POLITICAL SCIENCE

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

Random. Aug. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9780525509189. $28. POL SCI
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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.

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