We should all be skeptical


Regardless of who spouts statistics, we should all be skeptical. For one thing, it's a good mental exercise (may prevent Alzheimer's). Secondly, we might avoid making big mistakes by blindly accepting numbers or ideas that are skewed or deliberately misleading (need I mention political advertising?). Try reading Harper's INDEX (in Harpers Monthly magazine), which arranges statistics for their most ironic impact then gives a reference to data sources. Another great way to exercise one's skepticism is to read anything by Michael Shermer; he is a prolific author of books, editor of Skeptic Magazine and writer of Scientific American's column "The Skeptic." My personal favorite statistic: "73 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot," except that the next time I mention it, the number will be different.

Pat Rauscher


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