CHARLES SEIFE ~ PROOFINESS ~ 2010

~ NCBPW-I-SH-PD-BS-A-BM-CM-TMFD-TMOF-ST-TCBUT-BE-T-DC-AT-SD ~ Numbers Can Be Powerful Weapons – In – Skilful Hands – Phony Data – Bogus Statistics – And – Bad Mathematics – Can Make – The Most Fanciful Data – The Most Outrageous Falsehood – Seem True – They Can Be Used To – Bludgeon Enemies – To – Destroy Critics – And To – Squelch Debate

~ P:TAO-UBMATPS-T-YKIYHIT-EWIN ~ Proofiness: The Art Of – Using Bogus Mathematical Arguments To Prove Something – That – You Know In Your Heart Is True – Even When It’s Not

~ OS-IN-AIP-TINLTHAPCB ~ Our Society – Is Now – Awash In Proofiness – There Is No Limit To How Absurd Proofiness Can Be

~ OYKTMPUTTNIF-TAPAY-WYLTSPOOTW-SOTMCTBSAS ~ Once You Know The Methods People Use To Turn Numbers Into Falsehoods – They Are Powerless Against You – When You Learn To Shovel Proofiness Out Of The Way – Some Of The Most Controversial Topics Become Simple And Straightforward

~ IYWTGPTB-S-R-R-S-JSANOI-ETSASPTMTTEINT ~ If You Want To Get People To Believe – Something – Really – Really – Stupid – Just Stick A Number On It – Even The Silliest Absurdities Seem Plausible The Moment That They’re Expressed In Numerical Terms

~ NMH-I-HU-AII-NCGIC ~ No Matter How – Idiotic – How Unbelievable – An Idea Is – Numbers Can Give It Credibility

~ BTANATAN ~ But There Are Numbers And There Are Numbers

~ ORF-IW-AMATGSTI-D-FE-IHTM-POH-TINSTAA-POAH-TCGYADARRAWASIF-PAJ-A-SE

~ One Red Flag – Is When – A Measurement Attempts To Gauge Something That’s Ill-Defined – For Example – It’s Hard To Measure – Pain Or Happiness – There Is No Such Thing As A – Painometer Or A Happyscope – That Can Give You A Direct And Repeatable Reading About What A Subject Is Feeling – Pain And Joy – Are – Subjective Experiences

~ NMHRAI-PIINFMISR-EITIMITA ~ No Matter How Ridiculous An Idea – Putting It Into Numerical Form Makes It Sound Respectable – Even If The Implied Measurement Is Transparently Absurd

~ LADUILC ~ Like Actors Dressed Up In Lab Coats

~ PN-ATMEO-PV-TNFTLLRD-ALI-ETABOOANM-O-TNTTAGMAA-SFFFFAFH ~ Potemkin Numbers – Are The Mathematical Equivalent Of – Potemkin Villages – They’re Numerical Facades That Look Like Real Data – At Least Implicitly – Either They Are Born Out Of A Nonsensical Measurement – Or – They’re Not Tied To A Genuine Measurement At All – Springing Forth Fully Formed From A Fabricator’s Head

~ CP: TCSOD-CTTSTAYWTM-W-UOIDTUI ~ Cherry-Picking: The Careful Selection Of Data – Choosing Those That Support The Argument You Wish To Make – While – Underplaying Or Ignoring Data That Undermine It

~ CATO-WYCTNTSWOBTTO-IITETTUATS-OTCIM-A-OCCBRTTS-BUCBFC-SOTCTMOT ~ Comparing Apples To Oranges – When You Compare Two Numbers To See Which One’s Bigger Than The Other – It’s Important To Ensure That The Units Are The Same – Otherwise The Comparison Is Meaningless – Apple-Orange Comparisons Can Be Really Tough To Spot – Because Units Can Be Fluid Creatures – Some Of Them Change Their Meaning Over Time

~ A-P:TPTFTOD-MTSTAMFTTAA ~ Apple-Polishing: To Put The Finishing Touches On Data – Manipulating Them So They Appear More Favorable Than They Actually Are

~ WHA-IARP-TDTTSP-MA-IT-WGOSPEWTNT ~ We Humans Are – Incredible At Recognizing Patterns – The Downside To This Spectacular Pattern-Matching Ability – Is That – We Go Overboard Seeing Patterns Even When They’re Not There

