Statistics: Nature, Importance & Limitation
Nature of Statistics:
Is it a science or an art?
Statistics as Science
Science, by definition, is a systematic body of knowledge which studies the cause and effect relationship and endeavors to find out generalization. In simpler terms, it explains the facts. Further, the primary features of science are- First, It is a systematic study of any subject; Second, It takes a fact and tries to establish the relationship between cause and effect; Third, the laws of science are universal in nature. If we take the various statistical methods in consideration, we can define statistics as a science in which we study-
- Numerous methods of collecting, editing, classifying, tabulating and presenting facts using graphs and diagrams.
- Several ways of condensing data regarding various social, political, and economic problems.
- This is done to establish a relationship between various facts. Also, it helps in analyzing and interpreting problems and forecast them too.
However, unlike the pure sciences like physics, chemistry, etc., statistics is not an exact science. We can call it a science of scientific methods. Statistics help other sciences to derive their own laws.
Further, statistical knowledge is not for its own sake but for the sake of other knowledge. Tippet defines statistics as, “A science, where the statistical method is a part of the general scientific methods and based on the same fundamental ideas and processes.”
Statistics as an Art
If Science is knowledge, Art is action or the actual application of science. While Science teaches us to know, Art teaches us to do. Further, Art has the following characteristics-
- It is a group of actions which solve a problem.
- It does not describe the facts but examines the merits and demerits and suggests ways to achieve the objective.
Based on these characteristics, we can define statistics as an art of applying the science of scientific methods. As an art, statistics offer a better understanding and solution to problems in real life as it offers quantitative information.
While there are several statistical methods, the successful application of the methods is dependent on the statistician’s degree of skill and experience. According to Tippet, “Statistic is both a science and an art. It is a science in that its methods are basically systematic and have general application and art in that their successful application depends, to a considerable degree, on the skill and special experience of the statistician, and on his knowledge of the field of application.
Statistics has an extremely wide scope. There is hardly any sphere of human activity where statistics do not show. Be it social sciences or management, all disciplines use statistics in some form. Broadly speaking, the scope of statistics is confined to two main aspects.
Importance of statistics
The field of statistics is the science of learning from data. Statistical knowledge helps you use the proper methods to collect the data, employ the correct analyses, and effectively present the results. Statistics is a crucial process behind how we make discoveries in science, make decisions based on data, and make predictions. Statistics allows you to understand a subject much more deeply.
Illustration of a bell curve to symbolize the importance of statistics. In this post, I cover two main reasons why studying the field of statistics is crucial in modern society. First, statisticians are guides for learning from data and navigating common problems that can lead you to incorrect conclusions. Second, given the growing importance of decisions and opinions based on data, it’s crucial that you can critically assess the quality of analyses that others present to you.
Statistics is an exciting field about the thrill of discovery, learning, and challenging your assumptions. Statistics facilitates the creation of new knowledge. Bit by bit, we push back the frontier of what is known. Statistics are not just numbers and facts. You know, things like 4 out of 5 dentists prefer specific toothpaste. Instead, it’s an array of knowledge and procedures that allow you to learn from data reliably. Statistics allow you to evaluate claims based on quantitative evidence and help you differentiate between reasonable and dubious conclusions. That aspect is particularly with these days because data are so plentiful along with interpretations presented by people with unknown motivations.
Statisticians offer critical guidance in producing trustworthy analyses and predictions. Along the way, statisticians can help investigators avoid a wide variety of analytical traps.
When analysts use statistical procedures correctly, they tend to produce accurate results. In fact, statistical analyses account for uncertainty and error in the results. Statisticians ensure that all aspects of a study follow the appropriate methods to produce trustworthy results. These methods include:
Using statistical analyses to produce findings for a study is the culmination of a long process. This process includes constructing the study design, selecting and measuring the variables, devising the sampling technique and sample size, cleaning the data, and determining the analysis methodology among numerous other issues. The overall quality of the results depends on the entire chain of events. A single weak link might produce unreliable results. The following list provides a small taste of potential problems and analytical errors that can affect a study.
Limitations of Statistics
The scope of the science of statistic is restricted by certain limitations :
- The use of statistics is limited to numerical studies– Statistical methods cannot be applied to study the nature of all type of phenomena. Statistics deal with only such phenomena as are capable of being quantitatively measured and numerically expressed. For example, the health, poverty and intelligence of a group of individuals, cannot be quantitatively measured, and thus are not suitable subjects for statistical study.
- Statistical methods deal with population or aggregate of individuals rather than with individuals. When we say that the average height of an Indian is 1m 80cm, it shows the height not of an individual but as found by the study of all individuals.
- Statistical relies on estimates and approximations– Statistical laws are not exact laws like mathematical or chemical laws. They are derived by taking a majority of cases and are not true for every individual. Thus the statistical inferences are uncertain.
- Statistical results might lead to fallacious conclusions by deliberate manipulation of figures and unscientific handling. This is so because statistical results are represented by figures, which are liable to be manipulated. Also the data placed in the hands of an expert may lead to fallacious results. The figures may be stated without their context or may be applied to a fact other than the one to which they really relate. An interesting example is a survey made some years ago which reported that 33% of all the girl students at John Hopkins University had married University teachers whereas the University had only three girls student at that time and one of them married to a teacher.
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