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In today’s Browser, David Spiegelhalter says while discussing the book Damned Lies and Statistics,
There is a nice quote from Joel Best that “all statistics are social products, the results of people’s efforts”. He says you should always ask, “Why was this statistic created?” Certainly statistics are constructed from things that people have chosen to measure and define, and the numbers that come out of those studies often take on a life of their own.
Best uses the lovely phrase “number laundering”, when the origins of numbers are forgotten. They get so bandied around that nobody knows where they came from.
Ali Benazir also has an interesting post asking, “What are the chances that you would be born?” Life is improbable. Given that the highly improbable has already occurred, you should be emboldened to do the impossible.