Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wright's rule of statistical use

I recently posted about Christians' misuse of statistics. A comment on it, by Ryan King, told of the U.S. Attorney General using fabricated statistics. That got me thinking about how we could generalize this tendency to exaggerate with statistics when it comes to important issues:

The greater the social significance of a topic, the greater number of inaccurate statistics will be created for and used about it. Why? Two reasons come to mind. 1) The more significant a topic, the more people will measure it, so there will be more statistics about it anyway. 2) The greater the significance, the more people will have incentive to either create or use misleading statistics that best represent their perspective.

Graphically:

5 comments:

Corey said...

hmmm, this can go one of two ways.

(1) important issues lead to rhetorical gamesmanship which includes bogus statistical arguments.

(2) Bogus statistical arguments create the impression of important problems, leading us to consider them more seriously than others.

Interesting thoughts Brad.

Michael W. Kruse said...

Bingo! Love the chart.

Brad Wright said...

Oh, I like that Corey... So, bogus stats can be effective. Very social constructionist.

Knumb said...

Hmm...

And I've been noticing the accuracy of the statistics on your blog.

Hmmm....
;)

Brad Wright said...

I think that means that they are not very important ....