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The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine Vol. 13, 2nd Quarter 1998

ABSTRACT

Playing with Statistics Or Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

A Hoffer, MD, PhD

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Before statistics, physicians depended upon anecdotes. An anecdote is defined as "secret or hitherto unpublished narrative or details of history," or "the narrative of an interesting or striking incident, or even". We did not know that this was an evil, only used by simple-minded doctors too ignorant to know that anecdotes, even if interesting and historically correct, are an abomination, a sin against medical science. Critics of anecdotes apparently believe that anecdotes have contributed nothing to medical science and that all the discoveries which form the basis of modern medicine sprang full blown from the heads of a few who had never sinned by using anecdotes. No one should pay any attention to the works of the great anecdotalists such as Sir William Osier whose popularity and stature depended on anecdotes. He probably thought they were histories.


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