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Lumifer comments on Fact Posts: How and Why - Less Wrong

74 Post author: sarahconstantin 02 December 2016 06:55PM

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Comment author: Lumifer 07 December 2016 06:49:02PM *  0 points [-]

So, undergrad textbooks. Let me quote Andrew Gelman (a professor of statistics at Columbia):

Dear Major Academic Publisher,

You just sent me, unsolicited, an introductory statistics textbook that is 800 pages and weighs about 5 pounds. It’s the 3rd edition of a book by someone I’ve never heard of. That’s fine—a newcomer can write a good book. The real problem is that the book is crap. It’s just the usual conventional intro stat stuff. The book even has a table of the normal distribution on the inside cover! How retro is that?

The book is bad in so many many ways, I don’t really feel like going into it. There’s nothing interesting here at all, the examples are uniformly fake, and I really can’t imagine this is a good way to teach this material to anybody. None of it makes sense, and a lot of the advice is out-and-out bad (for example, a table saying that a p-value between 0.05 and 0.10 is “moderate evidence” and that a p-value between 0.10 and 0.15 is “slight evidence”). This is not at all the worst thing I saw; I’m just mentioning it here to give a sense of the book’s horrible mixture of ignorance and sloppiness.

I could go on and on. But, again, I don’t want to do so.

I can’t blame the author, who, I’m sure, has no idea what he is doing in any case. It would be as if someone hired me to write a book about, ummm, I dunno, football. Or maybe rugby would be an even better analogy, since I don’t even know the rules to that one.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 08 December 2016 10:19:55PM *  1 point [-]

Yes, it's worthwhile to spend quite a lot of time on choosing which textbooks to study seriously, at least a fraction of the time needed to study them, and to continually reevaluate the choice as you go on.