Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
There are three kinds of numbers: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
—Mark Twain, quoting Benjamin Disraeli
The statistics branch of mathematics has a poor reputation among the public. Much of modern science and economics is based on it in a fundamental way. So is public policy. Since public policy is a matter of priorities and heated debate about the allocation of government budgets, statistics has gotten pulled into the fray to support or undermine various political positions. Unscrupulous or ignorant people have corrupted it for their own purposes.
While there is nothing wrong with statistics itself, there are many common misuses of it. In this section, we survey these misuses along with some implications ...