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# Fun With Statistics

Remember, depending on the message you want to convey, stats can be very helpful:

Physicians:
a. The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.
b. Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year are 120,000.
c. Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171. (Statistics courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services)

Now think about this…

Guns:
a. The number of gun owners in the U.S. is 80,000,000.
b. The number of accidental gun deaths per year (all age groups) is 1,500.
c. The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is 0.000188.
_________________

Statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.

Guns don’t kill people – doctors do!

Ban doctors!

The point, of course, is stats can be used to scare you to death, especially when used in limited context or in isolation. The world is a dangerous place. Accidents are going to happen. When the gun grabbers talk about taking your firearms to prevent accidents, remind them of this statistic. It’s just as “valid” as theirs and it sometimes is helpful to illustrate absurdity with absurdity.

~McQ

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#### 50 Responses to Fun With Statistics

• cusefan44 says:

Accidental deaths by guns should be .0000188.
I would use total gun deaths, which is @ 30,000/yr, the number still overwhelmingly supports the case and eliminates a possible argument.

• AussieMedStudent says:

Hey All, the statistic McQ quoted is false, it refers to all accidental deaths not just those caused by doctors, see comment 30 to see why.

• Jamie says:

You have proven one point you probably didn’t mean to Bruce. All those deaths caused by doctors wouldn’t happen if we had government run health care because, you know, the government can do no wrong.

• Dave says:

That ‘was’ tongue in cheek, right?

• Well look at the tags, Dave – what do “humor” and “farce” mean to you?

• Eric Florack says:

One small quibble; I wonder how many suicides are listed as “accidents”?

• “One small quibble; I wonder how many suicides are listed as “accidents”?”

A lot.  Why call it a suicide, which does all sorts of nasty things to the family both emotionally and financially, when you can call it an accident just as easily?  Life insurance benefits are still paid for accidents.

I’d love to see this analysis done for swimming pools too.

• Phil Smith says:

Life insurance pays for suicide if the policy has been in force for 2 years and 1 day.

• Goron40 says:

We should compare the number of lives guns save to the number of lives doctors save. That would make this argument so much more useful!

• Dave says:

I heartily agree. I won’t say “it’s been proven that…”, but it you want to go the other way with it, take a look at countries that have altogether banned the private ownership of firearms and the subsequent (dramatic) increase of violent crimes involving them (firearms). My thought is that ‘guns don’t pull the trigger, people do’. Just my 2 minims’ worth

- Taking that to an eventual conclusion, how long is it before certain subsets of people are banned?

• Joe says:

@ #2 Jamie
..”You have proven one point you probably didn’t mean to Bruce. All those deaths caused by doctors wouldn’t happen if we had government run health care because, you know, the government can do no wrong.”…

Jamie,
There’s no correlation between the original post and “government run” health care. There was no inadvertent point, made by Bruce. You’re desire to rant about uniform health coverage, at any cost, even to the point of not making any sense and having no relevance to the discussion, destroys and validity you may have had.
Uneducated pointless blathering on, such as yours, make it very difficult for those of us who wish to see health care remain privatized. You are only encouraging people to do the opposite as whatever you are saying. Go read a book.

• Sean says:

Joe, you missed the point of his post – he’s not saying anything about privatizing health care – he’s employing a little thing called sarcasm

If the government put just as much regulation into health care as they do into gun control then the amount of deaths would be less – because we all know how perfect the government is at regulating.
Just look at how effective they have been with gun control

• Jamie says:

Thank you Sean, sarcasm doesn’t come off well on a keyboard.

• Dylan says:

http://en.allexperts.com/q/Urban-Legends-3056/deaths-caused-physicians.htm

Huh. I really don’t see how this is as “equally valid” as all those other statistics.
Trying to 1-hit-ko anti-gun lawmakers will never work, and people who do like to own guns need to start realizing that and using logic to argue.
Saying stuff like this makes you look uneducated and absurd.

• Ryan McKenna says:

Statistics prove nothing, they neither strengthen your point nor diminish it. First of all, they don’t take into account any of the variables involved in health-care related deaths, nor do they take into account numbers from other nations with different systems, providing an accurate contrast. If you’re going to argue in favour of your right to bear arms, then you can’t simply refute a nonsense argument with another nonsense argument and go “See, they’re both nonsense, that means that there is no reason for me to not own a semi-automatic weapon.” Sure there is. Doctors are clearly a necessary part of society, they alleviate a great deal of suffering, and simply by peering into the third world we can have some idea of what life would be like without them. Tell me that a society without guns would be worse than what you have at present. It’s pretty difficult to imagine.

