Cynic or data nerd?

The Numbers Game is a book about the different ways in which numbers can mislead or lie. Seeking Alpha takes a look at the book and asks the authors a few questions in Can We Trust Statistics? about whether the book was a work of media criticism.

It starts by remembering that numbers are like words – surprise, surprise – they too can be ambiguous or even untruthful. Does that mean we junk them?

Of course not, no more than we can junk the language. It means we approach them with our wits about us and apply similar standards to those we’d use on, say, the language of politics.

The upshot is really that there’s no easy shortcut through the hard work of trying to understand numbers for yourself. Everybody has an angle, and no one — journalists emphatically included — is particularly reliable.

Most of the public seem to take numbers as facts even when they are measures. The issues of accuracy and precision and referent are not given much thought. That can lead to being lead.

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