Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Book In Review: Scammed By Statistics



  Song from The Pirates Of The Caribbean

Rendition:  Jarrod Radnich



While this pianist is tremendous...
and I mean no connection with what is to follow...
other than it merely reminding me of the technical virtuosity with which the various
scammers throughout the various industries, and especially in politics...
use numbers and their representative graphs in an attempt to dazzle their audience...
only in their cases, it is not used to entertain, but to deceive.

In their use of flashy figures and graphs...
they attempt to obfuscate truth through the presentation of a false argument...
a fallacy of logic meant to deceive...
through the omission of decisive data resulting in deceptive chronology...
which in turn results in a false cause and effect...
through the presentation of immaterial stats...
thereby setting up a straw man argument...
through the use of valid stats...
but presented in a deceptive way through the manipulation of
numbers vs. percentages and even using and/or mixing the various methods
of compiling averages...etc...all to their advantage.

They will show...
in a visual manner that impresses all those whom, through direct visual comparison...
come to a seemingly natural conclusion of thinking that numbers never lie.

And so the importance of educating yourself...
and your children...
in the subject of Statistics and of their abuse.

Alex is going to a summer math camp in a few days (for a week).
This is to be one of his leisure reading books he shall be taking there.

It is a must read for advanced Middle School...
all High School students and above...
anyone who has never taken Statistics...
as this was written for the layman...
to not only fully understand the subject matter...
but the reasoning behind it...
and for it.


This book is 245 pages of extremely relevant information to all.

It is divided into 16 easy to read chapters.


Chapter 1:  Barely Believable Graphs

This chapter shows how, when omission of information...
or when deceptive use of it through the manipulation of
the figures used in the Y or X axis, can lead to a false conclusion.

It gives examples of them, and of how easy it is to do.



Chapter 2:   Are You Comparing Equivalent Groups?

It is in essence a reminder that apples must be compared to apples
when performing a comparative analysis.

It gives actual examples of deceptive statistics that have been used...
and so many have easily fallen for.



Chapter 3:   Painting Bull's Eyes Around The Arrows

This chapter illustrates the use of "cherry picking" data.

This is the use of any data which could be construed as supportive of
the desired side of an argument or presentation
while omitting any data which would be contrary to the presenter's position.



Chapter 4:   The Power Of Honest Statistics

This chapter shows how statistics which are not manipulated to deceive...
can do, and has done, great good.



Chapter 5:   Purposely Fogging Clarity

This covers the use of immaterial statistics or the relevancy of the stats to the argument.
Whether true or not...it would have no bearing on the argument at hand.

It also covered a few examples actually used to delay justice through the use
of supplantation of the burden of evidence to the Government when the burden
was theirs to demonstrate
 (a typical argumentative tactic - the shifting of the burden of evidence from the
asserter to the audience - as in "prove me wrong"
 instead of the asserter having to make his case).



Chapter 6:   The Funding Effect

This gives an inside look at corruption of some our most trusted
individuals in society...how many are for sale...how their product is misinformation...
and how the product is too often a cause of death or injury.

The old saying, "Follow the money" comes into mind.
Greed has always been motive enough for people to justify anything.



Chapter 7:   Poor Logic

This chapter is very short.
It had given but 3 examples...
and, I am sorry to say...
one of the three hadn't represented the example's title.

Don't let this lead you to think that the whole book is bunk because of this inexplicable
blunder by the author.  The rest of the book is solid.  Just be aware to explain it
to your children before they read it...so as to not give them a false example of
what the author had attempted to illustrate.

The deception the author had attempted to illustrate was the use of a
hyperbole in advertising.

The example given was a Dyson advertisement:

"Dyson vacuums spin the air up to 100,00 times the force of gravity."

Although the author correctly states that the force of gravity is really very weak...
it was not a hyperbole.

A hyperbole is an exaggeration of fact...
in other words...it is in fact...NOT a fact.
It is something conveyed, with full knowledge that it is false to all concerned...
to elicit an emotional response for reasons other than as a statement of fact.

What Dyson had done was to commit other examples of deceit...
but not a hyperbole...there are many ways it could have been true.

What Dyson had done was to imply his vacuums were extremely powerful...
based on an incomplete example (gravity is distance dependent).

The effect of gravity on air at earth level is at its strongest...
and so weak as to allow the gases to escape at its upper reaches.

Dyson also relied upon the most common realization of gravity to the average person...
the effect of earth's gravity upon themselves or of the only really remembered
object which stood out in their minds...something very heavy.

But, Dyson also hadn't even made the comparison to the gravitational effects
of earth upon air...it SAID to the force of gravity.

Gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental forces.

It is only directly measurable with large masses
(as opposed to subatomic masses).

Dyson actually used a gross understatement to be safe.

This was an example of irrelevancy...
or a false implication...
not of a hyperbole.



Chapter 8:   Cause Correlation Confusion

This covers a VERY common means of deception...
even of how people deceive themselves...
through the confusion of mere Correlation vs. Causation.

It gives examples of modern correlation vs causation confusion.


Chapter 9:   Show Me ALL The Data

This is essentially deceit through omission.
It goes through various examples.

This tactic is so often used because it is safe.
It is difficult to call someone to task over it because they may
easily claim ignorance.


Chapter 10:   Confirmation Bias

This chapter covers self deceit...
either as a result of a subconscious desire for something to be true...
or through the brain's natural tendency to see patterns where none exist...
and attributing the false correlations to a cause.



Chapter 11:   Straw Man Arguments

This goes into many examples of the actual set ups of Straw Man Arguments
as used by known people.

It goes into an explanation of a Straw Man and why it is so often used.



Chapter 12:   Manipulating Mean, Median, and Mode

This goes into the three main methods of deriving averages
 and how the manipulation of their usage can lead to gross deceit.


Chapter 13:   Anecdotal Evidence

This fairly covers the dangers of relying on Anecdotal Evidence...
as well as some of the benefits of listening to it...so long as one keeps in
mind that it is extremely fallible as well as unscientific.


Chapter 14:
If You Don't Have Statistics To Support Your Cause, Just Invent Some

It gives some examples of unsupported statistics...
so often used by the "prove me wrong" crowd.


Chapter 15:   Perplexing Percentages

This covers the difference between what is statistically relevant
as compared to actual numbers or that which is clinically relevant.


Chapter 16:   Is Your Sample Fair?

As all lawyers know...
you control the question...
you control the answer.

By controlling the representative samples...
especially in the way they were collected...
you control the outcome.

It covers the importance of using double blind randomized trials...
correct sample sizes and test control groups while incorporating placebos
to ensure safeguards against the natural effects of the psyche upon physiology.


Overall, this is a very good introduction into the understanding of
how statistics may be manipulated and how it can affect your lives.

It will make you wiser to the deceptive ways of experienced coveters...
whether it is to get your money, your influence, or your votes.

With a child being wiser to the ways of the deceitful...
he will have a greater hunger to learn more about Logic...
as he will see it as a way to keep from being manipulated.


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