What is the book on the public's knowledge of statistics that I have seen reviewed?
March 19, 2007 11:34 PM   Subscribe

Help me find this quote and book on the general public's misunderstanding of statistics.

A while back I saw a review for a book in which a quote was used along the lines of, "in the twentieth century an education in statistics will as important as that in [literature?, grammar?, something else?]" As you can probably tell, I can't remember the quote properly.

The book that was being reviewed was a popular science book showing that this prediction for statistics never happened, and that people are woefully unknowledgeable about statistics. It looked pretty interesting (although evidently not interesting enough that I'd actually remember a single thing about it), so, can anybody please help me identify the quote and the book? All attempts to retrace my steps have failed.
posted by chorltonmeateater to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Two books immediately come to mind; you can root around and see if the quote is related to one of them:
How to Lie with Statistics
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:47 PM on March 19, 2007

The quote is probably "Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write" - HG Wells.

I think the book is most likely to be something by John Allen Paulos, if it's not Innumeracy it may be A Mathematician Reads The Newspaper.
posted by teleskiving at 2:20 AM on March 20, 2007

The book you are looking for may not be Fooled By Randomness, but it is worth taking a look at. FbR considers not only the public at large, but also specialists who should know more about statistics but don't (doctors misusing false-positive numbers, financial analysts who are easily wiped out by "black swan" events). Despite being a "financial" book, it doesn't assume any specialized knowledge, and uses many examples from outside of the financial world.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:13 AM on March 20, 2007

I see references to H.G. Wells , but don't see the citation.
posted by MtDewd at 9:46 AM on March 20, 2007

These guys say Mankind in the Making, H.G. Wells, 1903
but I don't see it there.
posted by MtDewd at 9:57 AM on March 20, 2007

Thanks teleskiving, that is indeed the quote I was thinking of (not that it bears all that much resemblance to how I remembered it). I still can't find the exact web page I was looking at that time, but it doesn't really matter because the suggested titles all look like the sort of thing I was after. Thanks all!
posted by chorltonmeateater at 11:33 AM on March 20, 2007

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