by Neil Harding McAlister (1952 - )
No politician wishes to get caught
With policies opposed to public thought.
A popular position holds more sway,
So mathematics comes to save the day.
Some pollsters are retained to man the phones.
They only reach the folks who are at home;
But now he's got a survey full of notes --
A skewed opinion poll that he can quote.
And thus statistics help our leaders lead
When leading from the rear is all they need.
The world of medicine is fertile soil
For workers who in TV newsrooms toil.
A staffer scans some journals 'til she finds
An article to baffle laymen's minds,
Then takes her viewers down the garden path
Less through ill-will than ignorance of math.
This person, who is no statistics whiz,
Thinks probability translates to "is."
Her foolish talk of breakthroughs spawns false hope,
But all that hype helps sponsors sell more soap.
Now eager to advance his own career
And garner kudos from his trusting peers,
With ardent lust for academic fame
And big, fat research grants that bear his name,
A scientist pads up his resume
With guff that should not see the light of day.
His papers bulge with histograms and plots,
ANOVA, chi squared's, Student's t's -- the lot.
So what if he has analyzed with care?
His data were all fudged out of thin air!
Innumerates don't know statistics lore;
But aiding us, as in the days of yore,
A sceptic's common sense can serve us well.
It doesn't take a Ph.D. to tell
That making little thoughts seem so much bigger,
The figures may not lie -- but liars figure!