If I hear one more person invoke the word “science” to defend their use of selective datasets or analytics to validate a preconceived viewpoint or ill-conceived decision I’m going to lose it. Seriously.
Even when a broad dataset appears to point to one course of action there are always variables and circumstances specific to the real world situation at hand that could easily flip the decision the other way.
I’m referring to idiot politicians like Cali governor Gavin Newsom using dubious coronavirus metrics to lock down the state, all in the name of “science.” Let me use a sports story or two to illustrate the point.
Take yesterday’s NFL championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Late in the game the Packers were down by eight, but they were set up with first and goal on the Bucs’ 8 yard line and 2:28 remaining.
I naturally assumed this was fourth down territory — put the ball in the end zone or go home. But on fourth and goal, coach Matt LaFleur decided to kick a field goal and hand the ball back to the Bucs, still down by five with just two minutes left to play.
Maybe that’s what the analytics said to do but I doubt the analytics took into account that Green Bay had the best red zone offense in football and Tampa Bay had Tom Brady, the winningest playoff quarterback in history.
The Packers never did get the ball back.
In major league baseball starting pitchers are rarely allowed to finish games anymore. Why? The data says they tire after 100 pitches and opposing hitters get a good read on their stuff by their third or fourth plate appearance.
And yet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a starting pitcher have a great day and completely shut down opposing hitters for like seven or eight innings. Then, up by a run or two, the manager yanks the ace and brings in a closer who blows the lead.
Here’s the thing. In the real world, you never get to change one variable and redo the experiment to find out how things would have turned out. Even if there is a next time, circumstances are never exactly the same. The real world is funny like that.
Determining the right action to take is never easy. That’s why we have leaders. To think. To make smart decisions. Not just to point to a graph and say, “See. We’ve got to shut down the state.”
When it comes to the lockdowns, there is simply no logical or scientific reason why ANY business or school cannot safely operate under the right protocols. I have yet to see one truly scientific analysis that demonstrates the effectiveness of lockdowns. Not one.
And yet, here we are.
Don’t get me wrong. You always want to have data and analytics if they’re available. But key decisions should also be based on logic, reason, experience, the big picture and good old human intuition. That’s how you make smart decisions that result in optimum outcomes.
Image credit Universal Pictures (Weird Science), EPA – EFE (Newsom)