In my, now discontinued, debate about gun control Andy Skelton he argued against using statistics. Since I didn’t feel they were central to the argument for gun control (actually I never even mentioned them) I let it go. But within minutes I was annoyed with myself for doing so.
People often say you can prove anything with statistics. That isn’t true, but you can prove anything with *bad* statistics. What this means is that you need to carefully choose which statistics to place faith in. However, Skelton wasn’t concerned with that, he made the more dubious assertion that statistics were some sort of hip way to confuse people into become some sort of borg.
Discarding a point because it uses statistics is scary. It is an easy (mindless) way for people to toss out the facts and stick with what they think the answer is despite other things pointing to a contrary answer. Discarding statistics because they are “fashionable” is just bizarre though. For one, statistics have been a fashionable way to support an idea (which is something any good idea needs) since people first started counting. That’s quite a trend. Second, is that “fashionable” itself is a statistic. Somehow people try to assert that using statistics that have no scientific backing (ie “the voice of the people” or “my accounting of the world”) is okay to use while the geeks trying to accurately account for things are just misguided.
The moral: use statistics, but choose them wisely and be sure you can back them up with well reasoned analysis. If people don’t like that you are doing this it is probably because they aren’t right.