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The counterintuitive nature of statistical reasoning

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It’s time to remind the LGM audience that Mike Pence is still a thing that exists, and that announced this morning that it’s running for president. Of the United States, not of a consortium of Indiana tire dealerships.

Of all the vanity campaigns currently setting out in the general direction of the GOP presidential nomination, this is my nominee for the most particularly absurd and pointless. But let’s pretend for a split second that this is worth pondering in some way, and look back on an op-ed Pence wrote back in 2000, when he was running for Congress.

It’s about smoking, and a proposed federal law to manage the then-pending tort settlements between the tobacco companies and the plaintiffs’ bar. Mike Pence, scientician:

Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer.

Think about the mentality that could write something like that, and consider it to be a compelling argument. This illustrates in its own sordid little way how difficult even the simplest and most basic statistical reasoning is for even many not-mentally impaired people to perform.

I don’t really care too much whether Pence himself is/was blind to the fallacies here: the point is he thought this kind of argument would be convincing to a general audience. Actually I do care, because I’m morbidly curious about whether he’s actually this ignorant and lazy, in brain toiling terms.

Anyway, this probably my only comment ever on the Mike Pence 2024 presidential campaign, so as Hyman Roth once said, enjoy!

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