THE STATISTICAL LIAR

Statistically an average man lives till 60. The truth is most men die before 50 or after 70, and few die at 60. People have said statistics is common sense seen upside down. I agree !

We live in a world of statistics: you can find numbers buttressing just about any idea. The problem arises when you find statistics that support every possible way of deconstructing an idea. You can find statistics that verify that cigarettes are killers and also that they have no effect on anyone’s health. You can find statistics that say the consumption of dairy products should be reduced and also that dairy products are salubrious. You can find statistics that vilify the soft drinks because they will give you cancer and that they have no effect on anything but your thirst. Every one of these sets of statistics is absolutely veracious.

However, what you need to probe is who is publishing the numbers, and what are they trying to attest with them. Are the statistics provided by the Cancer Society or the Tobacco association ? Are they provided by the Medical Association or the Dairy Association?

Every point of view uses statistics to support their ideas. It’s your job to examine all statistics supporting all points of view, to arrive at your own conclusions based on your sapience.

Once you have determined whether or not there is prejudice involved in the statistics only then take it on face-value. It is possible some knavish person is using the figures to either repudiate or espouse a certain point of view convenient to him.

Numbers can be a camouflage for stories, events and emotions that they deliberate obscure.

Numbers, statistics – are incompetent of telling anything in absence of context, stories, people and their motivations.

Lets say, I want to statistically prove that computers in Nigeria are now very high in usage. So I corroborate it with the statistic that every third person you see on Nigerian roads is carrying a laptop. The same data can be fudged by stating that about 67 % of Nigerians haven’t even “seen” a computer. Thus using exactly the same data, I am presenting it in a language that suits my mission. Just a game of semantics, that’s what statistical proof is all about!

Consider these driving accident statistics – 45% of crashes are caused by intoxicated drivers, but that means 55% were caused by sober drivers. The latter fact ,if stressed ,would seem to trivialize the need for sober driving! Consider these crime statistics – 5000 murders were committed in one city but only 500 were committed in another; a person might assume the second city is safer, but if the former city had 100 times the population then it is actually only one-tenth, not ten times as dangerous as the latter.

People have always construed the numbers at the backdrop some stories that they would like to believe or sell.

So it is not about what those numbers are but it is about “how do people feel” about them.

One must first, try to determine whether the statistics are hard or soft science based. The simplest way to do this is simply find out whether human behavior/ opinion or factual incidents are being studied.

The former is soft science, the latter is hard.

Second, if the statistics are hard science, check to see what results other researchers who have repeated the study obtained. If the second study has results that are very divergent from the first, find a third and/or fourth and use the results that are consistent overall.

Of course, hard science statistics often require that you examine the sample that was considered. If the statistics say that 30% of the US population has AIDS, what was the sample? The entire population of the US? The population of New York or San Francisco? The population of Otumwa, Iowa? Or a selection of towns and cities, rural, urban and suburban, in all parts of the country? Statistics on the incidence of rape in the US vary wildly depending on whether the study asks law enforcement or rape counseling centers (one set is based on the number of reported rapes, the other on the number of women needing counseling whether or not they reported the rape to law enforcement). No doubt the first statistic will prove the incidence to be much less than that proposed by the Counselors. Both examples above appear to be hard science, since they are based on “hard” facts, but nonetheless must be examined for who was asked.

Soft science statistics are even more guileful than hard science statistics. If you wish to show how people react to violence, how do you define violence? And how do the people in your study define violence. A victim of a mugging may define violence as the mugger getting within five feet of him, while a mugger may define it as some action that has caused serious physical damage.

Also bear in mind that any study that uses human subjects is defenseless because of numerous reasons.

First is the fact that all people have different mental makeup. Second, individuals are inconsistent; what they feel today may change totally tomorrow. Lastly, if the question involves self image, they may not tell the truth. Ask men whether they watch tv soaps and they are likely to say no, even if they do watch them as much as two hours a day.

The way that the questions are framed can also slant the results. For example, one study asked people who were homeless ,if they have felt “down”, “depressed” or “anxious” in the past four weeks. Is it surprising that many people who were homeless answered “yes”? The question was meant to statistically confirm that homelessness is correlated to mental illness, and no wonder it did ! Leading questions like these literally coerce the respondent into a desired answer.

Don’t be surprised if tomorrow you read a news that “a correlation was found between a person’s shoe size and math ability” !

 

  • Attest

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; authenticate, affirm to be true, genuine, or correct, as in an official capacity; establish or verify the usage of; provide evidence for; stand as proof of; show by one’s behavior, attitude, or external attributes;

Other Meaning(s) : give testimony in a court of law

Synonyms : certify, testify

  • Buttressing

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; supporting or bolstering

Other Meaning(s) : noun a support usually of stone or brick; supports the wall of a building

Synonyms : bolstering

  • Camouflage

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; device or stratagem for concealment or deceit;

Other Meaning(s) : fabric dyed with splotches of green and brown and black and tan; intended to make the wearer of a garment made of this fabric hard to distinguish from the background; the act of concealing the identity of something by modifying its appearance; an outward semblance that misrepresents the true nature of something; verb disguise by camouflaging; exploit the natural surroundings to disguise something

Synonyms : disguise

  • Coerce

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; to cause to do through pressure or necessity, by physical, moral or intellectual means.

