Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.


"Statistics are no substitute for judgment." - Henry Clay

"Instances of people harmed by television will not be found I averages or statistics but in hospitals and prisons." -

"Statistics are the heart of democracy." - Simeon Strunsky

"Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say." - William M. Watt, fully William Montgomery Watt

"Though sixteen civilizations may have perished already to our knowledge, and nine others may be now at the point of death, we - the twenty-sixty - are not compelled to submit the riddle of our fate to the blind arbitrament of statistics. The divine spark of creative power is still alive in us, and, if we have the grace to kindle it into flame, then the stars in their courses cannot defeat our efforts to attain the goal of human endeavor." - Arnold J. Toynbee, fully Arnold Joseph Toynbee

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." - Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield

"It doesn't matter what the disease is. There is always room for hope. I'm not going to die because of statistics. I hope you won't either." - Bernie S. Siegel

"The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you." - Rita Mae Brown

"I can prove anything by statistics except the truth. " - George Canning

"I am referring to the published statistics on the rise of juvenile crime. For one age group the crime rate has in one year risen by 56 percent. For this state of affairs people blame the lack of parental control and leniency of the Law—the established educational system of the country is hardly ever held responsible. But some of us educators feel that we ought to say, nostra culpa, nostra maxima culpa, ours is the guilt, ours the greatest guilt." - Kurt Hahn, fully Kurt Martin "the rod" Hahn

"It is interesting to note how many fundamental terms which the social sciences are trying to adopt from physics have as a matter of historical fact originated in the social field. Take, for instance, the notion of cause. The Greek aitia or the Latin causa was originally a purely legal term. It was taken over into physics, developed there, and in the 18th century brought back as a foreign-born kind for the adoration of the social sciences. The same is true of the concept of law of nature. Originally a strict anthropomorphic conception, it was gradually depersonalized or dehumanized in the natural sciences and then taken over by the social sciences in an effort to eliminate final causes or purposes from the study of human affairs. It is therefore not anomalous to find similar transformations in the history of such fundamental concepts of statistics as average and probability. The concept of average was developed in the Rhodian laws as to the distribution of losses in maritime risks. After astronomers began to use it in correcting their observations, it spread to other physical sciences; and the prestige which it thus acquired has given it vogue in the social field. The term probability, as its etymology indicates, originates in practical and legal considerations of probing and proving. " - Morris Raphael Cohen

"Without individuals we see only numbers, a thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, "casualties may rise to a million." With individual stories, the statistics become people- but even that is a lie, for the people continue to suffer in numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless. Look, see the child's swollen, swollen belly and the flies that crawl at the corners of his eyes, this skeletal limbs: will it make it easier for you to know his name, his age, his dreams, his fears? To see him from the inside? And if it does, are we not doing a disservice to his sister, who lies in the searing dust beside him, a distorted distended caricature of a human child? And there, if we feel for them, are they now more important to us than a thousand other children touched by the same famine, a thousand other young lives who will soon be food for the flies' own myriad squirming children? We draw our lines around these moments of pain, remain upon our islands, and they cannot hurt us. They are covered with a smooth, safe, nacreous layer to let them slip, pearllike, from our souls without real pain. Fiction allows us to slide into these other heads, these other places, and look out through other eyes. And then in the tale we stop before we die, or we die vicariously and unharmed, and in the world beyond the tale we turn the page or close the book, and we resume our lives. A life that is, like any other, unlike any other. " - Neil Gaiman, fully Neil Richard Gaiman

"Without individuals we see only numbers: a thousand dead, a hundred thousand dead, “casualties may rise to a million.” With individual stories, the statistics become people – but even that is a lie, for the people continue to suffer, in the numbers that themselves are numbing and meaningless." - Neil Gaiman, fully Neil Richard Gaiman

"When laws prohibiting corporal punishment were launched in 1977 in Sweden, 70% of the citizens were against it. In the latest survey, 20 years later the figure has dropped to 10%, most of them fundamentalists. These statistics show that the mentality of the Swedish population has changed radically in the course of a mere 20 years. A destructive tradition, upheld and acted upon for thousands of years, has been done away with thanks to this legislation. Where is the rest of the world?" - Alice Miller, née Rostovski

"Population eco-footprints are based on final demand for goods and services. Thus, the first step in calculating the ecological footprint of a study population is to estimate the total annualized consumption of significant categories of commodities and consumer goods consumed by that population. Data are obtained from national production and trade statistics and other sources such as various United Nations statistical publications. For accuracy, consumption data should be trade-corrected. Thus the population’s consumption of pulses (beans, peas and lentils) can be represented as follows: consumptionpulses = production pulses + imports pulses - exports pulses" - William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel

"Art is a way of saying what it means to be alive, and the most salient feature of existence is the unthinkable odds against it. For every way that there is of being here, there are an infinity of ways of not being here. Historical accident snuffs out whole universes with every clock tick. Statistics declare us ridiculous. Thermodynamics prohibits us. Life, by any reasonable measure, is impossible, and my life, this, here, now, infinitely more so. Art is a way of saying, in the face of all that impossibility, just how worth celebrating it is to be able to say anything at all." - Richard Powers

"In Canada we have enough to do keeping up with two spoken languages ... so we just go right ahead and use English for literature, Scotch for sermons, and American for conversation." - Stephen Leacock, fully Stephen Butler Leacock

"In the case of another play the manager said to me, “What are you doing for atmosphere?” “The opening act,” I said, “is in a steam laundry.” “Very good,” he answered as he turned over the pages, “and have you brought in a condemned cell?” I told him that I had not. “That’s rather unfortunate,” he said, “because we are especially anxious to bring in a condemned cell. Three of the big theaters have got them this season, and I think we ought to have it in. Can you do it?”" - Stephen Leacock, fully Stephen Butler Leacock

"From the union of power and money, from the union of power and secrecy, from the union of government and science, from the union of government and art, from the union of science and money, from the union of ambition and ignorance, from the union of genius and war, from the union of outer space and inner vacuity, the Mad Farmer walks quietly away." - Wendell Berry

"Over the tea-cups and in the square the tongue has its desire; Still waters run deep, my dear, there's never smoke without fire." - W. H. Auden, fully Wystan Hugh Auden

"I think [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie. I think that, looking back, I now certainly feel I understand more what the war was about... We needed to go over there basically, and take out a very big stick, right in the heart of that world, and burst that bubble… And what they needed to see was American boys and girls going from house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: which part of this sentence do you understand?" - Thomas L. Friedman, fully Thomas Lauren Friedman

"Readers assume information carried by Mass Media is true solely because it appears there. While Mass Media asks its audience to treat all media matters with a degree of skepticism, no one actually does. People expect Mass Media to do that for them, but it doesn’t. Whether it should is another issue entirely." - Drew Curtis

"Given that life is so short, do I really want to spend one-ninetieth of my remaining days on earth reading Edward Gibbon?" - Elizabeth Gilbert