Stephen Jay Gould 's Life

761 WordsOct 20, 20164 Pages
“You have eight months to live” that statement may elicit fear into a normal patient sitting in their doctors’ office. Or perhaps it becomes a death sentence for that particular person. Yet, for Stephen Jay Gould it became a motivator. Stephen Jay Gould, a Paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science, was diagnosed with abdominal mesothelioma in 1982. When he was told his life expectancy was eight months he did what most would not; he looked at the statistics. Gould was not an average patient suffering from cancer. He had training in statistics and a remarkable attitude. He was also one of the most influential authors of his generation so, naturally, he wrote an article about his battle. Gould’s article brought up an endearing point: the median is not the message. Well then, what is the point? Let’s see if we can get a clearer answer on the message. Few people have an adequate understanding of statistics. When a patient is diagnosed with a disease one of the first things a doctor explains is the life expectancy. The median is the statistic that 's most often published about cancer survival, but it 's not the whole story (“Don 't let the median scare you to death”). The median is the middle number in a study. It tells you nothing about the other numbers. The others could be the same or fluctuate vastly. You can 't tell your personal odds by looking at the median. So, you may wonder why scientists publish the median in the first place. It’s the first
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