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Letters: Statistics and racism

November 28, 2013

Re "Blurring reality stokes fears," Perspective, Nov. 26

False allegations of widespread anti-white racism are intended to make people indifferent to anti-minority racism. It's a formula. Racists accuse others of racism. High-paid shills for coal or oil accuse scientists of lying for grant money. It looks like "he said, she said." People give up.

The data can help. The black-on-white scaremonger in this article says: "If you use statistics, which I don't, people say you are stereotyping. Every incident by itself may be insignificant, but when you put them together, there's something going on."

In fact, putting information together to see if there's something going on is what statisticians do. They then face stereotypes like "lies, damned lies and statistics" and "it's easy to lie with statistics." The answer, from the late Harvard statistician Fred Mosteller, is too little known:

Yes, it's easy to lie with statistics. But it's a lot easier to lie without them.

Allan Stewart-Oaten

Santa Barbara

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