Statistics Make Good Reading
he doesn't discuss breast cancer statistics, the analysis
of how facts can be distorted by bad statistics is easy to
translate to breast cancer research and policy decisions.
can strike fear into the hearts of patients with cancer. They are
the basis for clinical treatment decisions, distribution of research
funds and political agendas.
problem is that not only are statistics sometimes misinterpreted,
all too often those statistics are dead wrong.
to University of Delaware professor Joel Best, who chairs the sociology
and criminal justice department, statistical information is misused
by people and organizations interested in shaping debate to their
his introduction to the book, "Damned Lies and Statistics:
Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians and Activists"
(University of California Press), Best said his interest in the
manipulation of statistics was spurred by a gradate student's dissertation
prospectus, which attempted to grab attention by quoting a statistic
that claimed "every year since 1950, the number of American
children gunned down has doubled."
decided to look carefully at the figure, which was published in
a journal in 1995. He did the math and found that if only one child
had been killed by gunfire in 1950, an annual doubling would have
brought the figure to 32,768 by 1965, to 1 million in 1970, to 1
billion in 1980 and to more than 35 trillion by the date the journal
further, he found the basis of the claim: a 1994 report by the Children's
Defense Fund that found the number of American children killed each
year by guns had doubled since 1950, not doubled each year since
lesson should be clear, Best says: "Bad statistics live on;
they take on lives of their own."
Lies and Statistics" is designed to help readers think critically
about statistics presented as fact, and Best centers his work on
a wide assortment of contemporary issues including abortion, cyberporn,
homelessness, teen suicide and the U.S. census.
he doesn't discuss breast cancer statistics, the analysis of how
facts can be distorted by bad statistics is easy to translate to
breast cancer research and policy decisions.
the book, Best outlines how and why flawed statistics emerge, spread
and reach the public consciousness in debates over public policy.
He also offers recommendations on how to detect statistics that
have been misrepresented and how to make sense out of the "stat
wars" that break out among experts for the various sides of
book, which was featured in the May 4, 2002 "Chronicle of Higher
Education Review," has received widespread critical acclaim.
Best is at it again," Patricia Adler, author of "Peer
Power," wrote. "In 'Damned Lies and Statistics,' he shows
how statistics are manipulated, mismanaged, misrepresented and massaged
by officials and other powerful groups to promote their agendas.
He is a master at examining taken-for-granted 'facts' and debunking
them through careful sociological scrutiny."
Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians,
and Activists - from Amazon.com
see in Resources -> Breast
on the Web:
Statistics and Registries
16 , 2003
Updated August 1, 2006