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"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Damned Lies and Statistics - Joel Best

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

Joel Best
Hbk, 199 pp, £14.95,
ISBN: 9780520219786
University of California Press, 2001

Statistics are constructed not discovered. It is people that create statistics, consequently statistics are coloured by the worldview of the constructor. There is no such thing as a neutral statistic. This book provides ample evidence that statistics are the products of social activity. Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice, has produced a readable and informative book. He draws upon statistics from many walks of life to illustrate his points.

Those who create statistics want to prove something. Best, shows how by asking key questions we can help expose these underlying perspectives:

Who created the statistic?
Why was this statistic created?
How was the statistic created?

Best deals with key issues such as the source of bad statistics: bad guesses, descriptive definitions, confusing questions and biased samples; mutant statistics: the ways in which good statistics can be mangled, misused and misunderstood; and the problems of statistical comparison. It requires no background in maths or statistics. It will help readers be more critical in their acceptance of statistical data.

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