- Hardcover: 190 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (May 8, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520219783
- ISBN-13: 978-0520219786
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 69 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,099 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists 1st Edition
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Best adequately picks up the subject matter just before Darrell Huff's timeless text, How to Lie with Statistics, begins. Like Huff, Best argues that people have incentives to put numbers in front of us (Huff refers to this as axe-grinding), and it behooves us to know who is putting the statistic in front of us, why they chose to put this statistic before us, and most importantly, just how they derived this statistic.
Because proponents (and opponents) of an issue, whom Best describes as 'Advocates', can control the way a statistic is generated and presented, we must closely scrutinize the numbers before us so that we can 'untangle the few facts from the various fictions'. Toward this end, the book gives the reader some very helpful questions he or she can ask when attempting to interpret a descriptive (summary) statistic.
The practical utility of Best's text is not solely limited to issues in the social sciences. One could easily apply Best's argument to, for example, the ongoing environmental debate. As such, this book is a vital component in developing critical thinking skills that can be applied in all areas both personal and professional.
Finally, although this text focuses exclusively on descriptive statistics, limiting itself to contentious and controversial topics in the social sciences, readers should take note that Mr. Best is not presenting a truly original and comprehensive treatment of the subject matter. For example, David S. Moore, author of the text Statistics, Concepts and Controversies, provides a concise, yet rigorous, entertaining and accessible treatment of the same subject matter- including a wider range of examples culled from the fields of education, social and medical sciences, all in the first fifty pages of his text.
Damned Lies and Statistics is on my required reading list. If more people understood how they were being numerically manipulated from all angles, we'd all be better off. And I believe that is the ultimate job of a writer.