Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World

Random. Aug. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9780525509189. $28. POL SCI
In recent years, data has been driving various political and societal decisions, and this work by Bergstrom (biology) and West (iSchool, both Univ. of Washington, Seattle) is much-needed for the times, as the authors effectively demonstrate how facts, statistics, and data can be misconstrued and, even far worse, manipulated. People often assume that statistics are unassailable, but the authors prove that bias is ever present and succeed in presenting a well-rounded review on topics such as Brandolini’s law and it impacts modern politics. Readers don’t need to have a background in statistical analysis to understand the basic tenets of data manipulation—Bergstrom and West show how biases are often woven into data, knowingly and unknowingly, and can be found within the research itself and/or the types of data collected. They also warn against statistical finality because science is continuously evolving. Other inherent dangers include the forgery of data targets and the lack of clarity within charts and graphs.
VERDICT Highly recommended for anyone wishing to navigate successfully the daily deluge of information we are encountering more and more.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing