The Ignorant World and What to Do About It

Source: American Institute for Economic Research.

Take the Gapminder Test.

The first link above sets up the second. Most of us (I include myself) are embarrassingly ignorant about statistics. This is understandable in a way. Statistics as a discipline is difficult and arcane. But this is not understandable in a way, too.

The Not Understandable part concerns our perception of human progress in history. The article at the first link argues that general ignorance of statistical reasoning makes for widespread gullibility to accept wrong and negative narratives.

We’ve had many examples of the problem right here in Tidewater Forum. Just today (Monday) a participant shared a collection of studies that he believed proved systemic racism in America is real. The studies, however, proved no such thing because none of them tested a carefully defined (and testable) hypothesis.

More generally, statistical reasoning should teach us that human progress has been extraordinary in recent history. Take the Gapminder Test at the second link above to see how your own assumptions compare with statistical reality.

17 thoughts on “The Ignorant World and What to Do About It

  1. You obviously do not understand how observational science works. You cannot run experiments to test hypothesis. You make observations to see if they fit.

    Here is a testable hypothesis for you . . .

    American social, political, justice and economic systems are skewed against people of color by “systemic racism.”

    That hypothesis makes predictions about what can be observed. The prediction is that when you study the outcomes of systems that should be neutral with respect to race, you will find that people of color get worse outcomes than white people. And that is after eliminating other factors such as economic status. This hypothesis has been tested by countless studies and most find the outcomes that it predicts.

    For example, the WAPO article I shared yesterday shows massive evidence that the hypothesis is correct. It provided links to studies in a dozen broad areas of policing and criminal justice outcomes.

    Now, if you have an alternative hypothesis that better explains the facts observed, now would be a good time to present it.

    Maybe you think that the inherent superiority of white people is a better hypothesis? If so, there is evidence against that explanation. For example, the difference between daytime and nighttime traffic stops where being black is less of a disadvantage when it is harder to see the race of the driver. That kills the idea that white people are better drivers.

    Then there is the numerous studies of marijuana prosecutions where blacks are FOUR times as likely as whites to be prosecuted even though white and non-white people use marijuana at similar rates.

    Bottom line, all this baloney about causation and correlation and your CLAIMED superior understanding is an obvious smoke screen for the inability of certain kinds of people to accept facts that do not fit their preconceived ideas. There IS “systemic racism” in our institutions and there is a massive amount of evidence to support the truth of that statement. There is overwhelming statistical evidence and there is the testimony of the people who have to put up with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: “Here is a testable hypothesis for you . . .”

      Nope. Your hypothesis begs the question, and is therefore not testable.


      1. Begs the question? More ignorant nonsense. You really should not throw out terms you do not understand. The hypothesis assumes NOTHING. Least of all that it is true.

        Based on this hypothesis – already supported by mountains of anecdotal and testimonial evidence – researchers in a wide variety of fields have set out to test it by looking at available data in a variety of ways. The overwhelming number of such efforts confirm that – indeed – we do have systemic racism in all areas of civil, legal, cultural and economic life.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. RE: “The hypothesis assumes NOTHING.”

        It assumes that systemic racism exists. A carpenter that measures a 2×4 to learn that it is 6-feet long does not prove that it is made of wood.


          1. That’s correct. Now notice Mr. Murphy’s hypothesis:

            “American systems are skewed against people of color by ‘systemic racism.'”

            That’s like saying systemic racism causes systemic racism.

            A simple carpenter wouldn’t make such a basic mistake.


          2. I disagree. That is not at all what that sentence says. “American systems” are the structures we all live under. Banking, insurance, housing, policing, judicial, employment, etc.

            Systemic racism is how we benefit or not in those American institutions depending upon your perceived race.

            Liked by 1 person

          3. “That’s like saying systemic racism causes systemic racism.”

            Uh, no it is not like that at all.
            The hypothesis is that people of color are disadvantaged in our system by systemic racism. There are other hypothesis that would explain the fact that people of color are disadvantaged in our system. For example, the one I have heard some you Proud Boy types offer is that white culture is superior.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. RE: “Systemic racism is how we benefit or not in those American institutions depending upon your perceived race.”

            Got it. Now formulate a hypothesis that can be tested to show that systemic racism exists. Mr. Murphy’s can’t.


          5. RE: “There are other hypothesis that would explain the fact that people of color are disadvantaged in our system.”

            None of your studies explain the fact the people of color are disadvantaged.


        1. You are digging deeper and deeper into the hole of sheer ignorance that you have dug yourself into. Your carpenter analogy is pure nonsense.

          EVERY hypothesis is in the form of a statement of fact which may be true or may be false based on the evidence. This particular hypothesis has triggered countless studies and has proven repeatedly to be accurate.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Your falacy is you are claiming your assumptions are facts. Perhaps there are many reasons for your observations but you only want to hear “racism”. Perhaps blacks sell drugs in open markets in high crime neighborhoods so they get caught more. Perhaps blacks are more cautious driving at night to avoid attention. Causation and correlation are not BALONEY, your opinion is because you don’t want to know the truth beyond your babble points.


  2. What is a middle income country? Average, median? Many countries in the second and third worlds have a rich elite, some middle class professionals and merchants and a huge number of poor workers. Are they middle income?

    As the old saw repeats, if Gates and I were in the same room, on average we would be worth 30 billion (or whatever) each. Is it a wealthy room or a room with one wealthy person?

    I see the test as not one for understanding statistics but rather a trivia contest. Whether or not Africa or Asia has the extra billion people is testing statistical understanding or just knowledge escapes me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. RE: “I see the test as not one for understanding statistics but rather a trivia contest.”

      That’s right. But failing a trivia test means one is ignorant of trivial things. Failing the Gapminder test means that one has a poor grasp of statistical facts that define progress in the world we live in. Here’s a video that illustrates the kind of information people don’t know:


      1. So over 200+ years, we have made progress as far the life expectancy and living standards are concerned.

        What drove this global effect?

        I suggest that medical science advanced greatly.

        Then the global economy which allowed first world industry to increase their markets as well as establishing cheaper production in the third world.

        A win win of sorts. Until we tried to isolate ourselves with tariffs and trashed trade agreements.

        Liked by 2 people

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