Quotes and Jokes

Statistics Quotes

In progress, please notify me with any good quotes that you cannot find.

Statisticians tend to forget that there is a rather important stage between planning a clinical trial and analysing it called ‘doing a trial’. (Peter Armitage)

Applying the theory of personal probability naively, one quickly comes to the conclusion that randomization is without value for statistics. This conclusion does not sound right; and it is not right. Closer examination of the road to this unintentional conclusion does lead to new insights into the role and limitations of randomization but does by no means deprive randomization of its important function in statistics (L. J. Savage)

Though we all feel sure that randomization is an important invention, the theory of subjective probability reminds us that we have not fully understood randomization. The need for randomization presumably lies in the imperfection of actual people and, perhaps, in the fact that more than one person is ordinarily concerned with an investigation. (L. J. Savage)

We all know that art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand. The artist must know the manner whereby to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies. If he only shows in his work that he has searched, and re-searched, for the way to put over his lies, he would never accomplish any thing. (Pablo Picasso)

The mathematics are not there for the joy of the analyst but because they are essential to the solution. (Karl Pearson)

Whenever there is a simple error that most laymen fall for, there is always a slightly more sophisticated version of the same problem that experts fall for. (Amos Tversky)

Bayes = Distributional + prior assumption. Frequentist = Distributional + sampling dist assumption. You don’t need a prior to be ‘true’, you need it to be defendable. “Given this prior uncertainty, what do the data suggest?” Can you defend the existence of a sampling distribution? (Stephen Martin)

People don’t go around introducing you to their ex-wives.” (on why model improvement doesn’t make it into papers) (Andrew Gelman)

Statistics is said to be the science of defaults. One of our challenges is to defaultize things (Andrew Gelman)

This guy comes to me and says ‘I have prior information and data, and I’d like to combine them, and I heard Bayes is a good way to do that.’ Well, that’s as good as it gets! Normally you want to do Bayes but they won’t let you because they’re like [in stupid voice] ‘ugh, it’s subjective, I’m not allowed to, it’s subjective.’ But here this guy is saying ‘I have prior information and data and I want to combine them’ ! I’m like, ‘I can do that! I was trained to do that! (Andrew Gelman)

All models are wrong, but some are useful. (George E. P. Box)

In statistics it’s enough for our results to be cool. In psychology they’re supposed to becorrect. In economics they’re supposed to be correct and consistent with your ideology. (Andrew Gelman)

As you know from teaching introductory statistics, 30 is infinity. (Andrew Gelman)

Suppose there’s someone you want to get to know better, but you have to talk to all herfriends too. They’re like the nuisance parameters (Andrew Gelman)

Exchangeability is a function not just of reality, but of the information you have. (Andrew Gelman)

Inference is normal science. Model-checking is revolutionary science. (Andrew Gelman)

(Someone asks how to compare models. Gelman writes in giant letters: OUT OF SAMPLE PREDICTION ERROR.) “So there’s that.” (Andrew Gelman)

The full name of theoretical statistics is the theory of applied statistics (Andrew Gelman)

An approximate answer to the right problem is worth a good deal more than an exact answer to an approximate problem (John Tukey)

To call in the statistician after the experiment is done may be no more than asking him to perform a post-mortem examination: he may be able to say what the experiment died of. (RA Fisher)

In God we trust. All others must bring data. (Deming)

Statisticians, like artists, have the bad habit of falling in love with their models. (GEP Box)

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future. (Bohr)

If you torture the data enough, nature will always confess. (Ron Coase)

A big computer, a complex algorithm and a long time does not equal science. (Rob Gentleman)

The combination of some data and an aching desire for an answer does not ensure that a reasonable answer can be extracted from a given body of data (John Tukey)

There are no routine statistical questions, only questionable statistical routines. (DR Cox)

Statistics - A subject which most statisticians find difficult but which many physicians are experts on. (Stephen S. Senn)

Strange events permit themselves the luxury of occurring (Charlie Chan)

The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone’s backyard. (John Tukey)

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence (Martin Rees)

It’s easy to lie with statistics; it is easier to lie without them. (Fred Mosteller)

(Translated) Everybody believes in the exponential law of errors [i.e., the Normal distribution]: the experimenters, because they think it can be proved by mathematics; and the mathematicians, because they believe it has been established by observation. (Poincare)

… surely, God loves the .06 nearly as much as the .05. Can there be any doubt that God views the strength of evidence for or against the null as a fairly continuous function of the magnitude of p? (Rosnow and Rosenthal)

On two occasions I have been asked [by members of Parliament], ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question. (Babbage)

The subjectivist (i.e. Bayesian) states his judgements, whereas the objectivist sweeps them under the carpet by calling assumptions knowledge, and he basks in the glorious objectivity of science. (IJ Good)

Figures don’t lie, but liars do figure (Mark Twain)

If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment. (Ernest Rutherford)

To find out what happens when you change something, it is necessary to change it. (Box, Hunter, and Hunter)

We are drowning in information and starving for knowledge. (Rutherford Roger)

The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see. (John Tukey)

The statistician cannot evade the responsibility for understanding the process he applies or recommends. (RA Fisher)

Data do not speak for themselves - they need context, and they need skeptical evaluation (Allen Wilcox)

A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidenceA wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence (Hume)

My thesis is simply this: probability does not exist. (Bruno de Finetti)

Taking a model too seriously is really just another way of not taking it seriously at all. (Andrew Gelman)

What the use of a p-value implies, therefore, is that a hypothesis that may be true may be rejected because it has not predicted observable results that have not occurred. (Jeffreys)

These days the statistician is often asked such questions as “Are you a Bayesian?” “Are you a frequentist?” “Are you a data analyst?” “Are you a designer of experiments?”. I will argue that the appropriate answer to ALL of these questions can be (and preferably should be) “yes”, and that we can see why this is so if we consider the scientific context for what statisticians do. (GEP Box)

Uncertainty is a personal matter; it is not the uncertainty but your uncertainty. (Dennis Lindley)