Welcome to the Critical Thinking blog! Part of what the Critical Thinking course is about is learning how to understand the numbers and statistics that surround us in our everyday lives.The modern world is awash with numerical claims:
Politicians use numbers to tell us that they’re doing the right thing (or that their opponents are doing the wrong thing).
Journalists use numbers to tell us what’s happening in the world.
Companies use numbers to tell us why their product is the best.
Charities use numbers to tell us why their causes need our support.
Doctors use numbers to tell us about what’s good and bad for us.
Sometimes these numbers are accurate and useful. Too often they are not. We all need to be able to tell the difference.
As part of this course, we want students on the Critical Thinking course to submit at least one critique of a statistical claim they have come across in the news or in their everyday lives. This can be from a news article, an advert, a Facebook post, a politician’s speech or statement – anywhere really. Try to figure out (using the skills you’re learning from the course) whether the statistical claim being made holds up, or if it is in fact numerical nonsense. Write up your findings as a blog post, email them to your seminar leaders, and they’ll be posted here here.
For some idea of how this type of thing is done, I recommend looking at some of the work over at FullFact (UK), Politifact (US), and Ben Goldacre’s badscience.net (this has not been updated in a while, but there’s a big archive of stuff). Also have a listen to Radio 4’s More or Less podcast.
Good luck, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you find!