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Trust in Numbers

The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life

Theodore M. Porter

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Naturwissenschaften, Medizin, Informatik, Technik / Naturwissenschaften allgemein


A foundational work on historical and social studies of quantification

What accounts for the prestige of quantitative methods? The usual answer is that quantification is desirable in social investigation as a result of its successes in science. Trust in Numbers questions whether such success in the study of stars, molecules, or cells should be an attractive model for research on human societies, and examines why the natural sciences are highly quantitative in the first place. Theodore Porter argues that a better understanding of the attractions of quantification in business, government, and social research brings a fresh perspective to its role in psychology, physics, and medicine. Quantitative rigor is not inherent in science but arises from political and social pressures, and objectivity derives its impetus from cultural contexts. In a new preface, the author sheds light on the current infatuation with quantitative methods, particularly at the intersection of science and bureaucracy.

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Physicist, Experiment, Curriculum, Credibility, Engineer, Superiority (short story), Textbook, Statistics, Entrepreneurship, Subsidy, Political economy, Scientist, Probability, Elitism, Advertising, Measurement, Result, Physician, Positivism, Legislation, Consideration, Quantitative research, Theory, Public Knowledge, Quantification (science), Philosophy, Multitude, Disadvantage, Public sphere, Christianity, Insurance, Career, National Science Foundation, Natural science, Technology, Science, Political culture, Employment, Explanation, Skepticism, Life insurance, Apprenticeship, Inference, Institute of Actuaries, Psychology, Public utility, Economist, Archives nationales (France), Calculation, Bureaucrat, Standardization, Accountant, Statistical Science, Institution, Psychologist, Americans, Regulatory agency, Decision-making, Insider, Scientific method, Actuary, Neoclassical economics, Economics, Politics, Quantity, Subjectivity, Prediction, Philosopher, Tax, Inspection, Self-interest, Phenomenon, Social science, Bushel, Reason, Sociology, Agriculture, Accounting, Rhetoric, Statistician, Criticism, Engineering, Handbook, Uncertainty, Salary, Writing, Interdependence, Pure mathematics, Political science, Quill, Arbitrariness, Statistic, Distrust, Publication, Common sense, Mathematics, Negotiation, Ideology, Cost–benefit analysis, Prejudice