Futures and Options

Just another town along the road.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NPR Article Reveals that NPR Doesn’t Understand Statistics

The article in question.

One could just as easily take the exact same poll and just a truthfully say: “90% of doctors oppose government control of healthcare.”

The article is playing fast and loose with wording. 63% of doctors favor the inclusion of a public option while keeping private insurance available. 10% favor the exclusive use of a government plan. It is inaccurate to say that 73% support the inclusion of a public option because that 10% don’t support an “inclusion”, they support exclusivity of the governmental system. There’s a big difference between those two viewpoints and it’s bad statistics to lump them into the same group.

Ultimately, this is the issue with statistics.  People need to remember to check on the underlying data before immediately regurgitating what some news article claims the data “find”.  Even more of an issue than the sloppy statistical analysis in the article, however, is the unproven premise upon which the article’s implication rests.

The article implies that, because physicians favor the inclusion of a public option, such an inclusion is a good idea.  This implication requires that there be two separate logical fallacies in play.  First is the fallacy of appeal to authority in which it is assumed that physicians, whose task is healing the physical body, are qualified to judge the economic and metaphysical desirability of a public option.  Unfortunately there is no solid evidence to suggest that physicians, as a group, are any more equipped to judge the economic or metaphysical wisdom of such plans than any other group.  The second fallacy in play is the appeal to popularity.  Even if physicians were, as a group, more able to evaluate the consequences of a public option (which they are not), the mere popularity of a public option among physicians would not be sufficient proof that a public option was a good idea.

As has been said many times, “what is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular.”

posted by Zenmervolt at 08:18  

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