Posted by: thebylog | September 28, 2005

Statistics and Bad Raps

There’s a famous quote by the British politician Benjamin Disraeli about statistics:

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, ****** lies and statistics.”

There are other quotes that profess a similar skepticism of this great profession.

“Torture numbers, and they’ll confess to anything.” Gregg Easterbrook

“Statistics can be made to prove anything – even the truth.” Unknown

“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.” Unknown

The above quotes from this page.

Because of the nature of statistics, there may be an element of truth to some of these quotes. However, I like this one better, made by the famous statistician Frederick Mosteller:

“It is easy to lie with statistics, but easier to lie without them.”

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Responses

  1. I thought that quote about lies, #$#@@#$#@ lies, and statistics was from Mark Twain. Interesting. Yeah, your last quote makes a good point. Nothing like some cold hard statistics to put weight behind an argument.

  2. Mark Twain used it in one of his works, but he was quoting Disraeli.

  3. I heard somewhere that 50% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

  4. LOL @ Dave B.


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