Statistics Versus Anecdote – Religion and Politics

I am an example of someone who in their younger years had a very hard time living  in the “statistical world.” So strong were the emotions that drove me about, that I was really pretty much unable to understand how anybody could take anything other than personally.

I would see or hear about a certain event and a couple of things would happen.

Firstly, I would latch onto claims whether or not—had I done my due diligence—the facts were really as they were reported.

Secondly, I would be so caught up in the individual story, that I allowed it to “drive me on a macro level.”

The first thing is bad because it means I can be manipulated into believing things happened that actually didn’t. That’s why today, I tend to take more of a measured approach, choosing to get the facts before I react. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand the value of being slow to anger, quick to listen and somewhat slow to speak as well. That doesn’t mean I always “master myself,” where these things are concerned. It does mean I try to do just that.

The second is equally bad. In the course of time, I am coming to realize that people use manipulative practices to convince people that things are far more serious and urgent than they actually are. Yet again, a measured approach is the key to not getting swept up in this sort of “induced panic.”

There’s a third reality here as well. Oftentimes, people are sold on the idea that tools are not in place to deal with issues when they’re found, even though they do actually exist. That’s not to say that things will always work as designed; at times, people must be willing to work a little harder to get things taken care of.

Part of what sells people on all three of these, is the use of anecdotal “evidence.”

The thing is, anecdotes are useful; they provide “color” statistics cannot. That being said, if one relies solely on anecdotal data, he or she is likely to be “sucked in to” believing things that are not true.

There are literally people who make a living convincing others into believe things based on what amounts to propagandized anecdotal data.

The reason such people exist, is that unscrupulous individuals realize they will be able to sway public opinion through their use. This is particularly true where younger, less experienced folks are concerned.

Not all older people, but a large percentage of them, have been taken in by this type of schysterism before. For them, old adage, “Once bitten, twice shy.” Comes into play

There are still those, even as they age, that are regularly trapped into this “bad mentality.” By and large, these folks are driven by emotion.

Emotion is not—contrary to what you might be thinking, looking at my statements to this point—an inherently bad thing. That being said, allowing decisions to be made based solely on feelings, is not  a good thing. This is particularly true when the emotions in play are the result of a “small sample of data” but decisions being made are overarching decisions.

There’s an old idea, it is summed up in the expression, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” This is as true for the number of crimes as it is for their severity.

Finding that some very small percentage of a given group of people commits a particular type of crime (or acts in some specific way) is not cause to take “corrective action” on the whole group.

So for example, if we determine that less than one percent of law enforcement officers are guilty of reported misconduct—even if we can assume that number is only a fraction of potential cases—it’s not reasonable to disband entire police departments as a result.

Is it improper to ask that reformative measures be put in place? Maybe, maybe not; that depends on the measure or measures requested.

The point though is, if you’re taking action against a larger group—be they law enforcement, protestors, U.S. Citizens of African family, or anybody else—on the basis of the actions of a tiny minority statistically, you’re probably at the very least overreacting.

In order to know that, it’s necessary to analyze something other than stories that make you “feel.” You must look at data on a larger scale. Let the reader be clear, you must also confirm that data is not “polluted” or otherwise invalid, else you’re no better off than someone reacting emotionally.

Only by looking at statistical data on a larger scale, will you be able to tell whether there’s even a problem to be rectified, much less, determine how to go about fixing it.

I know it’s not easy, to get past the emotion that you feel in a specific case, but it must be done.

Imagine it’s you who’s being badly done by as a result, and if not you, then your husband, wife, child or even grandchild.

People must come to understand that acting out of feelings will almost invariably cause others who have done no harm or wrong to be penalized by those doing so (acting emotionally). Those done harm may very well end up being people about whom you care a great deal. Even if they’re not, remember, the chances are good some body or bodies cares or care about the innocents who are suffering.

Remember too, that making people suffer as retribution for the wrong done to others, when the ones being made to “feel the pain” had nothing to do with that wrong, is as immoral and wrong as the original injustice done.

Put simply, if I didn’t kill your uncle, nor assent to his death, if you make me undergo retribution for that act, you’re potentially no better than the people who actually did kill your uncle. That doesn’t mean it’s not sad, unfortunate, and a matter that should be taken up that your uncle was killed, just that it shouldn’t be a matter of undirected or misdirected rage.

Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.

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