Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ruddy statistics

Reading through the Money Section of last Saturday’s Guardian,
I came across a report of a survey of small UK business bosses,
carried out by Barclays Local Business.

The survey found that more than 4 out of 10 UK entrepreneurs
were “first born”.

The Guardian article then stated that the first born are often
of higher intelligence and are higher achievers than their other
siblings. It then mentioned a few first-borns who’ve done well
...eg Sir Richard Branson and JK Rowling.

The overall conclusion of this article was that first-borns
were more likely to succeed in business than their siblings, as
supported by the survey findings.

... er, the survey findings??

If you look more closely at these, the survey findings appear to
show that first-borns are at a disadvantage to their siblings,
don’t you think? … 6 out of 10 UK bosses were not first-born.

It’s strange isn’t it, how people start off with an idea
(sometimes a very good and sensible one), and then look around
for some statistical evidence to support their point of view.
Politicians and their advisers are very adept at doing this, of
course ... producing statistical evidence to outsmart their
opponents. Any statistic that doesn’t support their point of
view gets ignored.

So who are we to believe?

And the scientists themselves, who do the research … are they
trustworthy? I think most of them are, and that they’re a
very dedicated bunch of people … certainly those who work for
university research departments independently of big business …
but then how much research in these departments is sponsored
by big business, which would like results produced to put their
products / business in a good light?

So if someone starts spouting statistics at you, or makes
claims that this and that food / medicine is good for your
liver, brain, kidneys, skin or immune system, I’d advise some
degree of caution / scepticism about them, until you can
review the evidence for yourself.

2 Comments:

Blogger angel said...

ah yes, people do seem to learn the hard way that stats can say whatever you want them to!

7:21 PM  
Blogger justin said...

... yes, even when it comes to looking at your glass of wine... is it half full or half empty?

Positive or negative?

You could argue either way, or simply say .... "Can I have a top-up, please?" :)

7:23 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home