In this sequel to Best's Damned Lies and Statistics
(2001), the premise is simple: there are vast quantities of statistics being bandied about in all walks of life, and we frequently rely on them to form our own opinions about things. Often, however, neither we nor the experts understand how those numbers work. "People need to agree about what to count before they can start counting," the author tells us, explaining why different people often disagree about the same statistics. Some journalists say child-abduction cases are up; others say they're down; but no one has bothered to agree on what they mean by child
. Another problem: news media perpetuate inaccuracies by citing each other's statistics without checking for accuracy. This is why, for example, we keep hearing that 150 people die every year after being hit by falling coconuts. (In fact, there is no such statistic because no one tracks coconut deaths.) The book is packed with helpful tips for understanding statistics, and it even manages to make a usually dull topic entertaining. David PittCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
"Best provides us with another telling compendium of misleading statistics about a variety of topical issues. His approach to explicating them is lucid, instructive, and quite engaging." - John Allen Paulos, author of Innumeracy; "Best has established himself as a brilliant observer of our national fads and scares. If he can deal with highly significant topics in such lucid and enjoyable prose, why can't other social scientists begin to match him?" - Philip Jenkins, author of The New Anti-Catholicism; "Joel Best continues to confront us with the delicious lunacy of statistical gaffes and fantasies. Whether discussing 'deaths from falling coconuts,' teenage bullying, or the likelihood of contracting breast cancer, Best teaches us to avoid the dangers of statistical illiteracy. As his cogent and comic examples from the media amply demonstrate, there is much teaching yet to be done. While we like to believe that it is our opponents who are fools with figures, this volume demonstrates that liberals, conservatives, libertarians, lawyers, physicians, and educators fall in the same numerical traps." - Gary Alan Fine, coauthor of Whispers on the Color Line"