This may start out sounding a little bland, but I want to blow your socks off. It is also not about politics except as an example. You need to be aware because biased statistics has you following bad medicine; eating the wrong things and making bad decisions for your business or life. I may be talking about biased statistics, statistical bias, etc., but what are we really talking about?
We’re talking about the information you get and hear about every single day from the media, from teachers, from other people. If you’ve ever seen some of those movies or listen to some of the songs from the 60s, one of the big themes was: Question Authority.
Question authority is important for lots of different reasons, but what causes bias? Some of it is biased in the sample the way they choose people. Who do they choose to ask about a certain question? Some of it is actually that they don’t know any better, but many times what people are doing is they’re trying to influence you and give you some reason to believe in what they believe. Now, they may be thinking that they’re doing well, but they’re giving you bad information to base your decision on and trying to convince you or tell you what is the case.
I’m going to give you a lot of different examples of this, a lot of background, and a lot of things for you to think about, some of which you probably believe – but they’ve been proven wrong or certainly have not been proven that you should listen to them.
It’s one of my favorite topics anyway, but it came up because I was sitting there watching some things on TV, and they were talking about the popularity of Trump. I don’t really care whether you like him or dislike him. I’m trying to talk about the statistics. Both sides might do it, all kinds of people, I don’t really care about that. What I care about is you getting good information.
Politics only as a Statistics Bias Example
The reason I’m talking about it is not because of Trump or politics, but because if you’re doing a business, starting up a business, or trying to grow your business. You have to be able to discern and listen to true authority (how to establish authority), and understand a little bit about what may happen in statistics. People might be doing to convince you, convince you of their product, their company, or whatever. For example, what should you be investing in? What should you be joining or starting up?
There are different reasons that people have. Some of it is just bad information; they don’t know any better, they’ve just never really understood statistics enough to know what’s good or bad. I’ll give you an example of that, too, when I go into some of this.
First of all, what about that political example? Just recently Rasmussen and John McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Group came out, and they both have Trump’s favorability ratings at about 50%, and John McLaughlin was being interviewed because it differs so much from some of the results that you’re hearing about from the others. They are the Quinnipiac, Gallup, and Pew polls, which all had Trump down in the 30s someplace, low 30s to low 40. What was the difference?
This has got to be not ignorance but actually deliberate because it is so bad—in the Quinnipiac poll only 23% of the sample were Republicans, Gallup – 26%, and then in the Pew poll they sampled 51% Democrat. Now, in the last election only a few months ago the people that identified and voted as Republicans were 33%. They should have been polling something that was a reasonable sample of people who had voted or likely voters. You can only wonder whether this was deliberate in order to tell a story, and to sell their samples and to sell their polling.
Again, forget about Trump and all that other stuff. First thing, though, this was pointed out and then in the case of Fox News they continued to talk about the polls as if they were legitimate and used their numbers. Why use numbers that you’ve just discovered were bad? I’m just going to assume, it may be the media. I’m going to assume in this case, they didn’t take any statistics. At the least, they didn’t know any.
Why I studied Statistics
When I was at the University of California, Berkeley and I went through the Master’s Program in Statistics. The more I saw about economics and the statistics that were being used, the more I realized I had to understand how it’s all put together, and what’s good or what’s bad.
On the same floor of the building was the journalism department, and I got along very well acquainted with the chairman and the assistant chairman, whatever he was called, and often chatted over coffee. I used to always say: It really seems so important that journalism students should be taking at least some statistics just to understand what they’re talking about. Needless to say, they don’t.
Another example of that is: How many times have you turned around and heard somebody say something about: “Well, so-and-so is a point or two ahead within the standard of error”? That’s a stupid statement. That’s ludicrous. You can’t say somebody is ahead if it’s within standard error. “Within the standard error,” means there is no difference, that if you sample over and over again, depending on the standard error, X% of the time, somebody will be ahead one time, the other one will be ahead the next time, etc., so it is not a reliable number. Actually, statistically you are not supposed to say one is above the other.
But aside from all of that stuff, that’s sort of getting somewhat technical: Just really, really look very hard and try to find information that you can rely on. And yes, it is very difficult. As I said, you can question authority because they just don’t know any better. They don’t know enough, or it may be deliberate.
Link between autism and vaccines
What can be deliberate? Interestingly, there’s a very, very famous study having to do with autism. A former British gastroenterologist and medical researcher, Andrew Jeremy Wakefield, in 1988 came along and “discovered the link between autism and vaccines.” This is a continuing, ongoing controversy, and people are constantly turning around, saying: “I can’t have my children vaccinated. Or my children…” Just because your child has autism and had vaccines, that doesn’t mean that the vaccines caused it. Actually there has been over 20 studies now, not a single one supports what Wakefield had.
