Nassim Taleb recently wrote some thoughts about Richard Dawkins' poor use of stats. It came in three separate facebook posts, so I figured I'd compile them to make sharing easier. Source is here.
Richard Dawkins, in his statement about the number of Nobels granted to Moslems, showed a total ignorance of probability. A primitive violation. You never get an idea about the mean from measuring the tail (number of Nobels per capita). The "tail", the extreme, depends mostly on the variance and is very sensitive in the mean. Small differences in education, less than 1% can produce 100x changes in the number of persons in the tails. To compare 2 populations, you compare THE MEANS, not the extrema, STATISTICS 101!
It is an intellectual violation of the worst order. I wonder why the press never picked up on this. And why in the world does anyone call Richard Dawkins a scientist?
Please note that I am not a Moslem, but Greek Orthodox Levantine.
(I set aside the notion that had some Medieval moslem compared his population to that of Northern, the difference would have much, much more striking, and to say the least not predictive. Also ignore his use of a Western metric on a non Western population).
(continued) Mr Dawkins you cannot compare Nobels per capita as a metric for intelligence because of nonlinearities. If a naive "scientist" (fooled by randomness) like you compared Ashkenazis Jews, representing ~5 million, with 50% of scientific Nobel Prizes, to the rest of the world's population of 7 bil, he would have assumed that Ashkenazis have IQs of 7000 times the average!
Mr Dawkins I can send you my book Fooled by Randomness that might help you try to think a bit harder about these problems. Also the error (misunderstanding convexity) is discussed 2x in Antifragile.
(continued) my comment used IQ as an example, but we can use educational level, any metric: the response for the population of the super-super-elite is vastly nonlinear and depends mostly on variance.