Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

What is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? Is Freakonomics really on to something (still #2 on Times Best Seller list after 18 weeks) or is it just one more way of making a headline out of spurious analysis?

In this reader's humble opinion, a little bit of both. I heartily recommend the book, because it dramatically illustrates one of my biggest concerns about the direction of much of science and politics today. We hear a stat or the press hears a stat, and we just run with it. As just reported by another science skeptic, John Ioannidis in New Scientist, most scientific papers are probably wrong.

Levitt and Dubner take an outside of the box look at a list of things we just assume to be true and stand them on their head with fresh statistical analysis. In reading the details of their methods and conclusions with a skeptical eye, I felt that they made some pretty serious errors, too.

I would be interested to see what they would do with subjects like evolutionary theory, global warming, and supply side economics.

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