Michael is currently a PhD student at the Department of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London. His thesis relates to the analysis of small-area trends in life expectancy – why is it that people live longer in one neighbourhood than in another but a few miles away?
However, in my spare time (where I much prefer to talk about myself in the first person), I like to champion a bunch of what I consider to be worthy causes. These causes, for reasons which are not immediately obvious, are somewhat related.
Firstly, I am somewhat baffled by society’s seeming refusal to learn how to critically interpret quantitative data. “The numbers,” one frequently hears, “say everything.” Very rarely (in fact I might even go as far as to say never) is this the case. As Ben Goldacre would say, “it’s usually a bit more complicated than that.” However, one of the purposes of this blog is to show that “Don’t panic – the bits that are more complicated aren’t actually that much more complicated.” And the funny thing is – most of the time, no maths is involved!
My other main interest is promoting the more widespread use of open source software, beyond its stereotype of being “only for geeks”. I find it personally rather disturbing that people’s life and work, including articles, tables, letters, stories and music is stored electronically in formats that may be rendered obsolete at the whim of a multinational company – seemingly without any critical thought of the implications of this by the people to whom such work belongs. Again, I would like to present open source software as “a bit more complicated than what you’re used to, but not that much more complicated”.
Finally – and this may surprise some of you – I am a Christian. However, I am not one of those didactic “thou shalt read the Bible and believe” types who use the Christian label to assert a form of moral authority over others. Instead, I agree with notion suggested by Jesus that forgiveness rather than retribution is the way forward, that co-operation beyond the boundaries created by our prejudices is better than conflict, and that spiritual and social richness is more important than material wealth. I am vigorously opposed to the idea of teaching creationism as a scientific alternative to Darwin’s model of evolution. I am, however, totally in favour of teaching the creation story as a metaphor to emphasise the need to treat the world’s people, societies, creatures and environment with appropriate respect *as though* it belonged to God and not to ourselves.
I have no interest in writing religious preachings per se. This blog is about promoting a deeper understanding of the little bits of science and technology I have at least a modicum of experience with, beyond the scare stories, hyperbole and obfuscation promoted by big business and the media. I aim to show that the extra steps required to interpret statistics are not as complicated as you might think – and mostly don’t actually involve any maths at all. I just happen to believe that this is a far better use of the time that God has given me on this earth than standing at Oxford Circus shouting into a megaphone about how we must “repent before the day of reckoning” to a hurriedly moving crowd of rather nonplussed tourists.
I would like to thank Ben Goldacre for writing the spectacularly wonderful “Bad Science” – the book that has motivated me to actually get off my backside and start writing this website that I’d been meaning to write for the last ten years. I have more people I would like to thank. But it would be rather incongruous of me to do so yet before I’ve actually started to write anything.