Stephan Jay Gould's "The Median Isn't the Message"

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Topics: Mode, Median
Stephan Jay Gould's "The Median Isn't the Message" Stephen Jay Gould was a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and a historian of science. He spent many years teaching at Harvard as well as at New York University in his later life. Gould, along with Niles Eldredge in 1972, published the theory of punctuated equilibrium. Their theory stated that creatures had long periods of evolutionary stability occasionally marked with rapid periods of advancement, unlike the previously accepted idea of phyletic gradualism, which stated that evolution happened constantly and slowly. He also campaigned against creationism, hoping that science and religion would become two separate entities at some point. Gould died on May 20, 2002. Statistics were used in the article to express the median age of death for patients with abdominal mesothelioma. The distribution represented one that is skewed far right with possible gaps and outliers, because of the higher boundary to the right and the very limited boundary to the left. The tail to the right showed that various people had lived longer based on their lifestyles, age, heredity, medical conditions, etc. The statistics in the article showed that a median number does not necessarily mean that number is the hard number at which all events occurred. On the contrary, the discussion of skew made the point that data outside of the median is more important than that of within. In the passage shown, Gould was expressing the difference between properly interpreting statistics and panicking on the basis of your gut feeling. He showed that articles and studies giving a limited view of the data by expressing few statistical pieces of evidence were often biased or downgrading the potential knowledge the reader could have. He explains the necessity of using one's brain when shown a statistic and determining possible meanings for the number. One of the biggest things to notice is variation from the central points of mean and median. Those

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