Statistics, Dependence on Data, Failed
Strawmen, and Titled Windmills
are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
attributed to Mark Twain (1835-1910).
My peeve is the statistic that 8 million signed up for
ObamaCare, therefore the healthcare lot of the other 307 million Americans has
to be getting better. There is not statistical evidence that this is true –
premiums and deductibles are higher, the number of uninsured remains about the
same, and access and choice have
narrowed with people losing their doctors, hospitals, and health plans.
are everywhere, aided by apps, websites and devices that keep track of heart
rates, weigh, sleep patterns, and of course,
how many friends you have.”
Bruce Feiler, “Statisticians 10, Poets 0,” New
York Times, May 18, 2014.
My peeve is that obsession
with and dependence on numbers , on the quantitative rather than the qualitative, is a seductive trap. Numbers tell you nothing about human
relationships, e.g. whether data on physician performance separates good
doctors from bad doctors, whether satisfaction among patients and physicians
has risen, and whether perception about quality has risen.
that can be counted counts, and not ever what counts can be counted.”
My peeve is that it is not necessarily what can be measured
that counts, it is what humankind
treasures and that reality is often messy and immeasurable. Management science,
of course, says if you cannot measure it,
you cannot improve it. This may
be true to a limited extent, but data is never the whole picture, no matter
who many digital records you have. Data
can never tell a story. Spread sheets and metric cannot never replace, only
strawman argument is a self-righteous
but false political argument based on
what you imagined some political adversary said or thought but may never have said or thought.
My peeve is that the U.S. is somehow conducting
a war on women, has no sense of compassion, and that America is a racist society, yet a woman stands a good chance of being
elected President, we spend more on
health care than any other nation, we twice elected a black president, a U.S.
black women is one of the richest women on earth.
are at work in our politics, an illusion to the incident in Don Quixote, in which Cervantes knight
mistakes windmills for giants and attacks them.
My peeve is that our government keeps attacking climate change and global warming as the giants causing
our troubles. Government is saying this
warming with its attendant weather changes is something it can do something
about through legislation when in fact it is beyond government’s control, and is
a convenient way of distracting from its domestic and foreign woes which it has
a much better prospects for changing.
of statistics, dependence on data, strawman arguments, and tilting at windmills
are convenient but ineffective ways of distorting human and political
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