Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
Like many others I joined the "Big Garden Birdwatch" on 24 and 25 January. All it needed was one hour on either day counting the birds in the garden. I chose a beautiful afternoon, fiddled around with the odd plant, and counted from 2.30 to 3.30pm. The result was disappointing. All I got were 2 Woodpigeons, 2 Jackdaws, and one Collared Dove. What a dilemma. I knew this to be truthful research but I also knew there were usually more birds. If I sent in my true report would the figures be distorted? Would my true intelligence result in some falsification of the results? Would anyone quoting my figures be called a liar?
And what about the houses with Bird Tables? Do not figures taken from the artificial bird table locations distort the results just as much as mine taken in natural surroundings? In the end I decided to withhold my results. It all made me wonder whether anyone can be absolutely sure they know the truth?