Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Media Doesn't Get Math


 Pet peeve time.

On Thursday an analysis was released by the Mayo Clinic Proceedings based on data collected by the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study regarding health effects of drinking coffee.  To the credit of the data collectors, this study looked at 40,000 people over 16 years including ages ranging from 20 to 87 years old.  Now you may have seen this in your newspapers, morning talk shows, and evening news with the headline “Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee increases mortality rate by 21%.” 

Now I am fairly skeptical of these types of headlines, and chain emails too for that matter, which is why Factcheck.org and Snopes.com are web page favorites.  The problem I have with the media drawing conclusions about data and research is obvious: they need to sensationalize the story, and nothing sensationalizes like fear (greed too).  Also, I am not a statistician, but I know enough about statistical analysis to never take a news reader’s (yes that’s what they are) word on anything.  I also, challenge polling and surveys as they are often suffer from study bias.  Go ahead and read the questions in certain surveys and you will see how they can be constructed to generate the response the surveyor is HOPING to get. 

But what about this study specifically gets my math geek nerd blood boiling?  No causation.  You see to make a direct link between coffee consumption and mortality rate, there needs to be statistically significant data to support that causation: drinking 4 cups of coffee causes higher mortality rate.  What the study may have proven is correlation.  Causation is pretty straightforward “Do ‘X’ and it will lead to ‘Y’”.  Correlation on the other hand states “When ‘X’ goes up ‘Y’ goes up or down.”  The difference is under correlation, there is no connection in tying ‘X” as the cause of ‘Y’.

An example:

Fact: There are more accidental swimming pool drownings in the summer.

Fact: More ice cream is consumed during the summer.

Conclusion: Eating ice cream can increase the odds of drowning.

Clearly that conclusion is erroneous, there is no causation, but there is correlation.  I realize the example is outlandish, but it is to make the point that drawing causality conclusions from data can often be misleading especially in the hands of a newsreader.

Are we drinking too much coffee?  I wouldn’t be surprised if we are as we seem to be consuming too much of EVERYTHING…right Mayor Bloomberg?

Perhaps after all, four out of five dentists don’t recommend Trident Sugarless Gum.

 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Politics of Water: Half filled, half empty, or other.


 
·         Green Party: I don’t drink water from plastic bottles

·         Communist: The bourgeoisie control all of the water

·         Socialist: Is this state water?

·         Liberal: Tax the water

·         Progressive: I want safe water

·         Emoprog: Obama’s not doing enough about the water

·         Libertarian: I have the right to drink contaminated water

·         Social Conservative: Jesus blessed this water

·         Tea Partier: Guns and water

·         Republican: Who drank half my water?

·         Independent: Relax, it’s just water

Friday, August 9, 2013

Religion and Faith: It's What You Believe

He’s back!!!

Yes after several weeks, Diggapedia is back.  It wasn’t a sabbatical as much as I felt I had nothing to say, nothing to opine, and certainly nothing to rant about.  In short, it’s been pretty damn boring as I felt I had nothing else to add to the masses regarding the Trayvon Martin, Edward Snowden, or A-Rod discourse.

So what brought me back? It would have to be one of three things: politics, international relationships, or religion; and the answer is religion, specifically the Lauren Green interview of Reza Aslan.   I had recently downloaded Aslan’s  Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, when the now viral video of the interview took place on Fox.

So here are my top ten opinions on religion:

1)      Your faith is your business, my freethinking is mine. 

2)      Religion has its place in the public square, just not in public policy; the Wall separating church and state shall be tall and wide and never be breached.

3)      Cherry picking holy book verses to attack another’s opinion is the province of the small minded.

4)      Any and all religious fundamentalism is a threat to freedom.

5)      Church corruption is as old as the Bible.  From the High Priests who controlled The Temple of Jerusalem and extorted from the poor Hebrews of the Galilee to today’s Catholic Church’s sexual abuse cover-up and everything in between, the hierarchy and power have abused the masses.

6)      If you claim to be a person of faith but deny another a place of worship you are a hypocrite and possibly a bigot.

7)      All religions started as cults.

8)      Faith is a powerful force and I respect those that possess a strong faith.

9)      I’ll tale science Alex.

10)   When it comes to the origin of religions as told in the various holy books, I am reminded of Mr. Maxwell Scott in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Oh, and why does a ‘news’ network need a chief religion correspondent?

My secular ass is back.