Brad DeLong says that Andrew Sullivan, like most reporters, is innumerate. This doesn’t surprise me at all, really. I know a lot of highly intelligent, overeducated people. Most are very good at words or numbers. Few are very good at both. While I did well enough in my stats classes and am at least conversant enough in numbers to be skeptical of bad reporting, I nonetheless quite often overlook obvious points and make errors such as Sullivan makes here.
Temple math professor John Allen Paulos has made a lot of money over the years writing on this general topic, including Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences (1989) and A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (1995). I commend both to you. They’re written at a very intuitive level so that even a non-stats geek can get the point.
Oh, I quite enjoyed the old, “How to lie with statistics” (not by the same author, but very interesting) and the somewhat newer, “How to lie with maps.”
BTW, Paulos has a new book out concerning his (mis)adventures playing the stock market. Really good stuff on heuristics.
I enjoyed his explanation about the “anchoring effect” which applies beyond numeracy.
Hey, give these journalists a break. they haven’t even been able to figure out that the Big Ten has 11 teams.
Sullivan should refrain from having strong opinions about things he does not understand.
So, GT, Sully should just shut down his blog, then? 😉
I think your recommendation would spell the end of the entire blogosphere.