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[Synoptic-L] "lies...statistics" source criticism (some % off-topic)

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  • goranson@duke.edu
    The recent mention of statistics prompts me to offer a possibly- interesting bit of new trivia. We ll all heard what Mark Twain wrote: There are three kinds
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 29, 2002
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      The recent mention of statistics prompts me to offer a possibly-
      interesting bit of new trivia.
      We'll all heard what Mark Twain wrote: "There are three kinds of lies:
      lies, damned lies, and statistics." Twain wrote (in Autobiography) that
      this came from Disraeli; but Disraeli scholars say no.
      The source turned up a couple of weeks ago--a statistician! In context,
      in an 1895 article, the statement sounds somewhat different. Leonard
      Courtney (M.P.) was addressing a NY audience on proportional
      representation, and he created a future, fictional scenario to
      illustrate the possibility that a political leader could be thrown out
      of office even if winning the popular vote. The loser, a playfully-
      named "Wise Statesman" (statistics originally being state accountings)
      sputters words of denial, differently punctuated than in Twain: "Lies--
      damned lies--and statistics."

      For particulars, including the article, see:
      http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/maths/histstat/lies.htm

      Stephen Goranson
      goranson@...

      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
      List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
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