Saturday, September 3, 2011

Inference


We speak of statistics as if it were a god.  We choose how we eat, where we live, and how we treat others in our lives based on the vagaries of a little known, but much quoted field of mathematics.

Folks choose what they eat and what pills they shove into their bodies because statistics tell them that high cholesterol is bad for them, gives them heart attacks.  Badness.

Yet I have watched people, including your humble correspondent, eat bacon and eggs and cruise along with serum cholesterol in the 160's.  I have watch other folks frenetically monitor their diet, eating nothing but vegetables and tofu, have their cholesterol in the 300's.  Pity.

We are so intent on control of our lifespan that we lose track of the nature of fate.  We have built a world view where our medical and technological marvels are bent around "beating the odds".   But the odds beat us.  We try to control shallow surface phenomenon that our scientists have identified in the fabled past, blithely ignoring the fact that the surface effects that we so diligently monitor are mere epiphenomena.

We appear to run our entire society like this.  The vagary of the stock market passes itself off as the health of the economy while the unemployment and misery soar.  The treatment of symptoms take precedence over the underlying conditions.  Attractive appearance trumps personal virtue.  A well turned phrase overturns rigorous analysis.

I suppose that the old men in ancient Greece sounded just like this.

2 comments:

Craig Cavanaugh said...

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics. We only get one life, and I want to ENJOY it. To hell with statistics. Better to die young and happy than old and miserable. And for all some people's "health" efforts, they still get hit by a bus. Struck by lightning. Eaten by a shark. Have a heart attack while jogging....

sofarfromheaven.com said...

Preoccupation with when and how we're not going to die is truly something we probably need to do a lot of smiling at ourselves about for our own foolishness. But I am grateful to live in a time when I can order my blood pressure medicine online from India, just to keep it from doing a moonlaunch. I'm also a lucky man for them inventing Prilosec in 1984 so's my goozle would have an excuse to quit getting lesions and sneaking around trying to bleed me to death every time I turned around.
I'm more grateful having managed to stay alive all these extra years than I'd hypothetically be if I'd kicked back when nature thought was timely.
Still, not having to go to medicos for 15-20 years by finding a way to get those pills without having some pointee-head write me down permission on a slip of paper's definitely an advantage. Something else to be grateful about.

Statistically I agree a lot about your post, while disagreeing with enough of the nuances to create a bell-curve, I reckons.

Good post and thanks for sharing it. J