Brief note on Distrust of statistics

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It is a general belief that “statistics can prove anything.” This statement is partly true and false. It is false because mere statistics should not be taken for granted without proper verification. It is true because statistics is often used by unscrupulous people to achieve their personal ends. This results in loss of faith or confidence on statistics or in causing distrust of statistics.

Distrust of statistics literally means lack of trust in statistical data, statistical analysis and the conclusions derived from it. We often hear statements like.

(i). Statistics is an unreliable science

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(ii). Statistics are lies of the first order.

(iii). There are three type of lies-lies, damned lies and statistics.

(iv). Figures do not lie, liars figure.

These are expressions of distrust in statistics. These views of statistics stem from the misuse of statistics by the interested parties.Publicity, advertisers of various products, Governments and other organizations are trying to promote their sectional interest using statistics and statistical methods. This causes distrust of statistics.

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Some of the important reasons of distrust in statistics are the following:

(a) Facts based on figures are more convincing. But these figures can be manipulated according to one’s wishes. This misguides public causing distrust in statistics.

(b) Sometimes statistical analyses are misinterpreted causing distrust in statistics. Supposing the mortality rates of patients are more in Indian hospitals. From this one may wrongly conclude that it is safer to treat the patients at home. This type of misinterpretation also causes distrust in statistics.

Statistics are useful tools. One uses them according to his knowledge and experience. Use of statistics makes a statement more convincing. But its misuse causes distrust. So it is necessary that people should be adequately prepared to know the reality or to shift the truth from untruth, good statistics from bad statistics. WI. King has rightly observed “statistics are like clay of which you can make a ‘God’ or a ‘Devil’ as you please.”

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