Statics are a funny thing. They can be molded to prove any point and they can be totally made up to begin with. Back in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s it used to be common to say to teens "You don’t want to become another static." This was a scare tactic used to deter teens away from drugs, gangs and other illegal acts. I always wondered why reducing the value of someone’s life down to a number was significant as if statics weren’t taken on everything in life.
During an election we’re told that every vote counts. This point was hammered home heavily during the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida. It was also such a huge topic, it spawned a movie based on the premise called Swing Vote. Next year we’ll be taking a census here in the US and there are already flyers, radio commercials, internet ads and news articles to prepare us to be counted.
Are all of the numbers just hype? A lot of them are:
- 9 out of 10 dentist recommend Magic Toothpaste
- More than 50% of marriages end in divorce
- TV Ratings
- Box office gross
- Record sales
- News Polls
- Mock Elections
If you listen to the numbers it sounds as if everything is one sided. Dentists only seem to like 2 brands of toothpaste but feel very strongly about 1 of them, divorce has the same probability as a coin toss and of course more people decided to watch the last episode of M.A.S.H. and Who Shot JR in Dallas then who watched the final episode of Roots.
As with all statistics the question remains, "How do you dispute it?" I’ve always been told that I have a greater chance of dying before the age of 27 because of my skin color but had I been born a different color, I had the same chance of dying of teen suicide. The difference in the two is that in school, they teach you the signs of depression and suicide plus how to prevent them but they don’t teach you the signs of how to identify and prevent someone from dying of drug or violence related causes. Sure there is the "Say no to Drugs" and D.A.R.E. campaigns.
You can’t dispute statistics because you don’t have the data used to generate them. I know this because 99% of the readers reading this don’t know where to find the data. How do I know that? I don’t! But you can’t prove that I don’t any more than you can prove that any other statistics are real.
This is not to say that statistics can’t be trusted. Statistics should be questioned and scrutinized harder than they currently are. If someone quotes a marriage statistic, respond with how many of those people remarry. If 9 out of 10 people recommend something, you should dismiss it because it’s advertising.
One interesting view on statistics has been Freakonomics, an economists view on statistics. The book produced from this blog is a must read and has some interesting analysis of topics such as backyard pools are deadlier to children than guns to how profitable selling drugs really is. A link to the book is below but blog link above is also worth looking at.
You may have noticed that there were no links to statistics or actual numbers in this post. The reason being I can’t verify any of the numbers or their sources. Many websites will list a source but no way to verify the data itself so I haven’t provided a source. As with all of my posts, if I mention something of value, I try to provide a link to more information to educate those who are unaware of topics and as a source for more information. This site is about raising discussion and the more information there is, the more intelligent the conversation can be. Remember, question everything.