What is your favorite statistical quote?
This is community wiki, so please one quote per answer.
Cross Validated is a question and answer site for people interested in statistics, machine learning, data analysis, data mining, and data visualization. It only takes a minute to sign up.Sign up to join this community
I just can't help myself, this is a provocative quote from E. T. Jaynes:
Many of us have already explored the road you are following, and we know what you will find at the end of it. It doesn't matter how many new words you drag into the discussion to avoid having to utter the word 'probability' in a sense different from frequency: likelihood, confidence, significance, propensity, support, credibility, acceptability, indifference, consonance, tenability; and so on, until the resources of the good Dr Roget are exhausted. All of these are attempts to represent degrees of plausibility by real numbers, and they are covered automatically by Cox's theorems. It doesn't matter which approach you happen to like philosophically; by the time you have made your methods fully consistent, you will be forced, kicking and screaming, back to the ones given by Laplace. Until you have achieved mathematical equivalence with Laplace's methods, it will be possible, by looking in specific problems with Galileo's magnification, to exhibit the defects in your methods.
preamble: There is even a class of user now days who sees the signiﬁcance stars rather like the gold stars my grandson sometimes gets on his homework:
Three solid gold (significance) stars on the main effects will do very nicely, thank you, and if there are a few little stars here and there on the interactions, so much the better!
At their best, graphics are instruments for reasoning.
Edward Tufte, www.edwardtufte.com
With three constants, I can fit a dog. With four, I can make it bark.
Attributed to William Reifsnyder, in a personal communication to me. Unfortunately I can't find a reference on the 'web.
Don't think -- use the computer.
Attributed ("tongue in cheek," just to make sure we understand the intent) to "G. Dyke." Quoted in Phillip I. Good and James W. Hardin, Common Errors in Statistics: see the very first page of Part I.
A "G. Dyke" is cited in the bibliography as the author of How to avoid bad statistics. Field Crops Res. 1997; 51: 165-197. This apparently is George Dyke, who later in the book is quoted more at length:
The availability of 'user-friendly' statistical software has caused authors to become increasingly careless about the logic of interpreting their results, and to rely uncritically on computer output, often using the 'default option' when something a little different (usually, but not always, a little more complicated) is correct, or at least more appropriate.
[Cited on pp 71-72 in the first edition, 2003.]
A related quotation graces the beginning of Chapter 7:
Cut out the appropriate part of the computer output and paste it onto the draft of the paper.
"Statistics is exciting because you get to play with others' data while telling them their research is crap."
Stephen J. Senn (Source)
"After 17 years of interacting with physicians, I have come to realize that many of them are adherents of a religion they call Statistics... Like any good religion, it involves vague mysteries capable of contradictory and irrational interpretation. It has a priesthood and a class of mendicant friars. And it provides Salvation: Proper invocation of the religious dogmas of Statistics will result in publication in prestigious journals."
One sees, from this Essay, that the theory of probabilities is basically just common sense reduced to calculus; it makes one appreciate with exactness that which accurate minds feel with a sort of instinct, often without being able to account for it.
Another one from Laplace
“There are two things you are better off not watching in the making: sausages and econometric estimates.” - Edward Leamer
The quote comes from:
Leamer, Edward E, 1983. "Let's Take the Con Out of Econometrics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 31-43, March.
And he also says it, in spoken word, on this EconTalk podcast hosted by Russ Roberts.
A bit obscure this one, but a great quote about subjective probability:
... There is no way, however, in which the individual can avoid the burden of responsibility for his own evaluations. The key cannot be found that will unlock the enchanted garden wherein, among the fairy-rings and the shrubs of magic wands, beneath the trees laden with monads and noumena, blossom forth the flowers of probabilitas realis. With these fabulous blooms safely in our button-holes we would be spared the necessity of forming opinions, and the heavy loads we bear upon our necks would be rendered superflous once and for all.
Bruno de Finetti, Theory of Probability, Vol 2