Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bogus Stats

I feel a little ashamed that I recently stooped to the alien abduction ploy, since I was not prepared for a real post. Now I kind of know how the runaway brides must feel after faking their own kidnapping. I just hope there are no pending charges to be brought against me for fabricating my disappearance. On the bright side, my recent abduction has allowed me enough time to come up with a real topic: Bogus Stats.

I've heard alot of statistics over the years, and maybe I'm just skeptical, but I think some people are pulling these numbers out of thin air and are hoping they don't get called on them. Well it's time to pay the piper because Mr. Cynical is here to call their bluff.

Some of the most popular ones I hear these days are about the environment. I want clean air and water as much as the next person, but when I hear that if everyone would use a certain kind of light bulb it would save as much energy as taking 1,000,000 cars off the road for a year it makes me wonder how accurate statements like that really are. Do Al Gore and others really know the date when Manhattan will be under water due to global warning, or are their statistics thrown out with an ulterior motive to frighten and manipulate the masses?

If an herb or supplement manufacturer has to include the disclaimer "these claims have not been proven by the FDA", then I think that these statistical projections should also have a disclaimer. "We have not actually proven this, but some really smart people made these predictions." I'm sure you have heard the quote "47.6 % of all statistics are made up on the spot". I'm beginning to believe it. Just today, I randomly surfed the Internet for several minutes, and here are some of the statistics I came across:

1) Americans throw out 27% of the 350,000,000 lbs. of food they buy each year.
2) California Uses More Gas than China.
3) 47% of dogs in the United States sleep in a family member's bed.
4) Half of those who are killed by bombs are the people trying to make or set them.
5) Children are more likely to prefer chocolate when they reach 10-11 years old than when they are younger.

I'm not saying these are not true, but I don't put too much stock in them. How do you become a bogus stat creator for your occupation? When I see people spew out numbers with such confidence, I am always reminded of the Jon Lovitz skit on SNL as the pathological liar.

Just yesterday, I heard someone say that a volcano that erupted in the 1800's released as much energy as detonating 1,000 nuclear bombs. That may be the case, but until I see 1,000 nuclear bombs lined up on one side on the earth and a volcano on the other and watch them go off at the same time from space, I will still be a little skeptical. If they said dropping Mentos into a bottle of Coke had the same power as an M-80 I might go for that, since people can test those side by side and actually prove it.

I hope I don't offend any statisticians or other smart people who use science to help them make estimations and predictions. I just want them to know that they would really have my respect if they actually carried out the projects and proved their numbers before publishing their statistics.

7 comments:

RenegadeExpress said...

Yeeah

Jeanne said...

200 million Americans only buy 350 million pounds of food per year? That's only 1.75 pounds of food each.

How the hell did we get so fat?

Tranquility said...

Haha...
The other day I saw an ad that stated that 80% of parents, in a particular neighboring town to ours, talk to their kids regularly about not using drugs and alcohol. Hmm... I'd love to know where these particular statistics came from. Considering which town it referred to, I'm guessing that they probably posted a sign at the community fair that said (something to the effect of): if you've ever talked to your kids about drugs (or thought about talking to your kids at all), come over to sign our form and get a free gift. ;)

Big D said...

I agree with you 93 percent!

Eric said...

Chaka, you are on to something with the use of statistics to manipulate the masses! It's all about peddling the fear, uncertainty and doubt...

Hurry up! We have to bail out the banks by abdicating congressional 'power of the purse' and give the Treasury authorization to spend whatever is necessary with no strings attached. Now don't you the citizens worry about the details, that's all confusing and you probably wouldn't understand. Besides, a dictatorship with just the Executive branch is probably the best way to get things done without pesky 'representation' or anything like that.

*note: the above is sarcasm, in case it wasn't clear to everyone*

King of New York Hacks said...

So you're saying WE have a chance !! Awesome! a la Lloyd Christmas. LOL

Chaka said...

King- That just happens to be my favorite movie quote.