Category Archives: statistics

Before you ask her out…

…make sure she prefers croissants over bagels. 🙂

Advertisements

Why statistics suck

Here is the absolute best quote I have ever heard about why “the average” is meaningless:

“It’s like putting Bill Gates down in Ethiopia and saying the country has a pretty high average income.”

— Dr. Dirk Brockmann, the engineering professor who leads the epidemic-modeling team at the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems

Study shows parents are dumb.

Well, OK, the actual headline is that the study shows that parents talking to kids about drug use reduces drug use. I’ll get back to that in a moment. First off, I want to highlight a quote from near the bottom of the story:

Only 24% of kids said their parents had discussed prescription drug abuse with them, compared with 78% for both alcohol and pot. […] “Parents don’t think it’s a problem and
they think it’s safer than illicit street drugs.”

Parents are dumb. at least, 54% – 76% of them are. Prescription drugs are far more dangerous than alcohol or pot. That’s a no-brainer for alcohol. You can buy hard liquor without a prescription, but not codine… do the math.
For pot we need to do a little studying to find that it’s actually less harmful than alcohol. Of course, there’s much debate about that, but I can see which side of the debate seems to have more facts.

So any parent talking to their kids about drugs and not bothering to talk to them about prescription drugs is kinda dumb. Ecstasy used to be a prescription drug. Did it suddenly become unsafe? No. It became heavily used for recreation, so the fun-hating powers that be banned it. Marijuana is, as of the last election, a prescribable drug in Michigan. Did it suddenly become safe? No. And people still demonize it. Alcohol used to be illegal, and now you can buy it anywhere without a prescription. What does that tell you about it? Or about our society?

But back to the study… The Freep would have you believe that it shows “Talking to kids about dangers of drugs works”, but the reality of it is that only reported drug use is down. So is drug use actually down, or are kids just less trusting of adults, or smarter about not discussing their illegal activities after seeing so many “YouTube busts” in the news? We will never know. People put whatever spin on statistics they like. These people want to show “what we’re doing works”, so that’s how they interpret the numbers. It might be true, but I think it’s equally likely that we’re fooling ourselves.

See also my previous post on a related topic: Can you really survey sex and drugs?