• Grimshaw says:

” Tell me that a society without guns would be worse than what you have at present. It’s pretty difficult to imagine.”

Not really. History is littered with dead bodies of people who did not own guns and could not defend themselves.

• John says:

For some reason, those opposed to the right to self protection think that if guns were banned, no one would have guns.  It doesn’t occur to them that right now, the overwhelming majority (~99%) are committed by criminals who by law have been banned from owning guns.  Disarmament is not unilateral and to believe banning all guns would make society safer is naive.  If the Jews were not disarmed or had guns, fewer than 8,000,000 of them would have been rounded up and exterminated in WW II.  Finally, the accidental death statistic is valid.  Since the analogy is accident deaths, not planned deaths or deaths vs life saving, it is correct that doctors cause more accidental deaths than guns.  One last thing,  true accidental gun deaths are very low (less than 2000), but gun violence (guns used in crimes with the intent to injure) is much higher (roughly 10x that amount) according to the last DOJ stats I saw.

• Mike says:

We have the best “heath care” in the world.  I find it fascinating how many people don’t know the difference between ‘heath care’ and ‘heath insurance’.  I’m fairly sure our ‘heath care’ is governmental run, with the exception of private practices.  I know you were making a joke, but you also sounded like a complete dumbshit.

• Kenneth says:

http://kenisaverb.blogspot.com/2005/01/why-gun-nuts-need-math-lessons.html

So the military should prefer MD’s to M-16′s?

• Steverino says:

I see you’re not adverse to your own bad math, Kenneth.  More than half of all gun deaths are suicides.  Here’s news for you:  people who want to kill themselves will still do so, with or without guns.  Take gun suicides out of the equation, and then we’ll talk.

All stats aside, it is very clear that the overwhelming number of lawful gun owners never hurt anyone.

• Brit says:

Statistics don’t lie.  People lie.  The latter is probably what’s going on here, although incompetent interpretation to confirm preconceived notions is a possibility as well.  I say this as a statistician in a public health department: Even if your premises were true (the deaths # in particular sounds outrageously high; would love to see some actual citations with page numbers, but won’t wait around for it), you’ve failed to take into account the obvious fact that physicians see 100′s of patients per year.  You are comparing apples to oranges.  Stick with the empty rhetoric.  Leave the mathematics to the mathematicians.

I say this also as someone who generally supports gun rights.

• Why do you suppose the post is entitled “Fun With Statistics” and the last line says “it sometimes is helpful to illustrate absurdity with absurdity.”

Gotta clue?

• Gruetzkopf says:

What kind of bs is this … of course MDs cause fewer ACCIDENTAL deaths – the problem with gun owners is the INTENTIONAL ones, which are hardly ever caused by MDs but need to be included in the equation. Such nonsense is rare, even on the www

• It appears that reading completely and for comprehension isn’t something a lot of you do.

Check out the tags Gruetzkoph. And the title. And the final paragraph.

Do the tags “humor” and “farce” mean anything to you? Would a title such as “Fun With Statistics” be consistent with those tags and the point that stats can be used in all sorts of absurd ways? How about a line which says “it sometimes is helpful to illustrate absurdity with absurdity”?

Apparently all of that is useful for illustrating my point as well as unthinking knee-jerk reactions too. Who knew?

• John says:

That’s simply wrong.  Physicians do cause more accidental deaths than accidental gun deaths.  Obviously, physicians rarely intend to cause harm but the reality is medicine is an art, not an exact science and patients do die during routine and of course high risk surgeries.   Those deaths are considered accidental (almost always).  However,  gun violence related deaths are NOT the same as accidental gun related deaths (e.g., didn’t know the gun was loaded, or it accidentally discharges killing someone hundreds of yards away, etc.).   If you look at total annual deaths from firearms that stat is relatively high (at least 20,000 total deaths from firearms per year, which includes gang shootings, drug wars, police shootings, etc.).

• Doubting Thomas says:

Some of you really need a hobby. Only a small few of the comments above have been helpful to me as I’m not a mathematician. Most of you are just arguing unnecessarily. I think the “statistics” above are helpful because a lot of people think numbers are set in stone, that they’re facts and unchangeable which is the furthest thing from the truth. Thanks for posting the “absurd” examples for illustration. It should make others question numbers in the future, because like most things, they’re bendable in either direction.

Is there really an accurate way to compare these two things side by side with math or is it /really/ apples to oranges?
I’d like to see an accurate use of statistics so I’ll know when I’m not being lied to.