Synonyms : hale, squeeze, pressure, force

  • Construed

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; interpreted or understood as

Synonyms : deconstructed

  • Corroborate

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; support with evidence or authority or make more certain or confirm; establish or strengthen as with new evidence or facts; give evidence for

Synonyms : substantiate, validate

  • Deconstructing

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; understanding the Meaning(s) of

Synonyms : perceiving

  • Divergent

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; tending to move apart in different directions; diverging from another or from a standard

Synonyms : diverging

  • Defenseless (US)

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : adjective; lacking any form of protection and therefore vulnerable

Synonyms : weak, powerless

  • Endorse

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; sign as evidence of legal transfer; guarantee as meeting a certain standard; be behind; approve of; give support or one’s approval to

Synonyms : indorse, certify

Espouse

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; take up the cause, ideology, practice, method, of someone and use it as one’s own; choose and follow; as of theories, ideas, policies, strategies or plans;

Other Meaning(s) : take in marriage

Synonyms : embrace, adopt

  • Face-value

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the apparent worth as opposed to the real worth;

 

Other Meaning(s) : the value of a security that is set by the company issuing it; unrelated to market value

Synonyms : par value, nominal value

  • Former

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; referring to the first of two things or persons mentioned (or the earlier one or ones of several); (used especially for persons) of the immediate past; belonging to the distant past; belonging to some prior time; noun the first of two or the first mentioned of two

Synonyms : previous

  • Fudged

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; manipulated for cheating

Synonyms : tweaked

  • Guileful

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; marked by skill in deception

Synonyms : crafty, cunning, dodgy, foxy, wily

  • Incompetent

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; not qualified or suited for a purpose; not doing a good job; not meeting requirements; showing lack of skill or aptitude;

Other Meaning(s) : noun someone who is not competent to take effective action

Synonyms : incapable, bungling, clumsy, fumbling

  • Intoxicated

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; stupefied or excited by a chemical substance (especially alcohol); as if under the influence of alcohol

Synonyms : drunk, inebriated,

  • Knavish

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; marked by skill in deception

Synonyms : sly, tricksy, tricky, wily

  • Latter

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; referring to the second of two things or persons mentioned (or the last one or ones of several); noun the second of two or the second mentioned of two

Synonyms : second

  • Mugging

 

Contextual Meaning(s) : noun; the crime of attacking and robbing somebody in a public image, crime of robbery

Synonyms : attack, robbery

Obscure

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; make unclear; make difficult to perceive or sight; make undecipherable or imperceptible by obscuring or concealing; make less visible or unclear; make unclear, indistinct, or blurred

Other Meaning(s) : adjective not clearly understood or expressed; not drawing attention; not famous or acclaimed; marked by difficulty of style or expression; remote and separate physically or socially; difficult to find;

Synonyms : bedim, veil, befog, becloud,

Prejudice

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; influence (somebody’s) opinion in advance; disadvantage by prejudice

Other Meaning(s) : noun a partiality that prevents objective consideration of an issue or situation;

Synonyms : prepossess, bias, preconception

Probe

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; question or examine thoroughly and closely; examine physically with or as if with a probe

Other Meaning(s) : noun an investigation conducted using a flexible surgical instrument to explore an injury or a body cavity; an exploratory action or expedition; a flexible slender surgical instrument used to explore wounds or body cavities; an inquiry into unfamiliar or questionable activities

Synonyms : investigation, examine

 

Repudiate

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; refuse to acknowledge, ratify, or recognize as valid; reject as untrue, unfounded, or unjust; refuse to recognize or pay; cast off or disown

Synonyms : renounce

Respondent

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; someone who responds;

Other Meaning(s) : Noun; the codefendant (especially in a divorce proceeding) who is accused of adultery with the corespondent

Synonyms : answerer

Salubrious

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; favorable to health of mind or body; promoting health; healthful

Synonyms : healthy, good for you

Sapience

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; ability to apply knowledge or experience or understanding or common sense and insight

Synonyms : sagacity

Semantics

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; the study of language meanings and fineries.

Synonyms : linguistics

Slant

Contextual Meaning(s) : Noun; a biased way of looking at or presenting something;

Other Meaning(s) : degree of deviation from a horizontal plane; verb present with a bias; lie obliquely; heel over; to incline or bend from a vertical position

Synonyms : tilt, lean, tip

Trivialize

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; make less serious or insignificant

Synonyms : minimalize

Veracious

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; precisely accurate; habitually speaking the truth

Synonyms : honest

Vilify

Contextual Meaning(s) : Verb; spread negative information about

Synonyms : revile, vituperate, rail

Vulnerable

Contextual Meaning(s) : Adjective; capable of being wounded or hurt; susceptible to criticism or persuasion or temptation; susceptible to attack

Synonyms : exposed

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