Excerpt from a review of a forthcoming and exceptionally timely book
Charles Seife is steaming mad about all the ways that numbers are being twisted to erode our democracy. We’re used to being lied to with words (“I am not a crook”; “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”). But numbers? They’re supposed to be cold, hard and objective. Numbers don’t lie, and they brook no argument. They’re the best kind of facts we have.
And that’s precisely why they can be so powerfully, persuasively misleading, as Seife argues in his passionate new book, “Proofiness.” Seife, a veteran science writer who teaches journalism at New York University, examines the many ways that people fudge with numbers, sometimes just to sell more moisturizer but also to ruin our economy, rig our elections, convict the innocent and undercount the needy. Many of his stories would be darkly funny if they weren’t so infuriating.