Myth 14: Statistics is the art of torturing numbers until they confess to anything.

Truth 14
This saying contains several possible viewpoints, the first of which is the use of the word "art". It is true that statistical practice contains some artistic elements, in the sense that several competing statistical solutions can be proposed for a single given situation. However, each solution would be based on science. On the other hand, the expression suggests that the goal of statistics is to manipulate numbers until one reaches a predetermined conclusion when in truth it is the other way around: the goal of statistics is to discover unknown features based on given data. Using a medical analogy, this is tantamount to sarcastically stating that medicine is the art of manipulating symptoms until they point towards a predetermined diagnosis. Medical (or statistical) malpractice could indeed be characterized by such a goal. However, it is invalid to condemn the discipline as a whole because some charlatans may exist who try to relentlessly arrive at a diagnosis irrespective of the symptoms. This would represent an ethical issue for an individual rather than a fraudulent character of a discipline of study.

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