Stephan Jay Gould’s “The Median Isn’t the Message”

6 June 2017

Stephan Jay Gould’s “The Median Isn’t the Message” Stephen Jay Gould was a paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and a historian of science. He spent many years teaching at Harvard as well as at New York University in his later life. Gould, along with Niles Eldredge in 1972, published the theory of punctuated equilibrium. Their theory stated that creatures had long periods of evolutionary stability occasionally marked with rapid periods of advancement, unlike the previously accepted idea of phyletic gradualism, which stated that evolution appened constantly and slowly.

He also campaigned against creationism, hoping that science and religion would become two separate entities at some point. Gould died on May 20, 2002. Statistics were used in the article to express the median age of death for patients with abdominal mesothelioma. The distribution represented one that Is skewed far right with possible gaps and outliers, because of the higher boundary to the right and the very limited boundary to the left.

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The tall to the right showed that various eople had lived longer based on their lifestyles, age, heredity, medical conditions, etc. The statistics in the article showed that a median number does not necessarily mean that number is the hard number at which all events occurred. On the contrary, the discussion of skew made the point that data outside of the median is more Important than that of within. In the passage shown, Gould was expressing the difference between properly Interpreting statistics and panlcklng on the basis of your gut feeling.

He showed that rticles and studies giving a limited view of the data by expressing few statistical pieces of evidence were often biased or downgrading the potential knowledge the reader could have. He explains the necessity of using one’s brain when shown a statistic and determining possible meanings for the number. One of the biggest things to notice is variation from the central points of mean and median. Those two statistics are often shown because of what they represent, a middle point In which you can base estimates off of.

However, selling a Bugatti for $25,000 because that is he average value for a new car In America is rather naive. The variation from that average car value tells us more than Just the average value alone. It can express the most expensive car on the market, groups of cars based on value, what are common purchasing points, and more. This logic can be applied to all data, as when Gould takes note of the large right skew in the time of death from the cancer, placing himself In that category based on the qualltles of the other varied data.

The positive skew of the data regarding life expectancy after the discovery of bdominal mesothelioma represents a good chance for living far longer than the 8 month average. If the skew had been left, it would have meant that the lower half of the data had more unique cases. But because Gould himself was a unique case with all his advantageous qualities, the positive skew placed him among the higher life expectancies. The skew represented the possibility of living for years longer than the 1 OF2 mealan, ratner tnan Just navlng tne potential to llve a Tew montns more IT had been symmetrical around the median.

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