“Bald men are less likely to have an aunt.” This might well be true, but it has nothing to do with being bald. Men who are bald, statistically, are likely to be older than men with a full head of hair. Therefore, they are less likely than average to have a surviving aunt.
Being bald has absolutely no effect on whether you have an aunt or not. The trick when looking at data is to look for ‘proper’ cause and effect, rather than tenuous links, portrayed as fact.
‘Lies, lies and damn statistics’ is attributed to Mark Twain and is a phrase used to describe weak arguments, bolstered by the persuasive power of numbers; it is the UK government’s current coronavirus strategy when it says it is; “following the science”. Their current strategy, that is, until they decide to follow Germany or Sweden’s strategy.
Science is not binary, it is evolving and uses data to suggest and support hypotheses. Everyone is currently using data in whatever way they wish, in order to support their own, favoured hypothesis.
During This Thing, data is being bandied around at an UNPRECEDENTED rate to prove whatever the speaker wants to demonstrate, from the government, hiding behind science, to scaremongering newspapers.
The figures on the number of people who have died from coronavirus are important, the figures on the number of people tested are important, but when they are conflated, it can be very misleading.
We want to know the ‘death rate’, the percentage of people who contract the virus who subsequently die. This shows us how deadly it is, but this figure is unduly inflated if the only people who are tested are those who are in hospital, who are obviously showing extreme symptoms compared to the average person.
It is also inflated if those who die with Covid-9, but who actually died from something else, like old age, are automatically included.
We should take all data with a pinch of salt. But science is now taken as fact.
The media is desperate to work out who is most at risk from the virus; the old, the obese, some ethnic minorities, men, smokers?
Let’s look at the case of smokers. Apparently less than 10% of patients admitted to hospital are smokers (national average c.14%). How can this be, does smoking actually prevent the virus? Of course not. It’s because people lie. If you are in hospital and you are asked if you are a smoker, you will say ‘No’. The only possible effect of saying you are a smoker is to be refused treatment.
Lies creating statistics in action.
People take data and present it in a way that backs their point of view. They always have and always will.
The media are full of it. There is a popular statistic in all newspapers, saying that the sale of alcohol is up around 30% and that the virus has turned us into a nation of alcoholics. No it hasn’t; the sale of alcohol in supermarkets has gone up 30%, because THE PUBS ARE SHUT.
Talking of misleading data, D also stands for the Daily Mail, owners of the UK’s most popular news website, with around 25 regular million visitors a month.
Reading the Mail online is a bit like having a sex-obsessed, racist friend on social media, who can’t spelll.
The self-proclaimed ‘voice of the nation’, the Mail is a breathless mix of conservative government propaganda, laced with celebrity and royal tittle-tattle. It would be harmless fun if it didn’t set the national mood (like the Sun) and the overall news agenda.
Yesterday’s Daily Mail Comment, said the following: “The primary role of the Free Press has always been to hold power to account, to fight injustice and ask searching questions of the rich and powerful, and to represent the interests of ordinary families when the State becomes oppressive or overweening.” Fine words.
These were their leading stories in yesterday’s edition:
‘Will Boris take paternity leave amid Coronavirus crisis?’
‘Antibodies from LLAMAS could help fight Coronavirus.’
‘Was Gigi Hadid’s 25th birthday party also a gender reveal party?’
‘OOPS. Kylie Jenner DELETES evidence she edited her bikini snap.’
‘William and Kate’s nine years of married bliss.’
‘Princess Eugenie and husband don masks and gloves to deliver delicious, healthy, pre-made lunches to NHS frontline staff.’
‘Amands Holden, 49, looks sensational as she showcases her TINY waist.
‘Next to me and my slightly hairy armpits – Fearne Cotton shows her abs.’ This sits alongside, ‘Is the government preparing to ditch lockdown?’
This is the Daily Mail holding government to account? Powerful stuff.
Personally, I refuse to read anything by people who can’t spell or to believe data from anyone who can’t count (Eg. Priti Patel).
The Daily Mail has helped in the deification of the NHS and, along with everyone else, has reported breathlessly on the incredible fundraising of 100-year-old Captain Tom Moore, who has raised £30 million for the heroic NHS. It should be remembered, however, that the NHS is not a charity, it is in desperate straits because of constant government underfunding.
Speaking out against the NHS is probably a capital offence, but it is hard not to feel extremely sorry for cancer patients who have had their treatment indefinitely suspended, and who now have to watch almost continuous Tik Tok videos of NHS staff dancing in empty wards.
Talking of donations, it is probably going to be pressure from Tory donors that leads to an easing of lockdown, as they all have big business interests and want to get the economy up and running again.
There are daily media reports that people are having strange dreams in lockdown. It has always been a fact that there is nothing as boring as people telling you about their dreams, and this is as true now as it has always been.
D is also for death…