Law of Small Numbers: Goulburn woman fail

Among the letters in yesterday’s The Weekend Australian:

I was in Germany between November 22 and December 7 – Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Nuremberg, Munich and Freiburg. There were no refugees evident apart from one young man at Berlin Hauptbahnhof politely seeking directions to the train to Brandenburg. I ranged freely around these cities and saw only German people and tourists.

Christine Marr, Goulburn, NSW

I suspect the writer is trying to make a point about the influx of muslim arab refugees into Germany over the last three months. I say ‘suspect’, because it’s impossible to actually know what she is on about. Were I to have written a letter to the editor about what I saw on my day trip to Manly a few weeks ago I doubt it would be published.

Anyway, the point seems to be:

‘I only saw one refugee. Therefore …’

And here you have to insert your own conclusion, because the author provides none of her own. Let’s try a few:

  • The refugees were all in Cologne waiting for New Year’s Eve.
  • The refugees stayed home that day because it was cold.
  • There are no refugees in Germany. The current controversy is just one big Jedi Mind Trick played on simple folk for some nefarious purpose.
  • The refugees knew she was coming and hid behind lamp-posts while she was walking around.
  • The refugees were all walking behind her, out of her line of sight.

You could go on generating hypotheses like this for quite a while. Some people in Russia make a career out of it. My best guess is that the author wants to say that Germany doesn’t have a refugee problem because she didn’t see any refugees while she was there.

Law of Small Numbers. She would have come to completely the opposite conclusion had she sought to celebrate New Year’s Eve in front of Cologne Cathedral.


About Stebbing Heuer

A person interested in exploring human perception, reasoning, judgement and deciding, and in promoting clear, effective thinking and the making of good decisions.
This entry was posted in Poor reasoning, Problems with perception intuition and judgement. Bookmark the permalink.

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