• Brit says:

Those of us criticizing your “argument” aren’t missing any points or your lame attempt at humor.  Your entire point is to “humorously” undermine criticisms of your position on guns by vomiting up a completely inapplicable and incorrect analogy: “When the gun grabbers talk about taking your firearms to prevent accidents, remind them of this statistic,” as if the “statistic” is even comparable.  Comments like “it sometimes is helpful to illustrate absurdity with absurdity” reveal the depths of the your lack of understanding: neither statistic in isolation is absurd.  It’s the *act of comparing them* in an attempt to make any type of argument at all – humorous or not – that is absurd.  And that’s exactly what you’re doing.

“the point that stats can be used in all sorts of absurd ways?”

Lots of things can be *used* in absurd ways.   Nobody cares.  For example, I could take a bath in chicken broth.  I could run to my blog right after and tell everyone how my chicken-broth bath refutes fundamental principles of capitalism.  Then, when the laughter got loud enough, I could backtrack and claim I was just trying to be clever by illustrating “absurdity with absurdity.”

But … too bad you said this earlier eh?

“When the gun grabbers talk about taking your firearms to prevent accidents, remind them of this statistic.”

Because … it kinda shows that you were’nt just making a horrible joke: You actually considered it a strong enough argument to recommend to all your fellow inbred hillbillies dumb enough to think it proved something.  oops.

LOL

• Heh … you sure have spent a lot of time pounding your keyboard for someone who doesn’t care, haven’t you?

Face it, you were pwned and you’re too stupid to just shut up and go away. Instead you compound it. Funny stuff.

• Brit says:

“It should make others question numbers in the future, because like most things, they’re bendable in either direction.”

No.  As I said before, statistics don’t lie, people lie.  Numbers aren’t “bendable.”  Words are ambiguous.  Accurately reported numbers aren’t.  People can take numbers and they can *misinterpret* them, which is precisely what’s going on here.  But the numbers themselves are not wrong (although note my use of the phrase “accurately reported” above: since this clown continues to refuse to provide any actual references for any of the initial numbers he reports, he may also be lying about them).
“Is there really an accurate way to compare these two things side by side with math or is it /really/ apples to oranges?
I’d like to see an accurate use of statistics so I’ll know when I’m not being lied to.”
Indeed there is.  See here for a specific counter to the present laugher by someone who has actually taken and passed an intro-level college math course:

http://kenisaverb.blogspot.com/2005/01/why-gun-nuts-need-math-lessons.html

• Brit says:

“I’d like to see an accurate use of statistics so I’ll know when I’m not being lied to.”
fyi: In general, if the argument implies something really, really absurd – for example, the present “argument” implies that it’s more dangerous to go to the doctor than to have a gun – then it’s probably complete bs.

• JWG says:

Lighten up, Francis.

• Sharpshooter says:

Statistics MEASURE, only marginally do they EXPLAIN.

• timactual says:

“Statistics don’t lie. People lie”.

“Guns don’t kill . People kill “.

McQ’s point is quite valid. Statistics can be used to ‘prove’ all kinds of things, even completely opposite things.

What a remarkably humorless crowd here. It’s a holiday, relax.

• Timbo says:

Fool.

The great majority of people “killed” by medical mistakes are old, feeble, suffer from multiple chronic illnesses, and have a life expectancy numbered in weeks. These “deaths” are better described as “medical failure to prolong life when it is technically possible to do so.”

Most people killed by guns are healthy and in the prime of life.

You’re comparing oranges with asteroids.

Timbo

• compoo says:

This is awesome and true i agree and enjoyed this article,but all these people need to chill this was for fun not to be serious.
And yes he obviously supports our rights to posses guns but wether you agree or disagree doesn’t matter and should be left out of the comments section.

• Robb Allen says:

I love it when anti-gunners get their precious panties in a wad. I know it’s humor, you know it’s humor, but it shines a light on the same kind of statistics they love to trot out when it serves their purpose.

I’ve gone through the CDC’s numbers many times before. Half of the gun deaths are suicides and people who decide to check out will pay the tab however they can. The vast majority of other deaths are criminal on criminal events. When you compare the number of firearms owned by civilians (est. at 280,000,000) and compare it to the accidental deaths, you get fractions easier explained using scientific notation. Heck, go ahead and factor in the gang bangers and suicidal people into the numbers and still you won’t be able to get a number that’s not proceeded by a dot and several zeros.

The Doctor joke is that – a joke. It is simply showing how you can easily say things like ‘OMG 30,000 PEOPLE DIE EVERY YEAR’ without proper context or actual data and completely miss the point.

Fun times!

• looker says:

Alas, the great American humorist, “Mark Twain” has you beat.

