CAMBRIDGE, England – Friends of mine who work in the arts and humanities have started doing something unusual, at least for them: poring over data. This is due to the pandemic, of course. Every day, they check COVID-19 case numbers, how slowly or quickly the R factor is declining, and how many people in our area got vaccinated the day before.
Meanwhile, social media are full of claims and counterclaims about all manner of other data. Is global poverty declining or increasing? What is the real level of U.S. unemployment? The scrutiny, sometimes leading to tetchy arguments, results from people’s desire to cite — or challenge — the authority of data to support their position or worldview.