Someon on LinkedIn asked how to react to a comment like “Statistics is just cutting computer code, right?” Here’s how I responded.
You could say (somewhat sheepishly so you don’t come across as arrogant) that “Statistics is more of an art than a science.”
If you know the person well, you might try something more aggressive like “It’s a lot more complicated than that” or “that’s a pretty naive perspective about what I do.”
If you were in a talkative mood, you could say that programming is an important part of your job, but there are other aspects besides programming that are equally important (yeah I know that these other things are MORE important, but again you don’t want to come across as arrogant). Then try to educate the person with some of the excellent points made in Steven Fink’s post.
Or you could even say, with some honesty, that “cutting code” is far more difficult to do well than conducting a statistical analysis. I have a lot of respect for talented programmers, and would not consider being compared to these people as an insult.
You can find an earlier version of this page on my original website.