Numbers, Damn Lies & Statistics

Fascinating discussion on how basic math discussions have been bastardized:

“Numbers lack warmth. Cold as last year’s love, they sit counting their fingers. Think of numbers and what do you see? Dust and ledgers and the yellow fingers of a parched accountant.

No longer. Numbers have had the mother of makeovers. No ordinary scrubbing up, shiny PR or new logo, this transformation is complete: they have turned into their opposite.

Once they stood aloof. Now they gush. Now you can’t shut them up for heart-felt passion. They cry and cheer and sneer and shout. Formerly a counterweight to emotion, they are often now nothing but. The one thing they don’t do is count.

A number in the news is no longer a cold fact, it is a killer fact, with all the murderous zeal that word implies. Journalists everywhere know the meaning of the phrase, the dagger of detail that runs the opposition through: the 23% up! The £16m wasted! The 140,000 children!” . . .

How do we get away with it? In the first case because we have a number – and that beats thinking any time.”

Good stuff . . .

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Source:
Why numbers no longer win arguments
Michael Blastland
BBC, April 2 2009
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7978822.stm

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