As an engineer, scientist and mathematician, I am completely in agreement with Rod Liddle's view of statistics. I have long argued, with anyone who cares to listen (and plenty who don't), that any statistic should be completely ignored if it doesn't come with a 1,000-page manual describing exactly how it was arrived at and what it means. And that manual should be read, pored over and discussed for at least ten years.
The human race has survived and flourished for hundreds of thousands of years without statistics. We survive using superstition, lust, greed and envy. All that statistics have done is make life miserable by legitimising with dubious science the personal biases of busybodies. It tells us that we shouldn't drink, shouldn't smoke and shouldn't immunise our children with the MMR vaccine. Lie, damned lies and statistics.
Dr Tom Roberts
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Further to the interesting discussions in these pages about statistics and epidemiology, here is a recent letter published in The Spectator (not available online). The correspondent goes a little further in his criticisms than I would, nevertheless, it bears repeating...