VA training book, “How to Lie with Statistics,” outed


book

Screenshot from gov. hearing by C-Span

Did you happen to catch this story last (CNN video–6 minutes or AZTV) fall? The best-seller was studied at the VA until 8/14 when Sec. MacDonald pulled it from training programs. The book is not promoting lying per se but Huelskamp (Kansas), who sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee, doesn’t like it one little bit.  Rep. Huelskamp claims to know plenty about statistics from his Ph.D.. In any case,  who can resist a banned book!  (What, no protests from the American Library Association over this outrage?)

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“How to Lie With Statistics” $7.99 Kindle version “This book is a sort of primer in ways to use statistics to deceive…. The crooks already know these tricks; honest men must learn them in self-defense.” Grahic: openclipart.org

I’m joking about the ALA because I love librarians and their often unpopular stance on the freedom to read–everything.  But Rep. Huelskamp does make an important point about how data can be visually presented with graphics that give a wrong impression; he calls the VA out on one example. Actually, I want to read this book because the title is satire and with the catchy title, it’s sold a ton of copies.

I’m looking forward to reading Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise which is supposed to put statistics into contexts laypeople can relate to.  Amazon delivered it and it’s calling to me.  Although I got a decent grade in a required introductory statistics in college many moons ago, I struggled with the subject.  But given all the research I’ve been reading, I have to tackle this subject again so I can spot some statistical trends or lies.

 

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4 Responses to VA training book, “How to Lie with Statistics,” outed

  1. Skywalker says:

    Not surprising a book like that would be in their informal archives. The VA is crooked as the day is long, really. Their moral turpitude knows no bounds.

    Unrelated–if you are looking for your next good read, check out “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Really fascinating description as to how and why exceptional people become that way.

  2. Jeff says:

    I read the book several years ago – it is very easy to read especially for people with no stats background like myself. I found out about it through a value investing blog (a site created by a medical doctor actually). The intro says it all “The secret language of statistics, so appealing in a fact-minded culture, is employed to sensationalize, inflate, confuse, and oversimplify…But without writers who use the words with honesty and understanding and readers who know what they mean, the result can only be semantic nonsense.”

    Another great book if anyone is interested is “The Half-Life of Facts” by Samuel Arbesman. He discusses how we gain knowledge, the way “facts” change all the time, ect. ect. Early in the book he discusses the “half-life” of facts regarding hepatitis (and cirrhosis) based on research that showed “Medical knowledge about cirrhosis or hepatitis takes about forty-five years for half of it to be disproven or become out-of-date” p. 28-29. This book is an easy read as well.

    These books can be purchased really cheap if you buy used through Amazon or other online used book sellers.

    Thanks again for the great info – I had no idea the VA was using this book for “training”

    • Kiedove says:

      Just went to the author’s website with two bonus YouTube Videos.! One a TedTalkX, the other a quick animation. Love this kind of thing! http://www.arbesman.net/the-half-life-of-facts/
      I enjoy relaxing listening to all the well-known atheists on scientific topics because they love and are excited by their work. The late Richard Feynmann, Dawkins (read his short memoir), late Carl Sagan, Larry Krauss, Stephen Weinberg, and many more. Their anti-god ribbing doesn’t bother this believer a bit. I like to consider points of view that differ with my own. Although not a scientist, I miss the late Christopher Hitchens. Read his autobio. too. He’s was a better speaker than writer but a moral good person in very respect.
      Thanks for pointing this author out. Who else is good?

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