Data are definitive values, not open to manipulation, right? Wrong. Gollum has the right word for data once statistical analysis is brought to play: tricksy.
There’s the quote that many people have heard, about there being
lies, damn lies and statistics
Attribution for this quote, and its ‘correct’ format, is often hotly disputed. Mark Twain certainly used it but he was not the first. What does seem likely, however, is that the word ‘statistics’ first appeared in English at the tail end of the 18th century.
My favourite statistics quote is one that has been modified in various ways, but appears to have originated in a comment made by Ronald Coase, exact form unknown but along the lines of:
If you torture data enough they will tell you anything.
Note that I’m being pedantic here: ‘data’ is the plural form of ‘datum’, hence ‘they will’ rather than ‘it will’.