Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where the Truth Lies

That title is clearly intended to have a double meaning being the position of the truth but also when truth is used to deceive. Everyday we are fed a regular diet of statistics and “facts”, often for the purpose of inducing action or influencing our opinions. But do you always check those statistics for accuracy? Fortunately I do and here are my findings on three statistics that immediately jumped out at me as incorrect when I read them. The first is a press release that I received from the Indiana General Assembly.

STATEHOUSE – House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and House legislators and staff wore sneakers at the Statehouse today in support of the “Suits and Sneakers” challenge to promote awareness of the fight against cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, last year 35,000 Hoosiers heard the words “you have cancer,” [this is assumed to be a reference to a diagnosis rather than a reminder or an answer to the question, 'Why am I about to die'] and of those, 13,000 lost their lives to the disease. Suits and Sneakers is a program sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Basketball Coaches to help raise cancer awareness and support those affected by it.
“We all have either been personally affected, or know of someone who has battled cancer,” said Speaker Bosma. “The toll that this deadly disease has on Hoosiers is staggering. Until a cure is found, we can help raise awareness and show compassion to the families that are involved.”

WOW, a one year mortality rate of 37%? I know Hoosiers are significantly less healthy than the national average in some measures but are we really dying off quicker in the first year of a cancer diagnosis than the national average for five years?
HERE is some data that I obtained from the National Institutes of Health.
Among adults, the 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers combined is now approximately 68%
The 5-year relative survival rate for all childhood cancers combined is now approximately 81%.

There are likely two truths there: 35,000 people in the state were diagnosed as having a cancer; and, 13,000 people in the state died from cancer related illness.

Next I came across this an unbelievable statistic as I was reading a psychology book.

In the textbook “Introductory Psychology: Applications of Theories and Concepts, Fifth Edition - John F Kremer, Ph.D., Jennifer N Brown & Laura D Buccini the authors speaking about physiological changes made a claim about reaction time. The authors write, “Athletic ability clearly decreases with age, although there is remarkable variability in the 'peak' age of many sports. The peak for many competitive gymnasts is in the late teens and early twenties. On the other extremes, long-distance runners mature in their twenties and thirties. One of the prime reasons for this variation in the athletic peak of an athlete is reaction time. Reaction time decreases until about [age] 20 and then starts increasing in the mid-20s.” By calculating their annual rate change they claim that by age 40 that increase is a whopping 1050%

What this is saying is the person age 25 who stepped into the road, got honked at and then stopped his forward movement one-third of a second later did so more than ten times quicker than he would again at age 40 when he will take three and a half seconds. With reaction time that slow I will be surprised if he makes it to age 40.

The findings in one article about reaction time show something much different which appears to be much more consistent with reality.[fn1] Between the age groups of 20's through 50's reaction time consistently increased with age across a range of physical movements. However, none of the increases in reaction time in this study exceeded 50% or about 1/20 of that reported in the psychology book.

I tried various calculations in an attempt to get that 1050% figure lower but nothing came close to getting it any where near 50%.

Finally, I heard this one night in February on a business program.

Nightly Business Report on PBS reported that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified that the Federal Reserve had no plans to refrain from it's ongoing purchase of “nearly $3B per day” of US Government bonds – approximately $60B per month for the 20 days on average that US Government bonds are traded. However, the testimony I heard, and the ongoing practice of the Federal Reserve, was that usual purchases of $85B each month would continue.

This one is likely explained by the ignorance of the person scripting the news report. Obviously it is someone who knows nothing about how the financial markets operate. When given the raw figure of $85B per month this person likely divided that by 30 [the approximate number of calendar or astrological days in a month] and arrived at the figure of $3B/day. Anyone who is familiar with banking in a general manner or particularly the government bond market know that bonds are not sold on every astrological day of the year. Bonds are traded about 20 days per month: Monday through Friday except federal holidays.

Before you believe the next statistic you read or hear just keep in mind that 84% of reported statics are inaccurate.

1] Kent Linda “What Are the Components of Fitness Reaction Time?” found at

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Make a suggestion for me to write about.

Parents who would like to achieve the best outcome for their children in a contested child custody case should visit my website and contact my scheduler to make an appointment to meet with me. Attorneys may request a free consultation to learn how I can maximize their advocacy for their clients.

Connect with me for the latest Indiana child custody related policy considerations, findings, court rulings and discussions.

View Stuart Showalter's profile on LinkedIn

Subscribe to my child custody updates

* indicates required
©2008, 2013 Stuart Showalter, LLC. Permission is granted to all non-commercial entities to reproduce this article in it's entirety with credit given.

No comments: