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Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists | [Joel Best]

Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists

Does the number of children gunned down double each year? Does anorexia kill 150,000 young women annually? Do white males account for only a sixth of new workers? Startling statistics shape our thinking about social issues. But all too often, these numbers are wrong. This book is a lively guide to spotting bad statistics and learning to think critically about these influential numbers. Damned Lies and Statistics is essential listening for everyone who reads or listens to the news....
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Publisher's Summary

Does the number of children gunned down double each year? Does anorexia kill 150,000 young women annually? Do white males account for only a sixth of new workers? Startling statistics shape our thinking about social issues. But all too often, these numbers are wrong. This book is a lively guide to spotting bad statistics and learning to think critically about these influential numbers. Damned Lies and Statistics is essential listening for everyone who reads or listens to the news, for students, and for anyone who relies on statistical information to understand social problems.

Joel Best bases his discussion on a wide assortment of intriguing contemporary issues that have garnered much recent media attention, including abortion, cyberporn, homelessness, the Million Man March, teen suicide, the U.S. census, and much more. Using examples from The New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major newspapers and television programs, he unravels many fascinating examples of the use, misuse, and abuse of statistical information.

In this book Best shows us exactly how and why bad statistics emerge, spread, and come to shape policy debates. He recommends specific ways to detect bad statistics, and shows how to think more critically about "stat wars," or disputes over social statistics among various experts. Understanding this book does not require sophisticated mathematical knowledge; Best discusses the most basic and most easily understood forms of statistics, such as percentages, averages, and rates.

This accessible book provides an alternative to either naively accepting the statistics we hear or cynically assuming that all numbers are meaningless. It shows how anyone can become a more intelligent, critical, and empowered consumer of the statistics that inundate both the social sciences and our media-saturated lives.

©2001 Paul Best (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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  •  
    Robbie Huntingdon, TN, United States 11-21-12
    Robbie Huntingdon, TN, United States 11-21-12 Member Since 2010

    I spin my own wool and knit. Listening to audiobooks while I craft is one of my favorite things. I'm hooked.

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    "No Lie, I Loved It"

    Some non-fiction books can make my head spin with highly technical information, but this book keeps it real. It presents what can be a rather complicated subject, statistics, in a fun and understandable manner. It explains how others can manipulate statistics to their advantage, how repeating statistics often mangles them, and other interesting facts about all those numbers we see every time we pick up a newspaper or hear a plea from a charity or cause. It warns the reader not to take statistics at face value and teaches us how to untangle the "good" statistics from the bad.

    While it deals mainly with statistics, it also deals with the psychology surrounding statistics. We are much more likely to accept a statistic that seems to verify an aspect of our own world view, for instance, and more likely to question statistics (or even discard them completely) if they don't correspond to what we ourselves believe. The author presents the material in a balanced way, without bias, and points out that social statistics are never exactly measurable given the fluid nature of society.

    The author starts this book out with a humorous and outlandish example of a mangled statistic that hooks you right in. Unlike many nonfiction books, this book flows right along and keeps you listening for the entertainment value alone.

    Patrick Lawlor does a wonderful job with the narration, adding vitality to the subject, understanding and portraying the authors wit flawlessly.

    I'd recommend this book to anyone who doesn't want to go around accepting ever number presented to them. If you are an independent thinker, then this book is for you.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susie Santa Cruz, CA, United States 09-30-13
    Susie Santa Cruz, CA, United States 09-30-13 Member Since 2012

    I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South."

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    "How Stats Can Be Manipulated to Prove Anything"

    This is one of those books everyone should read—but would anyone ever get elected again? Author Joel Best shows you exactly how stats can be manipulated to prove anything.

    If every statistic released were to be believed, then the whole country would be sick, pregnant, violent, dead, or addicted to porn. Using examples from the New York Times, the Washington Post, U.S. Census, and other major media outlets, Best unravels the many fascinating examples of the misuse and abuse of statistical information.

    There are no innocents.

    My stats professor used to quote Mark Twain to every class: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” It's possible to twist statistics to say virtually anything; for every study out there that makes one claim, there's another that "proves" the exact opposite. How can you know which one is true? Best lets you know how to spot the BS and wade through fraud studies and stats.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Adelaide, Australia 07-31-13
    Paul Adelaide, Australia 07-31-13
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    "Brilliant"

    Well performed by the narrator, and the subject made extremely interesting. Had me laughing out loud at time with some fantastic turns of phrase. Very informative, and an aid to critical thinking.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    AM CA 06-19-13
    AM CA 06-19-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Loved it"

    Joel Best's book puts language around statistics to give readers a basic vocabulary of statistical analysis and an awareness that statistics are not sacrosanct. I wish it were longer and jam-packed with additional examples that would really take you by surprise. But then it would be Freakonomics.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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