1.11.10

"You mean your statistics are facts, but my facts are just statistics"

A great quote from the TV series Yes Minister, which seems to capture both sides of the case for data. Using a small number of words to capture a larger sense of meaning, in the same way that a few numbers can do the same.

Here are a few of the quotes I've collected, which start to illustrate both sides of the case for data and statistics.

We are so often using words to describe statistics but can these series of quoted words, blending the profound with the popularist, and historical and even humorous, capture the essence of the world of statistics....

So the case for....

Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write. H G Wells

You cannot ask us to take sides against arithmetic. Winston Churchill

Errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all. Charles Babbage

It is by the art of Statistics that law in the social sphere can be ascertained and codified, and certain aspects of the character of God thereby revealed. The study of statistics is thus a religious service. Florence Nightingale

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Sherlock Homes

And the case against...

If you want to inspire confidence, give plenty of statistics. It does not matter that they should be accurate, or even intelligible, as long as there is enough of them. Lewis Carroll

There are no facts, only interpretations. Frederick Nietzsche

The War Office kept three sets of figures: one to mislead the public, another to mislead the Cabinet, and a third to mislead itself. Herbert Asquith

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable. Mark Twain

The only statistics you can trust are those you falsified yourself. Winston Churchill.

So not clear cut, useful at times, useless at others. The secret is to be able to tell the difference.