Emmanuel Jegede
2 min readAug 9, 2021

THE DATA TEST: “OKAY. THEN WHAT?”

A number set or statistical data that is applied without context and inference is useless.

Over time, I discovered how data can be elevated to a celebrity status and accorded moral authority. But in reality, they are useless in the context of the human experience and in discourse. And to that effect, I have invented a simple test to determine if a data set is useful or not. After stating the data, ask yourself or the speaker "okay. Then what?" With this simple three-word test, you can determine the value of a statistical set within a discourse.

For example, there is a statistical fact that 9 out of 10 females have experienced sexual harassment. "Okay, then what?" What does this infer? What does it tell us? What does it predict? What solution does it proffer? If you get your answer, you might realise that the data is not saying anything that has not been said in a moral context before now. It merely gives us a mathematical excuse for outrage; nothing new.

Numbers and data are like cliches. They have become a good way of saying nothing while looking like we are saying something profound. It is an illusion of knowledge. A façade.

Another example is divorce statistics. 50% of marriages end in divorce. "Okay, then what?" Beyond being alarmed and sensational, no further purpose. Data in discourse is a mere reporter of facts, like a journalist. It has no moral authority, like a preacher does. We should not overestimate its place. If the speaker or writer or whoever uses the data does not outline his inference clearly, discard it. It is useless.

Numbers have become a deflection tactic. A genius way of keeping silent while it seems like you are speaking volumes and demanding an answer. If the speaker or writer who throws the data in the ring fails to make an inference, dismiss it. It has no value there. This is because the writer can make the right observations and make the wrong inference. Perfect observations should not cloud you from the fact that biases influence our conclusions. So, ditch the numbers until the writer makes the inference. The inference is where the value is, not the numbers.

The natural sciences should be given their only fair place in the moral context of human experience. They have no real authority. At best, they are tools for awareness, and at their worst place, they are alarmists. To give them more place than deserving is to make a case for the eugenicists.

Science has no moral authority just in case you need it to push your virtue. Stay clear.