Review: ‘Truth or Truthiness’ by Howard Wainer

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Published by: Cambridge University Press

Publication Date: 26th January 2016

ISBN: 9781107130579

R.R.P. (US): $29.99

From netgalley.com

Blurb

Fracking is safe. Fracking causes earthquakes. Our kids are over-tested. Our kids aren’t tested enough. We read claims and counter-claims like these every day in our newspapers, often with no justification or evidence other than “it feels right”—intuitively a phenomenon labeled “truthiness.” But how can we figure out what is actually right?

Escaping from the clutches of “truthiness” begins with one question: “what is the evidence?” With his trademark verve and irreverence, Howard Wainer shows how to evaluate the evidence—or lack thereof—supporting various claims, from the efficacy of school test scores to the impact of race on student performance, and offers a refreshing fact-based view of complex problems in a variety of fields. Data science holds the new key to becoming an informed citizen. This revealing book is a must-read for anyone interested in distinguishing fact from fiction in the often murky worlds of journalism, politics, PR and spin.

 

My Review

There were problems with the digital copy of this book, but they sent me a physical copy of the book at the beginning of the year.

It took me almost six months to get through this book. It’s not a bad book, it’s quite interesting with useful examples to show the application of statistics to information, to allow non-data scientists to understand whether what they are hearing/reading is the truth or what Wainer refers to as truthiness – something that sounds true but isn’t. It’s just that his writing style is a little dull and hard going at times.

Wainer uses real life examples, such as the increased incidence of earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or higher  in Oklahoma since the introduction of fracking in 2007 (300x increase, statistically likely), to illustrate his points. His section on improving data displays is particularly interesting.

This book is probably not for casual reading, but if you’re interested in statistics, it might be a good read.

3/5

 

 

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