Or put another way, if we approach this using the techniques and assumptions of the Freakonomics books, we can show that by foregoing a rigorous internal review process the authors were simply acting rationally.
Let's look at some specifics. Kaiser Fung raises a number of questions about the statistics in the "sex" chapter (the one about female longevity is particularly damning) and I'm sure he overlooked some -- not because there was anything wrong with his critique but because finding and interpreting reliable data on a century of sex and prostitution is extraordinarily difficult. It involves measurement covert behavior that can be affected by zoning, police procedures, city politics, shifts in organized crime,and countless other factors. Furthermore these same factors can bias the collection of data in nasty and unpredictable ways.
You can go on and on in this vein. It's terrifically shoddy statistical work. You'd get dinged for this in a college class. But it's in a book written by a celebrated economist and a leading journalist. Moreover, the topic isn't whether people prefer chocolate or vanilla, but whether people should drive drunk. It is shoddy statistical work, in other words, that allows people to conclude that respected authorities believe it is safer for them to drive home drunk than walk home drunk. It's shoddy statistical work that could literally kill somebody. That makes it more than bad statistics. It makes it irresponsible.Let me be clear. I am not saying that Levitt and Dubner knew there were mistakes here. Quite the opposite. I'm saying they had a highly saleable manuscript ready to go which contained no errors that they knew of, and that any additional checking of the facts, the analyses or logic in the manuscript could only serve to make the book less saleable, to delay its publication or to put the authors in the ugly position of publishing something they knew to be wrong.
It's the nature of interesting-but-true facts that they're most interesting if true, and even more interesting if they're convincingly true.Perhaps, but Levitt and Dubner have about four million reasons that say he's wrong.