Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

An Incredulous Compendium

Written by: on November 12, 2022

How to Read Numbers by Tom and David Shivers uncovered many statistical perspectives, and anomalies depending on the point of view. The book was insightful, and detailed, and provided a beneficial recap of many math courses from my past. I enjoyed unraveling statistical positioning however I noticed a variant in my personal synopsis almost immediately. I am guilty of preconceived skepticism and I warn readers of my own prejudice.

The co-authors are cousins who are extremely talented and brought a light-hearted personal touch to the reading. I appreciated it considering the book’s focus dissects a subject (math/statistics) that many would run from. I find it interesting that math is a discipline that can excite or scare people.  I particularly enjoy math and so do my sons. My wife, mother, and daughter have an opposite outlook that tends to be credulous.  Is math preference gender specific? Or is it the influence of using math that plays more of a gender role? Perhaps gullibility is gender specific? I paused for research and found that many of us are guilty of gender stereotyping and it’s prevalent in many cultures. For example, my wife is immediately a target in a car dealership or oil change scenario. In the car salesman’s defense, she is also extremely trusting with almost anyone and has even accidentally assisted in theft in our own business. She rarely questions the information presented and a trained individual can read her like a children’s book.  She is off the charts in science and medicine but below average when it comes to anything deceptive or criminal. The research supports this commonality among women in many instances, however, El Andrews of the Berkeley Hass School of Business claims this paradox is not necessarily a chromosomal disparity.  “The mere perception that women are more gullible exposes them to more deception in reality. Though it’s not clear that women actually are easier to mislead, the perception itself prompts more of their counterparts in negotiations to make misleading and even blatantly false claims. As a result, women are deceived more often than men.”[1]

After completing the book and spending an excessive amount of unnecessary time researching fraudulent statistics in today’s society, I concluded that bias exists in gender situations but also in any emotional situation. Mark Twain claimed, “There are liars and statistics.” Perhaps a better quote would be “there are liars and liars that use statistics.” I believe this to be true with the majority of corporate America, media, and government.  Statistics hold a great deal of significant weight and “misunderstanding the statistics can lead to bad decisions,” political outcomes, power, control, corruption, and financial gain for certain institutions.[2]  I searched for scholarly material and hard data, which is readily available from a number of perspectives, however, I was left unsatisfied due to many examples of misinformation and “cherry-picked” figures. “Selling” something emerges as the common denominator.  Whether it is views, clicks, a product, a vaccine, or an idea, the presentation of the “facts” appears to be a muddy playground of codology.

I was amazed, but not surprised to find consistent and “obvious” headline bias in the news and research. Regardless of the data presented, I noticed a correlation in the titles of the articles or broadcasts that suggested a certain outcome or call to action. The authors of How to Read Numbers define these demonstrations as HARKing, or “intentionally selecting criteria to meet an intended outcome.” [3] In regard to the pandemic, misinformation became the norm over the years and incredulous for opposing parties. I observed many instances of “socio-cognitive polarization,” fake news, and fear-mongering that have scared and divided the masses.[4] The pandemic was extremely mismanaged, censored, and calculated. “In times of uncertainty, people often seek out information to help alleviate fear, possibly leaving them vulnerable to false information. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we attended to a viral spread of incorrect and misleading information that compromised collective actions and public health measures.”[5] The powers at large were extremely aware of this and turned our fear into record-breaking profits.

Covid-19 was more than a virus; it was a tool used in a movement of epic power and dominance on a global scale.  I quickly noticed that even the research on misinformation was also subject to bias so I concluded my investigation. This book opened my eyes to the art of misleading individuals through numbers.  Reading data is a language in itself that requires a level of hermeneutics for proper interpretation. I believe the media and many corporations capitalize on the idea that many will not challenge the data if presented and cited suitably.  The authors exposed many examples of preferential Covid-19 data and we have all experienced the results of this massive dark undertaking.

Trust is the major outlier in my own statistical digestion.  I have less trust in the media and government after this pandemic and even more faith in God. “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”[6]


[1] Andrews, El. 2014. “Perception and Reality: Why Women Are More at Risk of Being Duped in Business – Archive of the Institute for Business and Social Impact.” August 11, 2014. Link

[2] Chivers, Tom, and David Chivers. 2022. How to Read Numbers. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 3

[3] Ibid, 115

[4] “Library Guides: Savvy Info Consumers: Detecting Bias in the News.” 2017. Uw.edu. University Libraries, University of Washington. 2017. Link.

