Statistics are king in today’s era of scientific exactitude. They have the instruments with which to quantify virtually everything down to its smallest particle. Hence the professional statistician’s crown. They are quoted most every day when it comes to our weather and climate, health and wealth, viewing and buying.
But take a statistic to lunch some day and watch. While it can perfectly dissect the food on your plate, it will have trouble predicting dessert. You see, even the best statistician will admit predicting is a very iffy game. And yet, today’s climatologists and sociologists are being asked to spin their numbers like swords slicing open the curtains to our future.
Lets see how they’re doing…
With climate, the National Weather Service has a bazillion stats on the new heat, drought and tornado records. But here’s the funny thing, fans, they can’t agree any more than the pols in D.C. on whether our climate is on the brink of an epoch pneumonia or just another bad sneeze.
With sociology, the halls of academia are a scholarly fury of disagreements right now. A passel of professors have recently dissected us into warring classes, castes and cultures. The more grim predict “America is shredding at the seams.” Listening to the current election season it’s easy to see why some sociologists say our times are the most divided since the Civil War.
But back to our lunch date…
I have no expertize in either climate or sociology. However, I’d share my dessert with my statistic with this advice: Straight-line projections into the future can be terrible wrong. Two classic examples: (1) in 1899 the US Patent Office predicted they would go out of business because every invention had by now been developed (2) in that same year, New York City predicted the streets by 1950 would be 3 inches deep in horse manure.
Tales to humble the haughtiest of predictions!
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