[ExI] quora

spike at rainier66.com spike at rainier66.com
Sun Feb 9 00:49:19 UTC 2020



From: extropy-chat <extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org> On Behalf Of William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat
Subject: [ExI] quora


What is the best example of someone using statistics to prove a point, even if the point was wrong?


I got this question on Quora and thought that I would love to get examples from group members if you have good one or two.  The funnier and more ridiculous the better.


bill w




There is one from my childhood which really got a lot of traction: telephone poles cause lung cancer.  In those days, the poles were made of creosote infused pine.  The correlation coefficient was way the hell up there, way higher than the coefficient between lung cancer cases and smoking.  That convinced a lot of people that the poles were somehow causing the cancer, even though it was later shown that the correlation was even higher if the poles were made of steel.


Those of us who understood the formula for correlation coefficient quickly realized that the increased number of lung cancer cases in a particular area and the corresponding number of local telephone poles rise in lock step because both are caused by increasing numbers of local lungs.



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