In a similar demonstration of statistical legerdemain he proves that you were more safe riding trains than staying home in your bed  since more people die in bed than in train wrecks.

http://www.mtwain.com/The_Danger_Of_Lying_In_Bed/0.html

And I believe,written  in response to a similar ‘statistical crisis’ for his own time.

• JR says:

Geez, I just stumbled across it and thought it was all in good fun…until I hit the comments section.
Some of the people need to find a better use for all of their energy/hate.

Even if a person can “SHOUT” down the post and “win” their argument in the comments section, what do they win??

If somebody is that passionate about the issue, they should hit the streets, hit the phones, run for office. Walk the walk.

• Alex says:

Canadian LOL @ US private health care system.

• Yup … keeping clinics in American border towns in business for how many years now?

• spaceface says:

LOOOOOOOOOOL!!! DDD Omg I think I pissed myself reading these comments

• Anthony says:

“The point, of course, is stats can be used to scare you to death, especially when used in limited context or in isolation.”

This quote was taken from the original post…Showing stats can be manipulated to say whatever you want to say, within reason. Politicians are great at stretching stats. So are liars…get the point?

Have fun and enjoy being alive…!

• Anthony says:

Actually, it is EVEN MORE dangerous to go to a Doctor who HAS a gun…but not too dangerous for a gun to go to the doctor, right?…huh?

• Milk says:

You are all tards. If there were absolutely no guns in the world, we wouldnt have any of those gun realted deaths. And obviously only people with absolutely no brain have to resort to violence.
Doctors are geniuses who save millions of lives per year around the world. Everyone makes mistakes. Even lethal mistakes.
Never compaire the 2. Moron.

• Well gee and if there were no air in the world, then, then, uh, well, then we’d all be dead and the unicorns would rule.

And we’re the tards.

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• tonyg says:

Statistics are only suggestive figures, that render nothing, really.  How may sport casters during a game give you a stat, when  only a moment later, somethng happens in the game that debuncts what the sports caster just said?

Say you were standing with one foot in the oven and one foot in an ice bucket.  According to the percentage people, you should be perfectly comfortable.  ~Bobby Bragan, 1963

A statistical analysis, properly conducted, is a delicate dissection of uncertainties, a surgery of suppositions.  ~M.J. Moroney

• AussieMedStudent says:

Hey Mq the statistic you’ve quoted is false, it refers to all accidental deaths not just those caused by doctors, I’ll just continue on to explain why.

I thought I’d do some actual research as opposed to just abusing the hell out of each other, but before i start i’d just like to say I’m from a country which prohibits the use of firearms without a license and i feel one heck of a lot safer because of it. However this is just my opinion and doesn’t have an impact on what i’m checking out. It also doesn’t mean that people can’t get guns in australia, its just much harder for them too. I’m also currently halfway through studying to become a doctor, and the figures depicted here appeared quite unreasonable, or at least out of context, at first glance.

Statistics can be used to generally twist stories to the extent that what you want it to, with the exclusion of enough information, however when this information is actually taken from the source it is much easier to assess its validity. According to the National US Centre For Health Statistics, the number of accidental deaths overall in the US, not those caused by physicians those caused by falling down stairs, poisoning or ironically firearms, was 121,599.   (see  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm)

If you don’t believe me the statistical analysis was performed using the World Health Organizations “International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems”.  Theres a link at the bottom of the page i quoted above to the expanded document which references this document.

This is clearly where the statistic was derived from as it is the 5th leading cause of death and if physician caused deaths were that high then they would be on this list also. I’m sorry to say it but the statistic you’ve quoted is false, it refers to all accidental deaths not just those caused by doctors.

Not to mention the fact that your idea of statistics is to divide mortality rates by the approximate number of physicians in the US. Most inaccurate and misleading number.

Ever.

Its immensely distasteful to tarnish a profession such as medicine with false statistics in order to validate the use of an instrument that has been designed for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to kill. Please do your research a little better next time, because terrible use of false statstics like this if they get out there can cause the same massive amount of damage that any rumour can cause. Except in this case we’re dealing with peoples lives.

Regards
db

• coradale says:

This should be number of accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year to the number of accidental deaths per gun distributor per year.
then the statistics change.

• Ross says:

Doctors accidently kill people because they are already in a life threatening situation. Somebody has something wrong them, and if you cut them open to fix it, there is a chance they will die. You can’t compare that to accidental gun deaths because no one needs to be carrying a gun. No one needs to put themselves in front of the barrel as opposed to a patient who needs to put themselves on the operating table. If no one had a gun, there’d be no accidental gun deaths, but people will always need to be operated on.