While in college, I took a stats class. The guy who taught it, a good friend, had a saying that emerges from my subconscious every now and again. The saying was “Numbers will saying anything you want, if you squeeze them hard enough.” What caused the saying to pop into my head today was this video:
I received the link to this video in an Email from my wife, who had forwarded an Email from her father, who had forwarded it from a friend (the viral nature of the internet at work. Or – if you prefer – the domino theory in action). My initial response was to get a little irked when I reached the end and found out that the whole thing was, in truth, nothing more than propaganda against downloading music. My wife’s response was “Interesting info, but I wonder how they got some of the stats.”
The answer is, of course: They made them up.
I don’t have the time or the inclination to go through the video point by point, but I will draw attention to my personal favorite. It comes up around 28 seconds or so in:
The 25% of India’s population with the highest IQs…
…is GREATER than the total population of the United States.
India has more honors kids than America HAS kids.
Try again, boneheads. Statistics at their worst. “Since A is larger than B, C must be larger than D.” It’s bad enough that C and D are only remotely connected to A and B. What’s worse is that A and B are treated as though there exists some sort of meaningful relationship between them. It never occurs to these morons that while the first half of the statement may be accurate, it would be equally accurate if the smartest person in India had an IQ of 60.
In truth, all the first part of that statement is actually saying is that 25% of the population of India is larger than the total population of the united States. It does not in any way state or even imply that Indians are, as a people, smarter than Americans.
The moral here, people, is: Don’t ever – EVER – trust stats. They LIE.