Originally Posted by SeeinRed
As Mark Twain once said "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Mark Twain didn't say that. In his autobiography, published posthumously, Twain attributes the phrase to Benjamin Disraeli, possibly in error.
The earliest record of the phrase is that of a 1895 speech by British economist and politician Leonard Henry Courtney (1832-1918) in which Courtney says the following:
"After all, facts are facts, and although we may quote to one another with a chuckle the words of the Wise Statesman, 'Lies- damn lies- and statistics', still there are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of."
- Leonard Henry Courtney
Could the "Wise Statesman" have been Disraeli? Maybe, but even Disraeli's biographer (Lord Blake) thinks it unlikely that Disraeli originated the phrase.
What is clear, however, is that Courtney (later Lord Courtney) is mocking the "Wise Statesman" who, in error, dismisses offhand that which he either cannot comprehend or does not care to understand. He's also saying that some arguments are so strong that even the stupid and the sly must concede the point.
And here's the actual passage from Twain's autobiography- in context- that cites the phrase:
Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."
When viewed in proper context, Mark Twain is not using the "Lies- damned lies- statistics" argument to debase statistical analysis. What he's saying is that he
is quite easily led astry by them, particularly when he tries to use them himself due to a lack of analytical ability. His own words tell us that he felt he wasn't any good at understanding and/or using statistics to draw sensible conclusions.
Twain was, in fact, poking fun at himself and Lord Courtney was poking fun at those who, without a second thought, would dismiss that which they could not and/or cared not to understand or accept.
As for the article? The writer's name might as well be Mark Twain.