Why are Humans so Obsessed with Statistics?


By Chic Hollis – Philosophical Musings

According to what I gleaned from Mark A. Moffett, author of a new book called, Adventures Among Ants, the numerous neuron-deprived members of industrious ant colonies aren’t disturbed by the lack of statistical analysis. That’s not surprisingly to a amateur observer of insect social life like me. The well-organized activities of Formicidae are quite similar to those of modern civilized Homo sapiens, but the ants don’t appear to be hampered at all by the lack of a modern electronic data processing system.

Ants function well in small and large groups. They care for the newly hatched larvae, scrounge for edible carbohydrates and proteins, build and defend their different abodes, recycle their wastes, and work selflessly and diligently. They aren’t perplexed by unusual deviations from the mean or average, because they have no idea what is considered average for an individual ant. Ant colonies have been organized on this planet for thousands of years before mankind’s predecessors evolved, and these resilient insects are likely to be here when the last human checks-out or flees to some nearby yet-to-be discovered planet that is hospitable to delicate arrogant bipeds.

Somehow without large bodies, huge brains, and opposable thumbs, ants have become so well organized that their behavior suggests that more humans should study how ants have managed to be so prolific, so dispersed, and so capable. Obviously, they weren’t bothered by published statistical data that warned them about the consequences of being too fat, too inactive, and too exposed to the sun. They didn’t care about the fluctuation of interest rates, the unemployment index, and the prices of commodities. Gross National Product, the Federal Deficit, and the ever increasing Cost of Living Index were unnecessary statistical indicators to guide ant queens. Their many species found a way to survive and prosper without being burdened with any kind of statistic.

So, what’s my point? Everyday more alarming statistics are published by the media based on samples that statisticians feel are adequate, but the results are just a rough estimate. Today, the local newspaper published an article about overweight children in this country. Unfortunately, like the worrisome index of unemployed humans, you need a specialist to interpret the data.

A person is unemployed, employed, or working part time. He or she could be working two or more jobs, or full time and part time. Those recently unemployed could be taking a long vacation, returning to college or trade school, or withdrawing temporarily from the labor market. Most averages are just mathematical indications of some unique class or condition of humans.

Technically, an average person is either 100% fully employed or 100% not fully employed. A representative of mankind is either 100% male or 100% female, despite the very minor deviation of hermaphrodites. If there is a recommended body weight for a certain height of human individual, then most folks are either over or under that criteria. The amount of dollars a person earns per hour for a specific job in the U.S. may classify him or her as poor in this country, but in a “developing country,” similar hard currency earnings might indicate that he is relatively well off and well above average!

Humans seem to want more statistical data, more obscure percentages to quote, and more mathematical proof that the opposition political party is headed in the wrong direction. Leaders want stats about how many American soldiers died in Iraq and Afghanistan this month compared with last year. They don’t seem to worry about how many human enemies we made last month in foreign countries by promoting our imperialistic agenda with destructive drones.

Is 0.15% interest per annum paid on savings good or bad? Compared to what? The interest rates credit card companies charge on unpaid balances? Is the 35% federal income tax on the highest marginal income too little? Does the 0% interest rate seem attractive when you are looking for a new car? How many of you still remember the simple formula for calculating interest: I = PRT?

Ants don’t use currency and coins. They have no pockets to carry purses and money clips. They take what’s available on this planet or move on to a more hospitable habitat; they use what they need and save something for the future; and they share with their fellow colonists so that no ant has to demonstrate for “liberty, equality, and fraternity” or beg for a hand-out.

Smart humans have made things so complicated for themselves! There are no disputes in an ant colony about democracy, autocracy, aristocracy, and plutocracy. Ant queens are respected because they lays the eggs. Not golden ones, but little ones that will produce larvae that will work in the colony for room and board when they are adults.

No ant ever heard the words socialism, communism, and anarchy. Each worker or warrior ant learned to do what was required of her to help the colony survive the challenges of Nature. There were no classes where students failed, became truants, and dropped out.

Statistics may guide humans to understand where standards are not being achieved, but they rarely tell a leader how to proceed. The daily counts of dead Vietcong didn’t help our military leaders win the war in Vietnam. All the publicity about the consequences of smoking doesn’t phase those humans who are advocating legal marijuana. The amount of illegal immigrants rumored to be living uncomfortably in the U.S. doesn’t motivate the members of Congress to find a intelligent solution to that invasion of aliens. Ant colonies have their solution to each social problem, but I’m sure humans wouldn’t be interested in reading a detailed account of their sound practices.

Human have to keep score, ants don’t. The increasing amount of information and statistical data is not being understood and digested by the masses of humans. But, that won’t stop those who are emitting it. Authorities have been taught to quote large numbers and frightening percentages to prove their points.

My point is for humans to forget all that numerical obfuscation and get back to taking prompt action that benefits our human colony and eliminates those humans who are responsible for harming it like the investment and mortgage bankers who caused the Great Recession!

Chic Hollis is a longtime drummer and motorcyclist, who served in the US Air Force in North Africa. Married 4 times with 5 children born in 5 different countries on four continents, Chic is a politically independent citizen of the world interested in helping Americans understand the reality that is life overseas where many intelligent, educated, and industrious people aren’t as privileged as we are in the US. He studied Latin, Greek, Russian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German and ran several large companies. Sadly, Chic Has left this planet and we miss him very much, but we are very pleased to display his amazing writing works.