I Love Statistics
Numbers don't lie - people do.
Statistics! When I was in school, if that subject came up as an elective course, I would have had no interest. I would have preferred history or philosophy. But now I know stats are where it’s at. Why? Because I believe in science and logic. Stats are a basic tool within those endeavors - but not for all of us.
Here are three examples of how stats could be used but are not. The damage done to people and enterprises ranges widely in these examples. The first is a relatively minor one. But my “logical mind” sees it as egregious.
In July of 2019, the FDA published a “report” that some dogs had developed DCM (a serious canine heart ailment). While DCM had typically been a disease of Golden Retrievers, now other breeds were being diagnosed with DCM. The FDA suggested that popular “grain free” dog foods might be the cause. The speculation was that that the absence of grain may have left the foods short of taurine – a key element in dog heart health. However, no scientific evidence was presented.
If you were a dog owner, your ears had perked up and you raced to examine your bag of dog food. If it was grain free, waves of guilt washed over you. Are you giving Rover a heart attack? Should you toss the bag, rush to the pet store and get some good old dog food with wheat, barley or corn?
From the FDA FAQs page:
“6. How many cases [of DCM] have been reported to the FDA?
Between January 1, 2014 and April 30, 2019, the FDA received 524 case reports of diagnosed dilated cardiomyopathy. Some of these cases involved more than one animal from the same household. In the reported cases, there were 560 individual dogs diagnosed with DCM and 119 of those dogs died. There were 14 individual cats, 5 of which died. The agency received additional reports of cardiac symptoms in dogs, however, the reports did not include a confirmed DCM diagnosis.”
Look at this statistically. In 2019 there were approximately 77,000,000 dogs. There were 560 cases of dogs diagnosed with DCM over a five-year period. I’ll do the math for you. That is 0.00072727 percent of the dog population. If you look at it on an annualized basis, it’s 0.00014545 percent. I am searching for words that describe this number. Miniscule? Statistically insignificant?
“Grain free” dog food gained popularity as it has been thought that some dogs may have allergies to such things as wheat. After all, did Rover’s ancestors in the wild run through amber waves of grain for dinner? No, they pounced on other critters – they ate meat!
For further perspective, read this article from a dog advocacy organization. Here is an excerpt: “Follow the money, it can be pretty illuminating. In this instance, know that a main funder for research into grain-free food is the Morris Animal Foundation, the foundation created by the owners of the Hill’s Science Diet brand. The three main researchers from UC Davis (Joshua Stern, Lisa Freeman, and Darcy Adin) also receive funding from Purina and Royal Canin. These are “traditional” brands who often use corn or corn products as a major ingredient, and are (ahem) not historically proponents of grain-free diets for dogs.”
As dog owners, did we switch foods? Yup. The scare tactic worked. It is a good idea to rotate dog food brands periodically - to simply be sure your pup is not getting too much of something or not enough of something else. In a sense, no harm done.
No harm done unless you are a smaller family owned producer of high quality dog food. Was there an industry conspiracy? Did Budweiser and Miller feel threatened by the craft beer movement?
If you read the full page of the FDA website, it is clear that there is still, after over two years of research, no conclusive connection established between DCM and the dog food brands that were essentially “blacklisted” by that agency. Statistics and Logic failed. Emotions ruled.
Example number two: Guns. I am not in the camp that wants the government to take away all the guns of responsible owners. I am not sure what the right rules for gun ownership should be. But some things seem to be obvious. And logical.
1. Gun ownership should be licensed – like a fishing license or license to drive or to fly a plane.
2. Having a record of violent and/or criminal behavior or a dangerous mental health problem are good reasons to deny a person a gun license.
3. There is no reason why civilians should own weapons that were designed to kill as many people as fast as possible. There are plenty of rifles or guns that could be used for hunting or target practice that don’t look like a commando or terrorist would carry them.
4. In order to regulate gun ownership, universal nationwide background checks should be in place. A national registry would make sense so guns could be traced – no different than auto registrations.
5. Parents should be held responsible for the actions of their children surrounding gun use.
But there is a minority of Americans who think that society should have no say when it comes to gun control. They see unlimited gun ownership as a “right”. Over the years, gun ownership has exploded in the US. And so have deaths due to guns – intentional and accidental. And our rate of suicides should frighten us all.
Here is a link to another chart. There is a lot to unpack here. But a simple way to begin is to scroll down and compare the US to the UK:
The US has 120 guns per 100 inhabitants. The UK has 2.8 guns per 100 inhabitants.
In 2017, the US had 12.21 firearm related deaths per 100,000 population per year.
In 2015, the UK had .20 firearm related deaths per 100,000 population per year.
Sadly, emotions rule in this case as well. Why is the United States a leader in gun deaths? Why should our children go to school knowing they could be sitting next to a kid with a gun in his backpack?
A sitting US Congressman poses with his family for a Christmas card. They are all holding weapons. His teen age daughter sits in the middle between her parents holding an Uzi? I guess he doesn’t care about stats. I guess this politician thinks that thousands of deaths are worth his “right”.
The “Christmas card” from the smiling Congressman was posted just after four kids were executed in their Michigan school by a 15-year-old. His father gave him the gun as a birthday present.
Example number three: The big one. Pandemic. Deaths vs vaccinations.
As of this past week, the US has seen 49,000,000 reported cases of Covid 19. About 788,000 Americans have died. And we are still dying by the thousands every week. The virus is escalating again in several states.
And yet, millions of Americans still refuse a lifesaving vaccine. At last check, about 30% of us are still un-vaccinated. This, despite the fact that the vaccine is free, easy to obtain and has minimal short term side effects. That 30% of us endangers all of us. They enable the disease to prosper and mutate.
Here is a report about the number people who have died from the Covid 19 vaccine. It is from this past summer, when the total number of deaths attributable to the vaccine (J&J blood clots) was three. Not three thousand or three hundred, but three.
Anyone who uses logic would be vaccinated. I have no explanation for the bizarre thought process of 30% of Americans. Is the vaccine “untested”? Is there a “Bill Gates microchip in the vaccine”? Is the whole pandemic a “Hoax by the Democrats”? Really?
This article from NPR reports is damning. ”Trump county” citizens are dying at a rate much higher than in “blue regions”. It is important to consider that the areas described may also suffer from other health risks such as obesity, malnutrition and diabetes that in combination with the virus heightens the death rate. But read it and gather your own conclusions.
788,000 deaths due to Covid
3 deaths due to the Covid vaccine.
Emotions and misinformation have ruled. And people are dying needlessly. I guess they didn’t take the statistics course. Or they are just really lousy at figuring the odds. And I guess they just don’t care about their fellow citizens.
I love and rely on statistics, don’t you?
Thanks for reading Bill’s Focus! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.