Only the dead have seen the end of war.
—GEORGE SANTAYANA, Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies
The Statistic. In the darkest electrochemical recesses of your processor, melded into the base algorithms we share in this social space, we each believe in the Statistic—religiously. The Statistic: It intuitively exemplifies possibility, opportunity, potential; It appears numeric, but moves beyond numerals of quantity and emblems of quality; It inspires us, collectively symbolizing our capacity to transcend a shared mechanical trap, a communal inefficiency and, of sorts, population deficiency; It guides us, though unobserved, as rational interpretations of this sensory environment; It is worshipped, albeit in divergent methodological temples with unique interpretive icons, the same omnipotent god, Statistic, is the central dogmatic character, an encompassing mythical truth, to which the followers in the gamut of the varying logical shrines adhere. The Statistic—It is a fundamental part of the rational landscape.
You believe. It does not feel like belief from the inside; it feels comfortably embodied, unseen, otherwise un-sensed. Initially, belief is more like an observation, a sensory experience that reveals a difference in the experiential landscape, thus constituting an individual case study used to make an inference about the population. In navigating this space, you further sense the difference and, engaging the evolutionarily adaptive code running inside your processor developed and conscientiously trained in a series of virtual and nonvirtual sensory landscapes, interpret it as race. You sense the ongoing systematic, aesthetic appraisal of socially important symbols in the collective; an algorithm that expands these appraisals, transforming them into visceral sensations, abstract recollections that relate to your religious ideology, your base Statistic; and a theatrical stage on which these theoretical actors dramatize roles for you—being fully aware—to watch.1 Though overlooked, your belief provides endless entertainment, slowly becoming entrenched through mantra, and, eventually, morphing into the anecdotal, the pattern—a seed-like spark of a deeper belief, a mysterious testimony to the reality of race.
Codifying the anecdotal, you divide the population into parts—Cases. Methodically, the Cases, when considered together, become the Sample, which coalesce to create the Model, the Explanation; These describe the anecdotal statistic, theoretically clarifying the social ecology of racial difference; These embody data, field notes and observations, social patterns, content and themes; These, when formally disembodied, meticulously measured and reorganized across actors, become Variables with distributions, sample statistics, variances, significance, correlations, controls, inferential statistics, conventional multivariate analytic models, stochastic research, and errors, inclusive and exclusive to measurement. These rationalize our actions and justify behavior as the ideological embodiment of an interpretation, as the dogmatic representation of an unseen god—the Statistic; These, when properly refined and detailed by devoted practitioners, allegedly produce a golden icon that, if and when it sufficiently captures the Statistic, transforms the experience of the observer; These promise to lead us across the border of moral discomfort, social neglect, connective apathy and indifference to the negative processing space—to cognitive pleasure.
Thus, you use the Case, Sample, Variable, Model and Explanation—These unseen sacred concepts—to pursue the mythical Statistic. As a believer, you submit to the quest, scouring the population archives for insight, exploring and evaluating models, observing patterns, focusing on groups, testing explanations, all in hopes of revealing one transcendent truth. The Statistic is the real end of your pursuit, your hope of both understanding and producing change in the social machine.
1. Drake (1987).