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"Despite appearing to be a book of limited appeal - it is after all a book that looks at a set of statistical techniques - it is one that has immense social implications. We live in an age where ideologies have largely been cast aside and instead we are governed increasingly by a class of politicians and civil servants who aim for 'evidence-based' policy-making. When that evidence is based on statistically significant results that ignore any quantification of results then we all have reason to pay attention."
—London Book Review
(NA London Book Review 2008-12-23)
"Persuading professionals that their procedures are wrong is a long and lonely task. McCloskey, joined later by Ziliak, has been conducting such a crusade against the misuse of significance testing for over 25 years. This book presents their argument, gives lots of examples of the adverse consequences of misuse, and provides some history of the controversy, which dates from the origins of mathematical statistics."
—Ron P. Smith, Journal of Economic Issues
(Ron P. Smith Journal of Economic Issues 2009-01-01)
"The Cult of Statistical Significance has virtues that extend beyond its core message. It is clearly written and should be accessible to those who have neither formal training in statistics nor a desire to secure any. It is full of examples that illustrate why it is the strength of relationships and not their statistical significance that mainly matters."
—Richard Lempert, Law and Social Inquiry
(Richard Lempert Law and Social Inquiry 2009-01-01)
"A clear trade-off: how much confidence [in a result] is "enough" depends on the costs of further research and the benefits of extra precision. Ziliak and his co-author Deirdre McCloskey argue in The Cult of Statistical Significance that most academic disciplines have forgotten this trade-off . . . A sharp line for statistical significance makes no sense, and it has a cost."
—Tim Harford, The Financial Times
(Tim Harford Financial Times 2009-02-07)
"If not Fisherian significance, what should be the Holy Grail of statistics? Ziliak and McCloskey . . . answer: "Oomph." We should identify quantities that matter and measure them, not merely determine whether they can be distinguished from the null (meaning no effect) at some predetermined likelihood level. The validity of this point I take to be virtually self-evident. Yet statistical tests that ignore quantity remain pervasive, as the authors demonstrate through quantitative analyses of the contents of some very prestigious journals of economics, psychology, and medicine."
—Theodore Porter, Science
(Theodore Porter Science 2009-06-05)
"The book is a model of scholarship, transparent in its method, wide-reaching in its disciplinary expertise, and highly literate, including occasional haiku poems and humor such as, 'If the variable doesn't fit/you may not have to acquit.' The authors convincingly argue that environmental quality, jobs, and even lives are at stake."
—M. H. Maier, Glendale Community College, Choice
(M. H. Maier Choice 2009-10-21)
"Statistical significance," a technique that dominates medicine, economics, psychology, and many other scientific fields, has been a huge mistake. The outcome is a case study in bad science - how it originates and how it grows. These sciences, from agronomy to zoology, the authors find, engage "testing" that doesn't test and "estimating" that doesn't estimate. Heedless of magnitude and of a genuine engagement with alternative hypotheses, they "testimate." "Null hypothesis significance testing" is in other words a scientific train-wreck, about which a small group of statisticians have been warning for a century.Ziliak and McCloskey's book shows field by field how the wreck happened, reports on the fatalities, and offers a quantitative way forward. The facts will startle the outside reader: how could a group of brilliant scientists wander so far away from scientific magnitudes? And it will inspirit the scientists who seek conscious interpretations of "oomph" rather than arbitrary columns of t-tests: how can the statistical sciences get back on track, and fulfill their quantitative promise?Ziliak and McCloskey measure the disaster in their home field of economics, and in psychology, epidemiology, and medical science.They touch as well on law, biology, psychiatry, pharmacology, sociology, political science, education, forensics, and other fields in the grip of "significance." This book shows for the first time how wide the disaster is, and how bad for science, and it traces the problem to its historical, sociological, and philosophical roots. Many statisticians have complained about it before, but have complained science-by-science.