Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception
Proofiness The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception Author:Charles Seife The bestselling author of Zero shows how mathematical misinformation pervades-and shapes-our daily lives. — According to MSNBC, having a child makes you stupid. You actually lose IQ points. Good Morning America has announced that natural blondes will be extinct within two hundred years. Pundits estimated that there were more... more » than a million demonstrators at a tea party rally in Washington, D.C., even though roughly sixty thousand were there. Numbers have peculiar powers-they can disarm skeptics, befuddle journalists, and hoodwink the public into believing almost anything.
"Proofiness," as Charles Seife explains in this eye-opening book, is the art of using pure mathematics for impure ends, and he reminds readers that bad mathematics has a dark side. It is used to bring down beloved government officials and to appoint undeserving ones (both Democratic and Republican), to convict the innocent and acquit the guilty, to ruin our economy, and to fix the outcomes of future elections. This penetrating look at the intersection of math and society will appeal to readers of Freakonomics and the books of Malcolm Gladwell.« less
Excellent book. He clearly describes the math behind statistics in an easy to understand way and shows how it can be distorted to produce inaccurate views. I especially liked his analysis of the Bush v Gore problems in Florida and the Franken - Coleman senate election in Minnesota.
This work at first seems promising at pointing out numerical fallacies. But the author rides his one idea hard, ascribing almost anything he doesn't like to "proofiness", when the cases he cites often resulted from using the WRONG numbers, and even had nothing to do with numbers.
He also has a weakness for name-calling, and shows failings outside his field. Most notably, "casuistry" does NOT mean "making a misleading argument through seemingly sound principles" any more than "Jesuit" mean "nasty sneaky devious person". It is the study of moral CASES.