Don’t be misled by isolated occurrences or biased information

Sometimes, a single incident is wrongly used to support a large claim. Or a small number is used to substantiate a major conclusion. The media and politicians are particularly guilty of this. 

For instance:

    • There are 600,000 pastors and priests in America. Don’t discount all clergy because a few are dishonorable. 
    • There are 800,000 law enforcement officers in America. A few may be “bad cops” but that should not influence your opinion of all officers or inordinately affect public policy.
    • During the 2021 racial protests, some radicalized criminals (don’t call them protestors) vandalized property and injured others. Don’t confuse those individuals with those who engaged in peaceful protests and marches.
    • The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine was sidelined because it caused blood clots in a few people. But as of May 2021, 25 million people have received that vaccine and only 18 of those have died of blood clots. The vaccine has been proven to be 79% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID and was 100% effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalization. (The rate for getting blood clots from taking birth control pills is much higher: about 0.3% to 1%) 

Let’s do some math.

      • .01% of a million is 100
      • .001% of a million is 10
      • .0001% of a million is 1

So if .001% of police officers in America are corrupt, there are 79 corrupt officers and 799,921 honorable ones. Given those odds, I’m going to respect, trust, and support police officers (but let’s continue to prosecute those who abuse their power and position).  

As I’ve said before, be cautious and dubious about media sources that use a single incident to suggest a systemic problem or trend. Don’t trust conclusions based on small sample sizes.

18 Replies to “Don’t be misled by isolated occurrences or biased information”

  1. No argument from me on this,, but would it be wrong to request your sources on this information?
    As you have pointed out there is a vast amount of misleading information being thrown out to the public and good verifiable sources will shut them down.
    Also have you looked at the figures for TB in the world today? A list could go on an on.

    1. Hi Bill,
      My source for data is…Google. 🙂 I found different figures for each area and adopted the most conservative. What is TB?

  2. Don
    I think your math is off.
    10% of one million is 100,000
    1% of one million is 10,000
    0.1% of one million is 1,000
    0.01% of one million is 100
    0.001% of one million is 10
    0.0001% of one million is 1

    Bless you, brother.
    —-jjh

    1. James, you’re 100% correct. My math is off.And, thanks to you and several other readers for catching my mistake.

      I asked a friend of mine who is a mathematician, how I messed that up so badly. She replied: It is not correct. You are close though! You just made a common mistake that a lot of people make with percentages.

      If you didn’t have the percentage signs then your math would be correct:
      · .01 of a million is 10,000
      Equation: 0.01*1,000,000 = 10,000
      · .001 of a million is 1,000
      Equation: 0.001*1,000,000 = 1,000
      · .0001 of a million is 100
      Equation: 0.001*1,000,000 = 100
      However, with percentages you have to remember that to get a percentage the answer had to be multiplied by 100 (or move the decimal point 2 spots to the right). Therefore, to “undo” the percentage you need to divide it by 100 (or move the decimal point 2 places to the left). Therefore, the correct answers are:
      · .01% of a million is 100
      .01% = .0001
      Equation: 0.0001*1,000,000 = 100
      · .001% of a million is 10
      .001% = .00001
      Equation: 0.00001*1,000,000 = 10
      · .0001% of a million is 1
      .0001% = .000001
      Equation: 0.000001*1,000,000 = 1

  3. We definitely need better education in this area. People of all political persuasions make the mistake of making sweeping generalizations based either on the opinions of others, or just a few incidents. Perhaps a required class in propaganda, statistics, and philosophy in high school or college? The problem is, most students would probably sleep through it, or at least not pay attention. I’m thinking about video clips I’ve seen in which college students were asked basic civics questions, such as identifying the three branches of federal government, and most students didn’t know the correct answer. On the other hand, if I checked out all claims I hear in the news, I would have to quit my job! I think another issue is that a lot of what are called new articles are really opinion pieces or attempts to sway a reader, than just report the facts. I see that frequently in our local newspaper, that was previously purchased by USA Today.

    1. Gary, you make some excellent points. We are subject to so much information from so many sources, and much of the information is simply opinion. Daniel Moyniham once said: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts.”

  4. Another great one, Don! These statements clearly explain how so much of the unsuspecting public are being easily mislead and disinformed by politicians, media, special-interests, big tech, you-name-it. Its become the accepted thing, too many people are not questioning what’s being presented. Part of the problem is just the quantity, quality and variety of data and information that’s constantly flooding us; its hard for most to absorb and digest, so they simply accept or ignore the noise.

    One clarification I would make in your examples is the expression of the percentages. For instance, if 800,000 = 100% of a population or a base of something, then 1.0% of that would = 8,000. And 0.1% (one-tenth of 1%) would = 800. And 0.01% (one-hundredth of 1%) would = 80. And .001% (one-thousandth of 1%) would = 8. Your friendly accountant!

    1. Bill, thanks for responding. You’re right about the amount of data that comes our way every minute of the day. It’s hard to vet and process all that information. And, thanks to you and several other readers for catching my mistake. I asked a friend of mine who is a mathematician, how I messed that up so badly. She replied:It is not correct. You are close though! You just made a common mistake that a lot of people make with percentages.

      If you didn’t have the percentage signs then your math would be correct:
      · .01 of a million is 10,000
      Equation: 0.01*1,000,000 = 10,000
      · .001 of a million is 1,000
      Equation: 0.001*1,000,000 = 1,000
      · .0001 of a million is 100
      Equation: 0.001*1,000,000 = 100
      However, with percentages you have to remember that to get a percentage the answer had to be multiplied by 100 (or move the decimal point 2 spots to the right). Therefore, to “undo” the percentage you need to divide it by 100 (or move the decimal point 2 places to the left). Therefore, the correct answers are:
      · .01% of a million is 100
      .01% = .0001
      Equation: 0.0001*1,000,000 = 100
      · .001% of a million is 10
      .001% = .00001
      Equation: 0.00001*1,000,000 = 10
      · .0001% of a million is 1
      .0001% = .000001
      Equation: 0.000001*1,000,000 = 1

  5. AMEN!

    I would pray for news like this spread like wildfire.

    I wonder how much of the US population actually believes what the media spits out.

    1. Barry, we live in a world in which it’s hard to tell news from commentary and opinion. Hopefully, the truth will prevail. Thanks for our friendship.

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