Statistics are numbers or figures that have been measured and are used to reach a quantitative conclusion on a subject or event. For example: the literacy rate in Ethiopia right now is about 30%. By using this statistic, we come to the conclusion that the literacy rate is very low. However, in the process of stating that statistic, I was able to convince you that it is the right one. Therefore, there is no need to research it for yourself and one would certainly not go to Ethiopia to redo the whole survey. This is the power of statistics. They have a unique ability to be absolute and cannot really be questioned.
To start with Mathematics, it is based on numbers. It is the study of numbers, space and quantity. So, keeping that in mind, one would understand that Maths is based solely around statistics and facts. As an area of knowledge, it can be learnt, forgotten and developed. One thing that we do learn in Mathematics, as an area of the curriculum, is statistics. Statistics, as a subject, teaches you how to work out different percentages for different statistics, how to create averages of your statistics and to trust the averages. It tends to mislead us as mathematicians because it is only dealing with the numerical side of the statistics.
Maths does not delve into why the results are there, only that they are the right answer. Those anomalies that you find on your graphs, they can be avoided by making averages or finding a line of best fit but we can always disregard the fact that it is an anomalous answer and that the statistics may be flawed. However, maths can assist us very much on the subject of statistics and although it can be very linear in its presentation of statistics by only taking the quantitative factor into account, Maths, in its infinite possibilities, can always find new ways to present statistics or to manipulate them.
This is a great asset and maths can assist the formulation of statistics through its formulas that are internationally accepted. They are accepted because we perceive them to make sense in the real world and can apply them with logic to numbers. Because the formulas are proven to work and are accepted as a solid method to make calculations, it makes statistics such as percentages or averages more believable and more likely to be accurate in relation to the truth. Natural sciences, however, differ from mathematics in the simple fact that they deal with the physical world and natural occurrences.
Maths is used a lot in natural sciences and influences the processing of the statistics involved in a certain aspect of it. The natural sciences use theory and practice to determine not only the results and the conclusion, but also the reason for such numbers and the consequences of the results. This, unlike mathematics, offers another dimension into the statistics and so we are able to study what caused the statistics and it is harder to find a loop hole in the statistics. If there is an anomaly in the result we can make an assumption as to why it is there.
It is easier, then, in natural sciences, to accept the statistical evidence that is presented to us because we can attribute it to a certain event and we know how the results were obtained. How likely are we to believe a statistic that has no method? If we knew that the Ethiopian literacy rate statistic was obtained from a test that only focused on the capital city, would we trust it to give an overview of the whole country? This is how important context is and they way we understand this ‘factual’ information that is being presented to us.
However, the fact that the natural sciences are being presented as statistics, may already be misleading us. The entire physical world cannot be boiled down to statistics and the fact that parts of them are, is already leads us into a false sense of our belief’s security. What about mutations, anomalies? These occur a lot more in the natural world than in the theoretical world that is controlled by maths. We should never use statistics on their own to describe the natural world because it is full of things that we cannot describe with numbers alone. ‘Global warming is a myth. According to statistics produced by the most prestigious scientists in the world, it is not a myth and that, in fact, the world is slowly melting because of gaps in the ozone layer. Yet, despite this statistical evidence many scientists and plenty of people still believe that it is all a myth. This may be as a result of emotion and language in the media but ultimately it is because some things in the natural world cannot be proven by simply using maths and statistics. The Arts, as my third area of knowledge, is completely apart from the first two to offer a contrast.
These include music, drama and arts among others. They are creative areas and do not require a knowledge of statistics and I am using the arts as a way to show that in some areas of knowledge statistics are not needed. With the arts, one must regard statistics as a method of evidence or justification, rather than to make conclusions. Statistics rarely fit into the arts and when they do you will often find them as a reason for creating a certain piece of art or writing a certain type of song.
I say this lightly because in fact, artists or musicians often discourage using statistics and even try to avoid them. This does not come out of a hate for mathematics but rather an understanding that the arts simply cannot be defined through statistics. The Arts refers a lot more to emotion as a way of knowing. Musicians and artists use emotion to create work and do experiments not based on mathematics or statistics but on their emotion. You could create a percentage of C notes in a song but how could that assist your knowledge? But also, how could it mislead?
It could be an interesting insight into the song but it would be useless information in terms of improvement or artistic advances. So, in conclusion, There are many ways statistics can be used and not only to prove a point. With reference to mathematics, statistics are formed from raw date to create solid numerical evidence from which you can declared a theory true or make a statement to back up an argument. The same goes for natural sciences. However, with reference to natural sciences, statistics come from measuring nature and the physical world in order to make assumptions.
They only stay as assumptions because the world is too big and so statistics have to be made through tests and surveys that are studied at a much smaller level to gather a bigger picture, making it impossible to gain solid evidence for a statistic. The Arts, which I concluded with, proves that there is no need for statistics in every area of knowledge and that some, such as the arts, have no use for statistics in order to prove that a song is good, or a painting is red. Our sensory perception and our emotion provide the evidence instead of statistics.
Courtney from Study Moose
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