[5] Frontiers. Peer Reviewed Articles; “Going Viral” 2014. Link

[6] Romans 16:17-18, ESV


About the Author

Michael O'Neill

Director of Operations / Executive Pastor at Kinergy, Inc. Federal 501c3 Non-Profit Organization. An experienced entrepreneur, leader, father, wellness professional, and owner of a multi-location medical practice with my wife, Nicole O'Neill, MD.

7 responses to “An Incredulous Compendium”

  1. mm Audrey Robinson says:

    Your posts are always so thorough and thoughtful.

    I concur with you regarding the distrust with the ‘powers at large’ and how they have used the statistics and other tactics to sow fear.

    One area I would also mention is our educational system. An area I have been involved in for 15 years – I have experienced and researched the illiteracy of our population. Math is historically the worst. Approximately one third of the US adults are illiterate.

    What are your thoughts as to the educational system and whether or not it is also complicit in this numeracy issue?

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thank you, Audrey.

      I concur. I think there is corruption everywhere. Personally, I’m an optimist and I pray it never changes but I am not optimistic about society at large. It hurts my heart when I think of the big picture, and the deception and sick nature of our world. I don’t trust anything of this world. It is Satan’s domain and playground in many ways. I’m not familiar with the specifics of educational corruption but it’s a hot topic in politics, therefore there must be money and power in it. It’s my belief that education has a unique place in Satan’s toolbag. It’s not just a quick advertisement or news story. Education can groom an individual over years and influence people in mass numbers. What we teach children or adults in educational settings is crucial and I’m certain it’s not always the truth. I think the devil and the dark spirits have an insidious alliance to control people through components or subjects in education. I’m not saying to get rid of education, or media, or capitalism, or governments. I’m stating that the devil has his hand in all of it and we need to be mindful and assess our information and influences with spiritual discernment.

      I honestly do not understand how it’s not more obvious to the world? When you walk with God and read over and over about his consistent nature and character, the good and the bad is so easy to spot.

  2. Michael – This sentence from your research on gender differences made me pause and think – “The mere perception that women are more gullible exposes them to more deception in reality.” It saddens me that these stereotypes of females are still so prevalent. When it comes to STEM education, I think our country is making progress in proactive female involvement, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to the perception of whether women are good with data. Here’s hoping that one day the difference will be more about interest/personality than gender!

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thank you, Laura. I agree that there is room for improvement with gender stereotyping but in some regard, I’m not certain we will ever escape all scenarios. There are certain areas that have improved significantly such as cooking, leadership, and sports. Some still lean on one gender more than the other but overall it’s accepted and practiced by all. On the other hand, some crimes and interests are predominantly male and will always be. I should probably not use the word never though… I never thought I would see the day when men took such an interest in make-up and beauty but here we are in this weird world. It’s still a minority but it’s becoming more accepted.

      I really don’t care who does what, it’s the intention and underlying evil that is concerning to me and hurts my heart.

  3. mm Becca Hald says:

    Michael, thank you for an interesting and thought provoking discussion on this book. The pandemic certainly has shown us how the media can skew things to tell whatever narrative they wish to tell. Do you think there is an educational divide when it comes to gullibility or believing a false narrative? What role might education play in our understanding and discerning of what to believe?

  4. Michael O'Neill says:

    Thank you, Becca.

    There may be an educational divide but I do not think it’s definitive. My wife is an MD and incredibly educated but she is also extremely innocent and honest and has been a victim of many scams. I think when it comes to evil or misleading, perhaps education comes from other places than the classroom or books. I’ve read and watched documentaries on incredibly smart individuals that become multi-million dollar con artists or drug dealers, etc. I think perhaps some people are just more gullible. Do you think education plays a big role in gullibility?

  5. mm Daron George says:


    In your post, you said, “Reading data is a language in itself that requires a level of hermeneutics for proper interpretation.” As someone who loves data (I have a Google Data Analytics Certification) I can’t scream this enough, it is important when looking at data to understand that it is telling a story and to look at who is telling you that story.

    As a leader, how would you help those you lead to understand the story of numbers? Especially in the area of ministry when COVID-19 was dominating the news cycle so many people looked to pastors and leaders to help them understand what they were hearing.

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