When I took a statistics class in college, the first book we were assigned was “How To Lie With Statistics” by Darrel Huff (1954). The focus was how numbers can be managed and massaged to seem to make them lean in the direction you would like your readers to lean.
Most of the manipulation was accomplished by using charts and graphs, making numbers seem larger or smaller.
A more subtle means of lying is by choosing the numbers, the surveyed population, subset labels, and the like.
If you look at auto accidents and look at the color of the involved vehicles, you may be able to appear to demonstrate that the color is a factor.
That leads us to the first problem: correlation ( a relationship) is not causation (one event led to another event).
An easy example is that people get more colds in the winter, therefore, winter causes colds. More likely is that cold weather interferes with the immune system and people spend more time indoors in close contact with other people where more germs are present, so more people get colds.
This mixing up of correlation and causation is present in discussions about many political and medical subjects.
My personal favorite is in the world of firearms ownership and use (which, sadly, bridges political, medical, and criminal).
The availability of firearms causes criminal behavior, right? Well, if you cherry pick your numbers (e.g., years studied, localities, subject labels), you can appear to show that. You can call people up to the age of 20 “children” to show more children being injured. Out of that context, most people would think of children as elementary school age. You can view such injuries as a contagion (as the AMA likes to do) where some sort of magical vaccine can “solve” the “disease”.
One can also make up misleading terms, too, (e.g., “assault weapon”, “gun deaths”, “gun violence”, deaths caused by guns instead of with guns) to get your numbers to hew to your agenda.
An example here is the number of people/children/nuns killed “by” so-called assault weapons (or rifles). Per the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, the number of people’s deaths from hands and feet far, far outnumber the number of people’s deaths from long guns of any type. Yet, when was the last time you heard folks railing against “foot violence”? I thought so. It doesn’t quite have the ring of gun violence, does it?
Another example is the use of the term “school shooting”. Research has noted that the anti-Rights group has included shootings that occurred near schools and in school parking lots when the school was closed in order to bolster their statistics showing the widespread risk of shootings at school.
Now we come to the next problem: statistics can only relate to past events. They are not actually predictors of future events.
If I recall correctly, the latest numbers show that you are more likely to be struck by lightning than be injured in a school shooting. On the other hand, if you actually are in a school (or concert or workplace) attack, your chances just went up to 100%.
To beat a dead equine-American, if you are on public roads, your overall chances of being injured from a motor vehicle are higher than being a victim of a crime of violence (i.e., a homicide). Have you heard any calls to ban motor vehicles (except by the Green New Deal folks)? Nope.
As far as the potential usefulness of firearms fr self-defense, you can’t predict or prove a negative. Is there any way to show that the inner confidence that a handgun carrier exudes changed the mind of a potential assailant? Not really. Looking at statistics showing that people who used a firearm to defend against an attack doesn’t mean that any other person will have the same outcome. Still, we constantly hear that defensive gun uses never really happen. If numbers were sentient, those from the FBI and CDC would disagree
Still, our Betters continue to promote what they consider the amazing value of central planning to make the lives of we Bumpkins better. As they do that, they fudge their numbers to convince people who don’t choose to do the research that they would benefit from giving up their freedoms.
“Those who give up essential Liberties for temporary safety deserve neither”, Ben Franklin.
By Rick Notkin