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Quotations about Statistics



Welcome to my page of quotations about statistics. I completed two years of upper-division stat courses at university, and — even though I doubt it was the professor's intent — the most lasting thing I learned was exactly what they say, that you can make numbers say anything. Sad, but true. So it's one of those things you've got to use responsibly if you're the one with the figures, and approach warily if you're the one consuming. But if you've intentionally come to this page, you already know that. Ah well, enjoy the quotes! –ღTerri


98% of all statistics are made up. ~Author unknown


As someone once said, however, statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off. ~Paul Brodeur, Outrageous Misconduct: The Asbestos Industry on Trial, 1985


Old sayings may be as bad as statistics — they seem to prove almost anything. ~George A. Dorsey, Young Low, 1917


Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable. ~Author unknown


There is room here only to caution the reader with a general rule of thumb: Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say. ~William W. Watt


We have an abundance of "statistics of crime," but no statistics of virtue. ~C. Nestell Bovee


DULLARD, n. A member of the reigning dynasty in letters and life... The secret of their power is their insensibility to blows; tickle them with a bludgeon and they laugh with a platitude... According to the most trustworthy statistics the number of adult Dullards in the United States is but little short of thirty millions, including the statisticians. ~Ambrose Bierce


Now the man in the street knows nothing of Biometrika: all he knows is that "you can prove anything by figures," though he forgets this the moment figures are used to prove anything he wants to believe. ~Bernard Shaw


Satan delights equally in statistics and in quoting Scripture. ~H.G. Wells, The Undying Fire, "Chapter the First: The Prologue in Heaven," 1919


The plural of anecdote is data. ~Raymond Wolfinger


Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital. ~Aaron Levenstein, unverified


Say you were standing with one foot in the oven and one foot in an ice bucket. According to the percentage people, you should be perfectly comfortable. ~Bobby Bragan, unverified


Statistics can be made to prove anything — even the truth. ~Author unknown


If you torture the data long enough nature will confess. ~Ronald Coase, 1960s  ["If you torture the data long enough, it will confess." ~I. J. Good's slightly inaccurate quoting of Ronald Coase, 1971. Credit: QuoteInvestigator.com —tg]


      'Dirty-looking rascals, but I suppose every one has some little immortal spark concealed about him. You would not think it, to look at them. There is no a priori probability about it. A strange enigma is man!'
      'Someone calls him a soul concealed in an animal,' I suggested.
      'Winwood Reade is good upon the subject,' said Holmes. 'He remarks that, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician...' ~A. Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four, 1890


A statistical analysis properly conducted is a delicate dissection of uncertainties, a surgery of suppositions. The surgeon must guard carefully against false incisions... ~M. J. Moroney, 1951


Statistics is a body of methods for making wise decisions in the face of uncertainty. ~W. A. Wallis


Statistics are just a way for the mathematician to evangelize his faith. ~Hunter Brinkmeier


...the theory of probabilities is at bottom only common sense reduced to calculus; it makes us appreciate with exactitude that which exact minds feel by a sort of instinct without being able ofttimes to give a reason for it. ~Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace, 1795, translated by Frederick Wilson Truscott and Frederick Lincoln Emory, 1902


I abhor averages. I like the individual case. A man may have six meals one day and none the next, making an average of three per day, but that is not a good way to live. ~Louis D. Brandeis


Hordern's ability to quote statistics was alarming. They beat against us like hail: cold, pitiless, overwhelming. You could only stand with your back to the storm and wait till it blew over. I think he was the most perfect statistical liar I have ever known. ~George A. Dorsey, Young Low, 1917


There are many who measure what they are doing by what they can report. They go out with garrulity in the morning, and come back with statistics at night. ~Henry Ward Beecher


It is strange but statistics prove it to be true that the WICKED actually work harder to go to hell than the RIGHTEOUS do to get to heaven. ~Josh Billings, revised by H. Montague


"What you've got," says Idaho, "is statistics, the lowest grade of information that exists. They'll poison your mind. Give me old K.M.'s system of surmises. He seems to be a kind of a wine agent. His regular toast is 'nothing doing,' and he seems to have a grouch, but he keeps it so well lubricated with booze that his worst kicks sound like an invitation to split a quart. But it's poetry," says Idaho, "and I have sensations of scorn for that truck of yours that tries to convey sense in feet and inches. When it comes to explaining the instinct of philosophy through the art of nature, old K.M. has got your man beat by drills, rows, paragraphs, chest measurement, and average annual rainfall." ~O. Henry, Heart of the West, 1916


Lottery:  A tax on people who are bad at math. ~Author unknown


Ugly facts are a challenge to beautify them. ~Henry Stanley Haskins, "Three-fourths of Life," Meditations in Wall Street, 1940  [This could be taken more than one way. Does he mean a challenge to make actual improvements and change the facts, or a challenge to euphemize or mislead? My optimism leads me to read this as the former. My realism led me to post this in Statistics. —tg]


His talk bristled with such words as "capitalism," "proletariat," "class-consciousness" — and he spoke with fluency of "economic determinism" and "syndicalism." It was quite wonderful! And from time to time, he would bring in a smashing quotation from Aristotle, Napoleon, Karl Marx, or Eugene V. Debs, giving them all equal values, and he cited statistics! — oh, marvellous statistics, that never were on sea or land. ~David Grayson, The Friendly Road, 1913


King Skeptic wears his modern crown, his stern, destructive law prevails; he's tearing all our idols down, disproving all our fav'rite tales. Is there a legend you hold dear, some legend of the long ago? King Skeptic hears it with a sneer, and digs up history to show that things of that sort never chanced, and never could, and never will. "We have," he says, "so much advanced, that fairy tales don't fill the bill. No faked-up tales of knightly acts, no Robin Hood romance for me; the only things worth while are Facts, Statistics, and the Rule of Three." ~Walt Mason, "Iconoclasm," Rippling Rhymes To Suit the Times, 1913


"Hello, Doug Fairbanks," she said flippantly. "Walking for exercise or hunting for company?"
"I was counting the waves," replied Amory gravely. "I'm going in for statistics."
~F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 1920


Advertising is only another form of statistics. ~Terri Guillemets


You know statistics have proven that listening to prohibition lecturers has driven more people to drink than any other cause. ~Will Rogers


The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you. ~Rita Mae Brown





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