elko.
Ultimately some people will continue to smoke and some will ride bicycles in spite of governments attempt to discourage these activities. There really is a practical limit.

PS My apologies to anyone from Bumfuck Idaho it was just used for illustrative purposes only.

I Swami Johnny see's all, knows all, tells very little.


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