More importantly, shortly after that study was done, it was found out to be worse than bad. This guy was removed from the medical register in the UK as his study was not just wrong, it was fraudulent. He actually had falsified information. On top of everything else, why would he do it? It turned out he was to profit from that research. That combination gave very reasonable understanding of why it was not only fraudulent, but why he had done it.
What happens? Too many people have associated the increase in autism with the increase of vaccines. What has happened? Over time the definition of what autism is, has been changed which greatly increased the number of things that happen to people to be considered autism. So of course it’s increased. There is actually absolutely no respected medical research that supports the link between autism and vaccines. Question authority, question everything. Think about it: Does it sound logical? Does it sound reasonable? On top of everything, since so many people who have a child had the vaccinated. All of those with autism want an answer. The easy answer is to believe the spread of this idea. It’s safe as you don’t have to wonder if you did something.
I have another potential theory. First, we do already know that the change in definition could account for the increase. But, what about the factor of women having children much later in life? What increases in other potential causes could also contribute?
Does Something Pass the Smell Test
Some other things that might not sound reasonable or seem logical is Alfred Gore, the environmental activist, talked about the seas rising by 20 feet. He bought a mansion on the beachfront. Why did he do that? At the very least it causes me to question his independence, because he’s also made a fortune by promoting and working towards the idea of global warming, etc. At the same time, why is he buying a mansion, not just a little house, but a mansion on beachfront?
There are a lot of reasons to question things. Ask questions. Somebody says: “Gee, over 100 years there’s been a 1.1 degree increase in the temperature.” Okay, where did it come from? How do you measure it? How did they measure it a hundred years ago, and is the measurement as reliable as it is today? Have they changed the way they measure things, different points on the earth? Are they the same points, are the consistent or inconsistent? At least that should raise questions to you. Not necessarily answers, but questions. You don’t want to turn around and believe something based on information that may not seem valid.
The World expected to Run out of Oil in 1990
In 1980 when I was doing research at the General Motors’ Research Laboratories, basically everybody had concluded that we were going to run out of oil by 1990. Take a look, folks. I turned out a report saying that not only were they forgetting technological change as well as other factors, that there would be a return to larger cars. They held that report for 16 months before they released it because they didn’t want to contradict normal thoughts and normal ideas. They didn’t want to contradict what was “accepted,” even based on research.
Other conclusions that we’ve heard and we’ve heard repeated over and over again was supposed to be the problems with the caribou in Alaska because of the Alaska Pipeline. It turns out that there’s more caribou than there ever were. Polar bears were supposed to be disappearing. It turns out that there’s more than there were 15-20 years ago.
Several years ago, they concluded that fierce tornadoes and hurricanes were going to be on the increase over time because of the global changes. It turns out there’s been no F3 hurricanes that hit US soil since 2005, Katrina. F3 tornadoes have been declining over the last 50-60 years.
Think of all the things that we’ve been told we shouldn’t do or couldn’t do, and you should question. We weren’t supposed to eat butter; we were supposed to eat margarine. We weren’t supposed to have eggs. Whole milk was supposed to be bad for you. You were supposed to have your tonsils out.
Did you Have your Wisdom Teeth Out?
You were supposed to have your wisdom teeth out, and that’s one that keeps on going. I used to ask my dentists over the years since I was a little kid: Why? They would always say: “Everybody gets them out. They are eventually going to cause a problem.” I would always say: “Okay, when the problem happens, then let’s see about getting them out.” Still have my wisdom teeth.
You know all those people that are paying extra to get brown eggs instead of the white eggs? I don’t know whether it’s a racial thing, but they think they’re getting better nutrition. It turns out they can’t find any difference in the nutritional value of brown versus white eggs, at least I haven’t seen anything yet.
I’m really just pointing out: Question everything, think about it. If it doesn’t make sense, follow up a little bit more. But always keep it in the back of your mind. Don’t draw a conclusion unless it is truly proven and you feel comfortable about it. That leaves you and your business far better off because you’ll be ready for openings in the marketplace.
As I pointed out at General Motors, large cars were coming back. They were ready for them, even though they delayed by over a year to make the decision because of statistics bias in their early research.
The idea that oil was supposed to be gone by 1990, can you imagine if everybody acted on that? What would have happened? They would have not been prepared when oil was in plentiful supply and a lot cheaper than they expected, because that forecast meant it was going to be astronomically high in price by the late 80s.
Again: Question everything. When you hear something, when you hear about somebody posting on Facebook that they’re an authority in something. This is partly what stimulated it, people saying they’re an authority. Have they done it? Have they really got the credentials to say that they have some good solid advice? Even if they do, question it. I always question authority, politely. I always did. Watch out for statistics bias. Between false beliefs and people wanting to profit, much of what we see and hear is fake news. It not just politics. If a person really has some good info for you, they should be able to back it up and back it up solidly. Take care. Stay in touch.
Now, Go over to www.LifeUnsettled.com, click on one of the buttons, get one of the free downloads for time or for setting your goals. Be talking to more of you. All the same, good night.