More or Less

In a recent post I included a link to an article that showed how Statistics can be used to disseminate bullshit. That article was written by Tim Harford, who describes himself as ‘The Undercover Economist’, which is also the title of his blog. Besides the blog, Tim has written several books, one of which is also called ‘The Undercover Economist‘.

As you can probably guess from all of this, Tim is an economist who, through his writing and broadcasting, aims to bring the issues of economics to as wide an audience as possible. But there’s often a very thin boundary between what’s economics and what’s Statistics, and a lot of Tim’s work can equally be viewed from a statistical perspective.

The reason I mention all this is that Tim is also the presenter of a Radio 4 programme ‘More or Less’, whose aim is to…

…try to make sense of the statistics which surround us.

‘More or Less’ is a weekly half-hour show, which covers 3 or 4 topics each week. You can find a list of, and link to, recent episodes here.

As an example, at the time of writing this post the latest episode includes the following items:

  • An investigation of a claim in a recent research paper that claimed floods had worsened by a factor of 15  since 2005;
  • An investigation into a claim by the Labour Party that a recent resurgence in the number of cases of Victorian diseases is due to government  austerity policy;
  • An interview with Matt Parker, who was referenced in this blog here, about his new book ‘Humble Pi’;
  • An investigation into a claim in The Sunday Times that drinking a bottle of wine per week is equivalent to a losing £2,400 per year in terms of reduction in happiness.

Ok, now, admittedly, the whole tone of the programme is about as ‘Radio 4’ as you could possibly get. But still, as a means for learning more about the way Statistics is used – and more often than not, mis-used – by politicians, salespeople, journalists and so on, it’s a great listen and I highly recommend it.

If Smartodds loves Statistics was a radio show, this is what it would be like (but less posh).

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