When Does Statistics Become Meaningless?

Yihui Xie 2007-12-28

There are some scholars making research on “indices” this year, and a few of them are my teachers. The day before yesterday I saw there was a press conference about a development index of China, which triggered one of my old ideas on the function of statistics (analysis). I believe two conditions will make the work of statistics meaningless:

  1. If we do nothing but just rank our samples; i.e. which is the first, and which is the last…
  2. If our conclusions are common sense; i.e. anybody can know our conclusions without statistical analysis.

Unfortunately, what I read from the news seemed to satisfy these two conditions.