Friday, July 30, 2010

Propaganda, Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics -- Blind Belief in Statistics that Support your Bias

I have been dumb-founded by the lack of logic and integrity (or even respect for a legitimate contention of an opponent) at a certain right-wing blog mentioned in a recent similarly titled post. It is clear that many of the anti-immigrants of this state and nation are beyond reason.

When a writer provides statistical data, I have always been taught to approach data with skepticism.

If the writer includes statistical data and has cited sources (other than "I got this from my friend") than the writer has passed the first test of integrity. Next, readers should check the source. If the source comes from groups who are not known to have certain biases (i.e. government agencies, and (although they often fail) educational research universities) then the data overcomes my level of skepticism and I will accept it as factual. I may disagree with the methodology of the calculations or the conclusions of the statistical data, but I no longer question the author's integrity.

Conversely, if a writer uses statistical data and cites no legitimate traceable source, then my skepticism alarm is (at least minority) set off. Next, I ask the writer for there source. If the writer either provides a legitimate and traceable source or admits that they don't have a legitimate source -- I am appeased and I either accept the data as factual or in the least I can stop questioning the author's integrity. However, if the author passes off something official looking that has no relation to the data that the writer provided -- that author is a poor journalist. If the writer insists that the source provided is accurate I check the sources further. If the source cited by the writer shows no discernible connection to the writer's data after thorough review -- the author becomes a fraud.

This other blogger's lack of integrity with her sourcing has reached fraudulent status for me.

Her commentators derided skepticism as liberalism and one mocked my questions with the epithet "FBI Jr. Fact Checker". The same commentator claims that this is what blogs have devolved into. Sadly, I fear he may be right. I guess you can say anything on blogs even if you have no evidence.

You know what -- I drink lots of milk and I don't have cancer. A friend of mine who also drinks milk and also doesn't have cancer therefore is totally engulfed in milk's cancer fighting ability sent me this:

"The CDC reports that people who drink milk are less likely to have cancer"

Since I drink milk and don't have cancer. The CDC information from my "friend" must be true. Therefore milk must prevent cancer.

I think I am going to market milk to oncologists.

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