Statisticians should not listen to talk radio or to anything on the Fox network. Those people who say that you can prove anything with statistics are mistaken. You can prove anything with statistics to people who don’t understand statistics. I think some of those same people you can prove anything to with a box of doughnuts.
So, last night we were listening to someone talking about the health care debate and for the umpteenth time it was brought up that,
“If Obama’s bill passes, we’ll have socialized medicine, JUST LIKE IN CANADA!”
What’s with all the hating on Canada all of a sudden? Have these people ever been to Canada? They make it sound like it is full of health-care preventing unlicensed physicians looking to give lethal injections to your grandmother. Seriously, the scariest thing you can think of is that we’ll become Canadian? Now, if they had some evidence that government health care (which, by the way, what do you think Medicare is) causes cold weather, I would vote against it.
However, the latest argument that really set me off was when someone pointed out on one of these shows,
“You know, Canada actually has a life expectancy a couple of years longer than the U.S.”
[I verified this fact on that source of all knowledge, wikipedia.]
Did overweight, overpaid talk show host at this point stop and say,
No, he did not. He said,
“Well, you can’t compare the two. The U.S. has a population ten times that of Canada. So, there are ten times more homicides, ten times more accidents.”
At this point I began yelling at the TV,
“YOU MORON! That would mean the absolute NUMBER of deaths due to those causes is higher. Don’t you know the difference between a frequency and a percentage?”
My husband, a.k.a. the calmest person in the world, as evidenced by his 12 years of marriage to me, said,
“Well, that must be conservative math. It must be different than liberal math.”
“There is no such thing! There is only math. That is why I specialized in statistics, for God’s sakes! So I wouldn’t have to have stupid arguments with people on whether the square root of the variance was the standard deviation in Tibetan culture or if it was a male chauvinist standard deviation. It just IS. If you have ten times as many people and ten times as many homicides, your rate of homicide is the SAME. Besides, we have way more homicides than Canada!”
This argument was settled by my husband making me a martini, with olives, and agreeing with me.
By the way, what is it with all this Canada-bashing all of a sudden. It used to be that high on the list of “stuff white people like” was threatening to move to Canada. I noticed that all of these conservative math advocates are white. Where are they going to threaten to move to now?