~ ACIDCCLJLAE ~ A Change In Diagnostic Criteria Can Look Just Like An Epidemic

~ ATWSTTTACISW-OB-LTTCTOTMCTO-IONS-SWMCFEAVV-STHFNAR-JOO-SRC-ITOCTWHHAHTU-I-R ~ Any Time We See Two Things That Are Correlated In Some Way – Our Brains – Leap To The Conclusion That One Thing Must Cause The Other – It’s Often Not So – Sometimes We Mistake Cause For Effect And Vice Versa – Sometimes Things Happen For No Apparent Reason – Just Out Of – Sheer Random Chance – If There’s One Concept That We Humans Have A Hard Time Understanding – It’s – Randomness

~ R:ITTIOWTIOC-CAPWTIN ~ Randumbness: Insisting That There Is Order Where There Is Only Chaos – Creating A Pattern Where There Is None

~ IYT-ARCOD-A-SHE-YSAPOSS ~ If You Take – Any – Random Collection Of Data – And – Squint Hard Enough – You’ll See A Pattern Of Some Sort

~ RAT-WPBAET-WDHAIGOWBATDAWA ~ Risks Are Tricky – We’re Pretty Bad At Estimating Them – We Don’t Have An Internal Gauge Of What Behaviors Are Truly Dangerous And What Aren’t

~ MCIW-CE-MAHRSWT-O-AIRSD ~ Minor Changes In Wording – Can Easily – Make A Huge Risk Seem Worth Taking – Or – An Insignificant Risk Seem Dangerous

~ TSTS-TBTA ~ The Scarier The Story – The Bigger The Audience

~ ER-A-TFTRC-IAPT-STAITMTSBTTA ~ Exaggerating Risk – And – The Fear These Risks Cause – Is A Potent Tool – So There’s An Incentive To Make Threats Seem Bigger Than They Are

~ TGHTSITST-ATCOTOTD-YMOTBMWWUITPOTWCTCITFP-MH-WFGIDFTRIIMTG-VBTH ~ The Government Had To Step In To Save Them – At The Cost Of Trillions Of Taxpayer Dollars – Yet Much Of That Bailout Money Would Wind Up In The Pockets Of Those Who Caused The Crisis In The First Place – Moral Hazard – When Financial Gain Is Divorced From The Risks Involved In Making That Gain – Very Bad Things Happen

~ RW-IA-LON ~ Random Weirdness – Is A – Law Of Nature

~ APCBA-QD-B-TWOTQITS-TCOWIETMN-SP-SSSASTAIAPW ~ A Poll Can Be Affected – Quite Dramatically – By – The Wording Of The Questions In The Survey – The Choice Of Words In Even The Most Neutral-Sounding Phrase – Sometimes Subtly Steers A Subject To Answer In A Particular Way

~ AM-W-A-NO-PSTIKIF-O-AWRDFTT ~ Absolute Malice – When – A – News Organization – Publishes Something That It Knows Is False – Or – Acts With Reckless Disregard For The Truth

~ IP-A-W-Y-SPRMTN ~ Internet Polls – Are – Worthless – Yet – Such Polls Regularly Make The News

~ MAM-PSTBSONOTRTBWCT-WNLHTCITFUTROP-I-WCOLTTOWAAW-WCWIOM-UBTIOD ~ More And More – People Seem To Be Seeking Out News Outlets That Reinforce Their Beliefs Without Challenging Them – We No Longer Have To Confront Ideas That Force Us To Reevaluate Our Positions – Instead – We Can Only Listen To The Ones We Already Agree With – We Can Wallow In Our Myths – Undisturbed By The Inconvenience Of Doubt

~ P-I-T-TA-D-BNHAHOU-TAP-AM-B-WTNRT-IHFUTITANCBMTL ~ Proofiness – Is – Toxic – To A – Democracy – Because Numbers Have A Hold On Us – They Are Powerful – Almost Mystical – Because – We Think That Numbers Represent Truth – It’s Hard For Us To Imagine That A Number Can Be Made To Lie

~ MS-ITOAT-P-A-ODOKWDWWSTPOFAI-IMTMR;ODMWROFBTN ~ Mathematical Sophistication – Is The Only Antidote To – Proofiness – And – Our Degree Of Knowledge Will Determine Whether We Succumb To Proofiness Or Fight Against It – It’s More Than Mere Rhetoric; Our Democracy May Well Rise Or Fall By The Numbers