Saturday, July 28, 2007

Is that often generally true?

In the 23 June 2007 New Yorker, Surowiecki writes "People believe that bigger and heavier cars are safer in a crash (forgetting that, often, bigger cars are also more likely to crash).". See it here.

What does it mean for it often to be true that bigger cars are more likely to crash?

If a is more likely than b, does it need to be said that a is often more likely than b? To me it says something different. It says that in some circumstances a is more likely than b. It implies that those circumstances are somehow relevant or important, because otherwise the first (a more likely than b) implies the second (often, a is more likely than b).

Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a mole-hill. In fact, I'm sure I am. But it caught my eye.

Why couldn't he just write "forgetting that bigger cars are also more likely to crash"? Why add the "often"?


Susan said...

I agree

Alejandro said...

I think what "often" in this context might mean is that there are some circumstances in which big cars are less likely (or at least, no more likely) to crash. So, while "often" there is a greater likelihood that a big car will crash, where a smaller one might not, in some situations, perhaps like heavy snow conditions, or situations where high ground clearance is required, it is less likely to crash.

Alejandro said...

Well sure. Often, a crashes more than b, but sometimes a is no more likely, or less likely to crash than b. Say, a crashes more than b in normal road conditions, however in high rain and snow conditions, a crashes no more, or is less likely to crash than b.

Alejandro said...

ooops, sorry I posted twice. the first time I thought my post was erased.