When confronted with data, it is immeasurably easier to accept the data as true rather than to verify its authenticity. With the above being true, it becomes laughably simple to coerce or prod people into action simply by stating a number that sounds logical or believable enough to make the process of thoughtful fact checking seem like a wasteful pursuit. The more logical the guess, the better chance one has of duping ones readers, listeners, students, etc.
For example, quantifying the premature fish deaths due to theft deterrent devices at a big box retailer by stating 1 in every 5 fish will die because people fail to lift the fish over said devices, is actually quite believable. To test this, walk into your favorite big box retailer and find an unsuspecting dupe… er…. customer, unwittingly walking the path toward premature fish death. Now, inform them that if they do not lift the fish over the theft deterrent devices their fish will die. Every one of them, without fail, will lift them over. After all, no one wants to be a pet killer, and seldom will anyone who is motivated in this way ever make sure what they were told was accurate. If they did fact-check the above claim, they might realize they have a better chance of accidentally inhaling their fish, bag and all, then killing them by scanning them for theft deterrent tags.
One cannot simply accept at face value the numbers with which we are presented on a daily basis, but we need statistics to evaluate the world in which we live. The two seem to be unable to coexist; the one hand promoting an agenda with numbers that we cannot and should not trust without verifying, and the other hand wanting us to act without thinking. The idea is to not dismiss all statistics as bad, but learn how to judge the good from the bad. This includes making the assumption that social statistics are used by people to present a cause and give it statistical backing to make it more prominent in peoples minds.
Just remember that the mathematically inclined are destined for greatness, while a
numerically challenged society has a forty percent chance of dying in a vacuum cleaner accident and
I have the stats to prove it.