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Book review of “The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics” by Tim Harford. Harford is an award-winning columnist, broadcaster, and economist.

Harford states in The Data Detective “We shouldn’t be suspicious of statistics, we need to understand what they mean and how they can improve our lives.” and “I want to help you understand the logic behind statistical truths and escape the grip of flawed logic, emotions, and cognitive biases that shape falsehoods.”.

Here’s a partial list of the ideas discussed by Harford.

  • How to Lie with Statistics
  • Search Your Feelings
  • Ponder Your Personal Experience
  • Avoid Premature Enumeration
  • Step Back and Enjoy the View
  • Get the Backstory
  • Ask Who Is Missing
  • Demand Transparency When the Computer Says No
  • Don’t Take Statistical Bedrock for Granted
  • Remember That Misinformation Can Be Beautiful, Too
  • Keep an Open Mind

In the chapter, Search Your Feelings, Hartford cites this quote from The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

  • Luke Skywalker: “No . . . No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!”
    Darth Vader: “Search your feelings, you know it to be true!”

Ok DBA colleagues, this book WILL make you rethink how to use statistics. It’s all about the data and you HAVE the data. Statistics can be the enemy, and used to mislead and confuse us. Reading the book will show you how to erase your biases, replace them with new ideas, and delve into statistics in a new and meaningful way. Pre COVID-19, in the moment COVID-19, and post COVID-19 accentuated how statistical truths may be falsehoods.

I give the book “The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics” by Tim Harford, a thumbs up. Right?

This book review first appeared on

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