"There are three types of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics."
Benjamin Disraeli, British Statesman (1804-1881)
Statistics is the study of a set of numbers or measurements; including: the collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of the data. It is applied in various Areas of Knowledge, mainly as a form of clarification or emphasis of an idea. For example, in my TOK presentation, I was trying to convey sympathetic emotions within the audience towards the African population suffering from AIDS. But I would not be able to do that unless I supported myself with shocking statistics, whether or not they are true wouldn't really matter to me.
Statistics is a branch often related to uncertainty, or logical incoherence. It does not necessarily reflect truth. The results can be manipulated to support the researcher's idea, therefore be biased. For any idea to be classified as a "knowledge" it has to be a justified true belief. Belief is in our hands. We might believe that 70.8% of the world's surface is made of water, especially since it is acquired from the CIA factbook, a reliable source. Therefore we can say that we know by authority that the world is mainly made of water, but how do we know that the CIA is not using language, a way of knowledge, to manipulate our thoughts as a form of propaganda? We believe that it is true, but it is not justified and therefore remains a belief or a probability.
So basically, critics against Statistics state that it has been, since found, only taking into consideration the hypothesis or outcome favored. However the method used, which is related to Mathematics cannot be argued upon. Mathematics is one of the seven areas of knowledge. It is characterized by the unambiguous objective theorems it is made of. When asked: What do you know? You could say I know that I am sitting on a chair, but a chair is a word, and what you are sitting on is, in fact, pure energy. But in mathematics there are no arguments. We know that 2+2 =4; an axiom assumed by authority, creating the basis for mathematical knowledge. Then theories, such as the ones related to statistics are derived from these axioms using deductive reasoning or induction.
Statistics is a chapter in the Mathematical Area of Knowledge. Mathematics has an objective nature. Therefore Statistics should be objective, should it not? The numerical laws of Statistics are objective, but the data used or collected is not. Still, we can argue that even some of the mathematical laws in statistics are irrational. For example, according to Statistics, if one lottery winner wins 100$, and another person wins nothing, then they both win 50$, on average. When such an idea is presented, your perception simply rejects it, because it is against every logical argument you can think of!
The study of statistics is critical to all Areas of Knowledge, because of the vulnerability of the human mind to numbers. When ideas are provided with numerical evidence, then rejection or disbelief becomes out of the question. "Mathematics is the only good metaphysics." -William Thomson Baron Kelvin of Largs.
Statistics is used in different Areas of Knowledge. It is derived from Mathematics, and used in natural sciences, history, human sciences, arts, ethics and religion. It is used to assist or mislead us. The weakness of statistics lies in that we know it by language, then it affects our reasoning and or emotions, and before thinking about whether it is justified we accept it. The unemployment rate in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is 13% among males. We believe it, because it sounds reasonable and there is no basis for us to be use as criticism. Do we think how did the government reach to such a conclusion? Did it count workers in illegal markets or illegal immigrant workers? Therefore 13% is in fact unreliable.
Another approach statistics uses, which also accepted many criticisms, is that it only analyzes a sample taken out of the...
Bibliography: • Richard van de Lagemaat 2005, Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom, 472 pages.
• Nicholas Alchin 2003, theory of knowledge, John Murray Ltd, London, 328 pages
• CIA, ‘The World Fact Book ', CIA – The World Fact Book https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ >(accessed in 15 December 2006)
• World Population, < http://www.ibiblio.org/lunarbin/worldpop> (accessed in 15 December 2006)
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