Essay: THE SCIENCE & SNARES OF STATISTICS

AMERICANS believe in numbers. As a democracy, the U.S. chooses its leaders statistically, so to speak, by the simple process of counting votes. Numbers measure the economy, record social progress, identify people on credit card rolls and bank accounts. "In a numerically conscious society," says Rand Corp. Researcher Amrom H. Katz, "progress is measured by numbers, not by quality."

In fact, the American appetite for statistics seems insatiable, and the statisticians obligingly crank out an unending supply, ranging from the annual per-capita consumption of paper (540 Ibs.) to the number of dishes...

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