Hardly a day goes by that I don’t run across some statistic, some number that is supposed to change my behavior, my attitude, and my life. The question in my mind is often “how on earth do they know that?’
The weather today consists of snowflakes of medium size, millions of them falling from the sky. How many times have I heard that no two snowflakes are alike? How can that be possible and who has checked it out?
You can tell me that there is science behind it but lately science has sounded like a living, changing thing much more than hard, unchanging facts. I have a hunch that there are real people behind “science”. Real people have opinions, objectives, biases, blind spots and well, they’re just fallible sometimes. When it comes to truth, I often hear “whose truth?” When it comes to science, I would like to hear more of “whose science?”
Did you know that 34% of adults still sleep with a stuffed animal or a blankie? Yeah, but I’ll bet there are lots of details about that statistic that we’d find more interesting than the statistic itself? The research was done on 2,000 people. Did they offer this information or did someone check? Were they in New York City (understandable) or in Wyoming? I have so many questions.
The average American generates 4.5 pounds of trash every day. Really? How do you average in the demolition of someone’s condemned home with the person who lives somewhere where no one even collects the trash?
The global (GLOBAL) rate for washing hands after using the toilet is under 20%. Now there’s something to think about. The CDC is involved with that one. Think of all the places they had to go, all the people they had to ask, and all the people they never bothered to ask.
Each American drinks an average of 26.5 gallons of beer and cider per year. I have a lot to catch up on if I’m to reach average status. Did the people behind this statistic want us to drink more, or less? (National Beer Wholesalers Association – go figure).
Admittedly, I am a skeptic of a lot of statistics. They can be so useful, but that’s exactly what I like to know. Useful for what, and for whom? Let’s get behind the scenes. And for so many statistics, who even cares? Quit the surveys and do something meaningful with all that research money.
What is meaningful, possibly life changing? Well, I think that if I found a person who desperately needed to know that they were unique and valued in this world, I might go ahead and tell them that no two snowflakes are alike, and they are all beautiful. However, I would not tell them that they all eventually melt, and that no one actually checks. Just sayin’…
Examples of statistics from http://www.bestlifeonline.com “50 Totally Crazy Statistics You Won’t Believe Are Real”
3 thoughts on “Snowflakes and Statistics”
Fun read! I am married to a social scientist, so I’ve gotten quite a few quantitative research methods lessons in my lifetime. How scientists create and talk about studies is so different from how they get reduced and simplified for public consumption. Research can only answer the question it asks and as you point out, those questions come from people!
The older I get Shirley, the more I realize: statistics are pleasant fiction 😉 Raw numbers become dated in the next moment because everything worldly changes, being in flux. LOL on that stuffed animal stat. I have a strong feeling folks in more rural or remote areas I have visited do not factor in. Cool post!
Thanks for the feedback Ryan. Yeah, you really have to approach stats with healthy skepticism these days. Lessons from recent history…