Statistical Ethics Based On Christian Worldview
The proliferation of statistics into business has been nothing but phenomenal over the last half century. Business statistics has become integral with businesses able to access more information that before. It has been used in converting the raw data into meaningful output used in decision making. The wholesome embrace of business statistics has, however, come with certain ethical issues. The ethical issues raised by Ostapski and Superville (2001) in examining business statistics mainly touch on the scenarios of non-owner use of data, and significance and outliers search.
Ethical issues ought to be addressed honestly and directly rather than ignoring them all together (Geertsema, 1987).While the application of historical contexts, social contexts, and scientific contexts has taken hold, Christian contexts have also been applied to address the ethical issues in business statistics. This paper looks at biblical perspectives and supporting ethical theories which are essential in ensuring ethical performance in business statistics.
Ethical Issues in Business Statistics
The process of using statistics to refine numbers is complicated thus the need for guidelines which probe the integrity of the process, participants, outcome, and interpretation (Kault, 2003). According to Ostapski and Superville (2001), there are various guidelines which are useful in applying critical thought in evaluating the ethical nature of statistics. The ethical guidelines which are most applicable to me include probing the data, its sources and procedure, interrogating the interest behind numbers, and investigating the interpretation.
There are certain key principles which offer guidance on ethical business statistics. These include maintaining integrity, protecting information confidentiality, fulfilling all the inquiry’s commitments, application of statistical procedures without leaning on a particular side, and seeking client’s consent when using their information (Ostapski and Superville, 2001). These guidelines are vital in addressing the ethical issues around non-owner data use, and significance and outlier search. These guidelines are also relevant in protecting the source of information, avoiding discriminate use of findings, and avoiding misinterpretation.
The raised ethical issues can be addressed from a Christian worldview with support from all relevant ethical theories. Honesty, fairness, and mutual respect are some of the biblical perspectives which are echoed in the business ethics guidelines. Christian viewpoint encompasses biblical doctrines and any supportive theories such as utilitarianism and distributive justice. Christian faith teaches these principles to be applied in daily life and they can be extended to fields such as statistics (Ripley &Dwiwardani, 2014).
Honesty and integrity are themes widely discussed in the bible and can be applied in maintaining ethical practice in business statistics. The book of Proverbs 2:20-21 states, “So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain init”. Proverbs 28:18 also states, “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall”. These two biblical excerpts emphasize the need for Christians to uphold integrity in their transactions. Statistics should not be any different when it comes to integrity.
Integrity in statistics involves seeking the approval of clients before using their information, maintaining confidentiality of sources, and divulging all information without favoring a specific side. The ethical guidelines of the American Statistical Association (ASA) emphasizes on maintaining integrity and honesty as the first principle (Ostapski and Superville, 2001). Statisticians who follow the Christian principle of integrity are also able to follow other guidelines such as protecting confidentiality, maintaining impartiality, and seeking client’s consent before divulging their information.
One of the core Christian principles commonly emphasized is fair treatment. Luke 6:31 states “Do to others as you would have them do to you”. Do to others as you expect them to do to you is one of the Christian viewpoints which can be extrapolated to business ethics. According to Ostapski and Superville (2001), one of the bases of ethical inquiry is to understand if one’s decision towards another would be acceptable to the performer if they are subjected to similar decisions.
Non-owner use of data is one of the ethical dilemmas which have faced business statistics. Ownership and property rights are also expressed from a Christian perspective in Luke 16:12 when it states “And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own”. This Christian viewpoint should help the statistician to respect the ownership rights of their clients and honor their agreement. Those who get the client’s consent are able to use the data without aggravating their client. They are also supposed to use the data responsibly because they remain the property of the clients despite the permission.
Outliers is a controversial ethical area where the statistician is faced with the choice of removing or including certain findings. They might be faced with the choice of siding with the client at the expense of other users or divulging all findings. The book of Leviticus 19:15 provides a Christian viewpoint on dealing in an impartial manner when it states “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor”. Christian principle requires them to favor no side but offer a fair chance for the end user to apply all relevant information, however unpleasant, to make interpretations and decisions.
Ostapski and Superville (2001) emphasize the need for considering the number of people affected by an issue as ethical inquiry basis. The authors suggest that the consequences of a proposed action should benefit most people most of the time. This is in line with the basic principle of the utilitarianism theory. Utilitarianism’s greatest happiness principle also insists on maximizing positive consequences to the greatest number of population while minimizing negative outcomes to the least population (Iman, 1995). This principle should also be applicable in the Christian viewpoint when making ethical decisions in business statistics.
The use of Christian perspectives does not undermine the scientific or social contexts which have become integral parts of ethical business statistics. Instead, these perspectives complement the other contexts and work to collectively ensure ethical practice (Ripley&Dwiwardani, 2014). For instance, ASA’s integrity principle is in line with the bible’s position on the same. According to Geertsema (1987), the Christian viewpoint of examining all things as interconnected plays a huge role in the integration of Christian approaches with scientific and social contexts. Christians in statistics have an obligation to perform in line with their religious beliefs while embracing a contextual approach which considers other viewpoints.
The article affects my personal decision making with respect to ethical analysis, information handling and disclosure, and application of statistical procedures. The unique challenges faced by statisticians leads to ethical issues which come with their work. The article has played a huge role in convincing me of the ultimate objective of maintaining ethical performance. The ability of a statistician to maintain ethical standards in business statistics influences the interpretation of the output and the relationships with clients (Hunter, 1994). When the statistician is unethical and omits certain aspects of the research to favor their client, the users of the information will unknowingly misinterpret the results. Statisticians who use their client’s information without consent also jeopardize their relationship and might bear certain legal consequences.
In conclusion, Christian approaches can be integrated into statistics to ensure ethical performance without interfering with the existing scientific and social assumptions. The ethical issues in business statistics have clearly presented room for considering Christian perspectives in handling the problems. Christian philosophies have room in viewing statistics and addressing the ethical issues in business statistics. The greatest happiness principle is applicable when addressing ethical issues because it maximizes the positives to a large number of people and minimizes the negative outcomes to a small proportion of the population. Integrity is a Christian philosophy which can be applied in maintaining ethical standards in business statistics.
The bible doctrines and ASA’s Ethical Guidelines for Statistical Practice agree on the need for integrity. This will ensure that confidentiality is maintained, owner’s consent is acquired before using their information, and the statistician remains impartial at all times. Ultimately, the application of these Christian viewpoints will ensure that the statistical process proceeded unhindered, clients are protected, and the final users interpret the correct information.
Geertsema, J.C. (1987). A Christian View of the Foundations of Statistics. Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. 39(3), 158-164.
Hunter, J. S. (1994). Statistics as a Profession. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 89(425), 1-6.
Iman, R. L. (1995). New Paradigms for the Statistics Profession.Journal of the American Statistical Association, 90(429), 1-9.
Kault, D. (2003). Statistics with Common Sense. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Ripley, J. S., &Dwiwardani, C. (2014). Integration of Christianity in Research and Statistics Courses. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 42(2), 220-227.
Ostapski , A. Superville , C. (2001). Reflection before action: The statistical consultant confronts ethical issues. Business Quest. Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~bquest/2001/consultant.htm