Numeracy Humor

Talking back to the radio and groaning at news stories are occupational hazards for people who teach research methods and statistics.  The worst errors – and we hear them everyday – report something as a finding when the description of the research or the numbers demonstrates that there’s little or no basis for thinking this finding applies to your life or mine. 

How delightful to find 4 of the most common errors summed up in one comic from PhD Comics:

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  1. I often wish there were an explicit “none of the above” choice in elections, and that it were possible for that candidate to win.

    • In the monastic world, there are times when a community can choose — or circumstances may require — that they do not elect a new leader. Instead, they get an administrator. It is someone from outside the community, chosen by or with major advice from a federation or other outside source.

      The administrator’s role is to make the decisions that have to be made to keep the lights on and people fed — but not to make major policies. Instead, the administrator helps the group figure out what it needs to do to have viable leadership — including perhaps having to get them to live according to their Rule with greater fervor.

      The administrator has no hope or desire to become the superior — it’s a role in service to the other community, nothing more. I have often wondered if a couple of years with an “administrator” of this non-political sort might not be a good way to deal with the U.S. political gridlock.

      • That’s a nice intermediate step, just what our board did to give us time to find a new director recently.

        In other cases this event (when “none of the above” wins the election) can trigger a step back for the next larger body (or the constituents) to ask whether the position is really needed. I actually advocate abolishing the position as the default action. If, after consideration, people decide that the organization really needs the role and the role really needs a dedicated person, they can re-pass the statute that created the position (possibly with a revised job description, salary, etc.).

        There is a natural tendency for organizations to accrete middle layers. This offers a structural force acting in the other direction.

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