CHERRY PICKING DATA & COVID-19
data is the act of selecting evidence or research that supports a
certain position, often a controversial one, while completely ignoring
relevant evidence to the contrary.
It does not
necessarily mean that one side's information is incorrect, but that a
complete picture is not being presented because available evidence to
support the other side is not being taken into account.
The problem with
the act of cherry picking data is that when all available information is
not taken into account, the 'cherry picked' information can be
presented in a misleading way. This may lead those who are not aware of
this process to make decisions based on the cherry-picked data only.
In the case of
COVID-19, there can be serious repercussions. Those who engage in cherry
picking data can do so intentionally or unintentionally.
INTENTIONAL & UNINTENTIONAL CHERRY PICKING DATA
Intentional Cherry Picking Data
cherry picking data, by purposely omitting available evidence, is often
done to make arguments more persuasive, helping to support a particular
is a risk here if people discover the omission of evidence, but it
works well where there is a low likelihood that anyone will discover the
cherry picking data or even care about it.
example of intentional cherry picking data is when a person or
organization mentions only a small number of studies out of all studies
published on a certain topic in order to make it look as if the
scientific consensus matches theirs.
Unintentional Cherry Picking Data
Unintentional cherry picking data is an example of one way people process information in order to make decisions.
who engage in unintentional cherry picking data tend to process
information in a way which confirms the beliefs they already have. When
people feel they are right and encounter new or remember old
information, they tend to focus on information which confirms their
beliefs, and ignore information which contradicts them.
People do this even when they are aware of cherry picking data and understand the issues associated with it.
who unintentionally cherry pick data find it easier to do so than to
process all the available information. It is much easier to pick out a
few bits of information from an overwhelming mass of information and
base your position on them rather than to carefully analyze all the
EXAMPLES OF CHERRY PICKING DATA
picking data happens all the time in politics. For example, in June,
2020, President Trump claimed that the US was doing well in the battle
against COVID-19 because the death rate from the disease was declining.
This statement totally ignored the information that new records were
being set every day for people testing positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
we have here is a typical case of 'cherry-picking' of data. It isn't
that Trump's information is incorrect, it just doesn't present a
complete picture of the situation. And politicians are not the only ones
guilty of this type of data reporting. Environmentalists,
industry representatives, activists of all sorts, and government
officials are all in on the cherry picking harvest!
As we head closer
to the 2020 election, one only has to watch the messages from those
running for office to see how this fallacy of logic, cherry picking
data, works. Examples of this are often found in political arguments and
debates when a few specific quotes someone said are cherry-picked out
and then repeated out of context in order to misrepresent what that
person actually intended to say.
In The Media
data by the media is most evident when disproportional coverage is given
to one side of a story while ignoring facts that could support
certain position may be wrong and it might be reasonable to either point
this out or oppose it directly, often the rest of the evidence may be
less exciting and some less reputable media might prefer to cherry pick
the data even if it is inaccurate. This inaccurate data will also
usually be more persuasive than the accurate one.
regard to COVID-19 and other scientific information, cherry picking
data is often used in the media by denialists, who disagree with the
scientific consensus on various topics, in an attempt to support their
own point of view.
In Scientific Research
There is no lack
of controversies in scientific research. Concerns over the safety of
plastic components, cosmetic ingredients, medications, pesticides,
genetically modified organisms, cell phones, microwave ovens, drinking
water, climate science, and the wearing of masks are very controversial
search for guidance on how to tackle these issues, they look for
dispassionate, unbiased answers. This is what scientific research should
be able to deliver.
dispassionate, unbiased answers from scientists would exist only in a
Utopian world. They would have no preconceived biases, would not be
driven by monetary gain, would have access to plentiful funding from
unbiased sources, and would have their egos safely tucked away.
the real world, the sheer volume of scientific research is
mind-boggling. Contradictory finds happen, even in the absence of any
bias. Thousands of peer-reviewed research papers are published every
week and not all are of equal quality. As a result of all this,
scientific publications can be found to support almost any point of
EXAMPLES OF CURRENT SCIENTIFIC CONTROVERSIES
Please continue reading here for further information on cherry picking data as well as information on how to recognize and avoid this fallacy of logic.