… is from pages 160-161 of Joel Best’s splendid 2001 book, Damned Lies and Statistics:
But, of course, statistics do not exist independently; people have to create them. Reality is complicated, and every statistic is someone’s summary, a simplification of that complexity. Every statistic must be created, and the process of creation always involves choices that affect the resulting number and therefore affect what we understand after the figures summarize and simplify the problem. People who create statistics must choose definitions – they must define what it is they want to count – and they must choose their methods – the ways they will go about their counting. Those choices shape every good statistic, and every bad one. Bad statistics simplify reality in ways that distort our understanding, while good statistics minimize that distortion. No statistic is perfect, but some are less imperfect than others. Good or bad, every statistic reflects its creators’ choices.