What’s Chance of Justice?

I’m reading the Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow. In the chapter on False Positives and Positives Fallacies, he talks about the prosecutor’s fallacy in relation to the O.J. Simpson trial. [If you don’t know about the fallacy: see here.] 

The quote from O.J. Simpson’s defense attorney is disturbing: “the courtroom oath – ‘to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ – is applicable only to witnesses. Defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges don’t take this oath … indeed, it is fair to say the American justice system is built on a foundation of not telling the whole truth.”

According the references, this quote was from a book Dershowitz wrote in 1983. Apparently, he still felt that way over ten years later.

Weather and the Law of Averages

The concept of an “overdue” city uses what statisticians call the “law of averages.” But this is a subjective assumption, not a mathematical rule. The author is making the assumption that over time hurricane paths will distribute evenly. To understand the dangers of this way of thinking, I refer you to chapter 3 of Numbers Rule Your World and the section on frequency theory in this textbook.

Dumb Human

I’d be interested to know how others fare with the same approach.