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November 9, 1963

Summarization of Data

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

JAMA. 1963;186(6):570-574. doi:10.1001/jama.1963.63710060021011

STUART CHASE lists, as one of his 13 logical fallacies, the category called "Figures Prove."1 He suggests that there is a tendency on the part of people to assume that if something can be expressed by a number it has some special validity. A corollary to this axiom might be "the more numbers, the better." There is, apparently, the too prevalent view that a mass of numbers is all we need in order to find out anything we wish to know. Moreover, today there seems to be a growing feeling that all one must do is feed data to a computer, and, in an even more magical fashion, truth will emerge. Not too long ago it was the statistician who was to perform this magic; we now think we can automate the process.

One purpose of this series is to demonstrate that numbers are only representative of fact and

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