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Article: original content 📃 Statistically Speaking

Got a minute, pilgrim? I'd like to talk with you a little bit about statistics. You already know, of course, that they are the bane of intelligent discourse, but it's useful to reflect on just how baneful they really are. It was a line on a radio broadcast that caught me up.

When I first heard it nothing special registered. I thought it was peculiar, but I was busy with something else, so the moment passed. The next time I heard it, I was not otherwise engaged , and it struck me as being one of the more ludicrous statements I had ever heard coming from the radio. And that is saying a lot because the radio delivers drivel with the regularity of a chiming grandfather's clock. Have you listened to "talk radio" lately?

Anyway, the pitch was being made for some family health insurance plan, and the line went something like this: "Do you realizes that the average man of 42 years is 75 percent more likely to become disabled than he is to die?"

What a nonsensical question. Men of 42 years are not closer to becoming immortal than the rest of us. Eventually everyone dies. Along with taxes that's one of those foregone conclusions that we have, somewhat reluctantly, learned to live with (in a manner of speaking).

Well, of course, you and I know what the pitchman meant by that line. At 42 it may be statistically correct to note that a person is 75 percent more likely to have some kind of a disabling accident, or disease before reaching the age of 43 than he or she is to expire altogether in that same time frame. But still, wouldn't you think people would engage brain before going online?

They won't, of course, so the only sensible way to protect ourselves is to beat 'em to the punch. Fight back, with their own medicine.

For example, throw this line at "them" (you know who they are): did you know that there are stretches of the Interstate Highway System where police records prove beyond dispute that the chances of having a motor vehicular accident while driving a motor vehicle, or being a passenger in a motor vehicle are 100 percent. Of course a significant percentage of police records taken at the scene of an accident are not legible, so we have to add a plus or minus 5 percent error.

Hey, there are people who will buy that. Scary, isn't it?

Give you another example, to addle them up a bit: in ten of the nation's largest cities there are an average of 25.5 radio stations. That's one thousand two hundred and seventy five stations in just 10 cities. But there are at least 50 cities categorized as being among the largest. Thus, over 6 thousand radio stations, each having an average of 5.5 people who, at various times of the day or night, bring us reports of statistical significan.

Resolution: Make Sure You've Read The Statistic