Vice President Biden created a stir in a speech in Flint, Michigan by claiming that by opposing the Administration’s latest Stimulus bill, Republicans would force cuts in police and as a consequence rape and murder rates would rise. Biden cited as proof what turned out to be bogus statistics on crime in Flint. Not only were the data faulty, the logic of the argument fails as well. Opposition to a particular program does not logically equate to opposing the goals of the program.
People are fond of the notion that “you can prove anything with statistics.” That’s not true, but it often takes deep understanding to find errors in statistical reasoning. Even simple problems can be difficult to solve correctly, and when it comes to complex problems the opportunities for error multiply. The simple problem I have in mind is called “The Monty Hall Problem” and the complex problem is unraveling the errors in the derivation of the global warming Hockey Stick. The first is discussed in The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives, a superb introduction to statistical theory by physicist Leonard Mlodinow. The second is the subject of The Hockey Stick Illusion: Climategate and the Corruption of Science, a careful exposition by A.W. Montford of the errors made by climate scientists. Together they explain a great deal of what is bogus in modern science.
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