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Has anyone read "Willful Ignorance" by Herbert Weisberg?

  1. May 22, 2017 #1
    (To any passing moderator: Feel free to move this to "statistics" forum if you feel that would be more appropriate.)

    Although my "to read" list is already too long, I have lately been getting increasingly interested in learning the basics of conditional probability, including Bayesian analysis. My proposed introductory reading consists of a Dover re-issuing of an old but decent book, Introduction to Probability by John E. Freund, most of which I had previously studied many years ago when I was learning classic probability; the probability & statistics sections of a recent book on critical thinking, Weaponized Lies, by Daniel J. Levitin; and two "Very Short Introduction" books that touch on conditional probability, Philosophy of Science and Risk.

    However in looking for additional beginner books on Bayes, I came across a 2014 book from Wiley called Willful Ignorance: The Mismeasure of Uncertainty, by Herbert I. Weisberg, who is identified as a statistician, author, and consultant; also as "Founder of Causalytics, LLC, which develops innovative technology for predictive analytics for both medical research and business applications." The book's premise looks fascinating. I searched for reviews online and only found two, both quite positive: this from a blog on understanding statistics and this from Computing Reviews, an industry web site. I then searched PF for the title and author's last name; alas "no results found."

    So if anyone has read it, I'd be interested in your take. I am probably going to order a trial copy & send it back if I find it's completely over my head, or possibly keep it if it's only partly over my head.. Here is from the blurb on Wiley's page for the book:

    Through a series of colorful stories about great thinkers and the problems they chose to solve, the author traces the historical evolution of probability and explains how statistical methods have helped to propel scientific research. However, the past success of statistics has depended on vast, deliberate simplifications amounting to willful ignorance, and this very success now threatens future advances in medicine, the social sciences, and other fields. Limitations of existing methods result in frequent reversals of scientific findings and recommendations, to the consternation of both scientists and the lay public.

    Willful Ignorance: The Mismeasure of Uncertainty exposes the fallacy of regarding probability as the full measure of our uncertainty . . . The author outlines a path toward the re-engineering of data analysis to help close these gaps and accelerate scientific discovery . . . especially pertinent for professionals in statistics and related fields, including practicing and research clinicians, biomedical and social science researchers, business leaders, and policy-makers.​
  2. jcsd
  3. May 22, 2017 #2


    Staff: Mentor

  4. May 22, 2017 #3
    Yes, those were the reviews I mentioned.
  5. May 24, 2017 #4


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    Education Advisor

    Here is an additional positive review by Stephen Few, a statistician and consultant/entrepreneur specializing in data visualization and business intelligence.


    A mention of this book can also be found among the comments section of Columbia University statistics professor Andrew Gelman's blog (who, as you can probably figure out, has been a long-time proponent of Bayesian inference and Bayesian statistics):

  6. May 24, 2017 #5
    Thanks for that review, I hadn't seen that.
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