“I don’t need to understand your problem in order to solve it.”

This is one of the dumbest statements ever uttered, and is one of the reasons statisticians are often viewed with such suspicion, if not disdain, by engineers.


Statisticians, particularly those enamored with Design-of-Experiments (DOX) and especially Taguchi methods, often view their craft as a universal solution to be applied to every problem.\(^1\)

Statisticians, who look askance at engineers for having studied only one survey course in statistics, base their view of the physical world on only one survey course in the physical sciences. Unlike engineers, they never studied chemistry (1 year), nor physics (3 courses: I-mechanics, II-electricity and magnetism, III-nuclear physics), thermodynamics (1 year), nor statics, dynamics, mechanics of materials, fluids (compressible and incompressible) … and those are only a representative sampling of the first two years of engineering study, before upper division concentration on a particular engineering field.

From their perch high atop the Tree of Ignorance, the Statisticians look down on a very simple world, uncomplicated by the physics they never heard of, and populated by “stupid” engineers who won’t pay attention to their pontifications.\(^2\) From the engineer’s perspective, however, the statistician simply doesn’t understand how the world works. It is difficult to take seriously the advice from someone so ill-informed.


Engineers and statisticians do have mathematics in common, however. Engineers study three courses in calculus, another in ordinary differential equations (many study partial differential equations too), complex analysis, and matrix algebra. Statisticians have a similar course of mathematical study. Both statisticians and engineers recognize the mathematical competence of the other, and this is the cause of  The Great Misunderstanding.


  1. As the cliché goes, “If the only tool in your toolkit is a hammer, you view all your problems as nails.”
  2. If the shoe fits, wear it. If it doesn’t, then this isn’t about you. Please keep reading.