Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics. On the one hand, if this text is true, the words often attributed to Mark Twain have likely never been more true. If this text is true, you can effectively toss out any and all probaballistic claims you’ve ever heard. Which means virtually everything about any social science (psychology, sociology, etc). The vast bulk of climate science. Indeed, most anything that cannot be repeatedly accurately measured in verifiable ways is pretty much *gone*. On the other, the claims herein could be seen as constituting yet another battle in yet another Ivory Tower world with little real-world implications at all. Indeed, one section in particular – where the author imagines a super computer trained in the ways of the opposing camp and an unknowing statistics student – could be argued as being little more than a straight up straw man attack. And it is these very points – regarding the possibility of this being little more than an Ivory Tower battle and the seeming straw man – that form part of the reasoning for the star deduction. The other two points are these: 1) Lack of bibliography. As the text repeatedly and painfully makes the point of astounding claims requiring astounding proof, the fact that this bibliography is only about 10% of this (advance reader copy, so potentially fixable before publication) copy is quite remarkable. Particularly when considering that other science books this reader has read within the last few weeks have made far less astounding claims and yet had much lengthier bibliographies. 2) There isn’t a way around this one: This is one *dense* book. I fully cop to not being able to follow *all* of the math, but the explanations seem reasonable themselves. This is simply an extremely dense book that someone that hasn’t had at least Statistics 1 in college likely won’t be able to follow at all, even as it not only proposes new systems of statistics but also follows the historical development of statistics and statistical thinking. And it is based, largely, on a paper that came out roughly when this reader was indeed *in* said Statistics 1 class in college – 2003. As to the actual mathematical arguments presented here and their validity, this reader will simply note that he has but a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science – and thus at least *some* knowledge of the field, but isn’t anywhere near being able to confirm or refute someone possessing a PhD in some Statistics-adjacent field. But as someone who reads many books across many genres and disciplines, the overall points made in this one… well, go back to the beginning of the review. If true, they are indeed earth quaking if not shattering. But one could easily see them to just as likely be just another academic war. In the end, this is a book that is indeed recommended, though one may wish to assess their own mathematical and statistical knowledge before attempting to read this polemic.
Interesting and Applicable. This is a truly remarkable work that traces the sociological and biological impetuses for and restrictions on migration at levels from the individual through the species. Shah does a superb job of combining history and science to make her case, and even impeaches at least a few organizations currently in the headlines along the way – even while clearly having no way of knowing that she was doing so, as the book was written before they became so prominent more recently. Spanning from the guy that developed the modern taxonomic system through late breaking issues with the Trump Presidency, Shah shows a true depth to her research and builds a largely compelling case. Very much recommended.
Disappointment. British. Millenial. Sociologist. How you feel about the prior three words, perhaps possibly in combination, will very likely determine how highly you rate this book. As this is a three star review, one can easily see that I myself fall into this. I *am* a Millenial that has presented at a sociological conference while in college, despite being a Computer Science major, though I am admittedly American and generally have as much use for Britons as I do of anyone else. That is, if I don’t directly know you, I don’t particularly care about you – either for your better or for your ill, though I generally hope we all experience good things rather than bad ones.
All of that to say that the text at hand is a solid conversational topic, and for the most part an intriguing examination that requires a deeper thinking. HOWEVER, there are key points where the author’s own prejudices and lack of knowledge shine through almost blindingly, and ultimately in his attempt to get away from what he calls “package deals”… he winds up creating “package deals” of his own. For example, conflating anti-abortion beliefs with gun control beliefs, rather than their more natural anti-capital punishment and anti-war beliefs. Recommended, but think hard about what you are reading.