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US hardback
Feb 2007
Useless Arithmetic
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Columbia University Press
ISBN 0231132123
230 pp
Useless Arithmetic
by Orrin H. Pilkey & Linda Pilkey-Jarvis

A timely revelation of the degree to which the quantitative mathematical models policy makers and government administrators use to form environmental policies can be--and generally are--based on unrealistic and simply false assumptions, yielding answers that lead to widespread misperceptions and policies that do more harm than good. Intended for the general, nonmathematician reader and using examples from throughout the environmental sciences, the authors show how unquestioned faith in computer models is no substitute for the hard data and sound judgment of experienced scientific fieldwork. Apt for an age of computerized religion in which Garbage In transforms so easily into unquestionable Gospel Out.

"Using concrete examples, the authors cut through the scientific jargon to show how and why many aspects of the environment are under threat because of the slavish adherence to misleading mathematical models by their technical and political advocates."

-- Victor R. Baker, University of Arizona

" Useless Arithmetic is an important book for those of us who believe that environmental science and policy should be self-correcting on the basis of experience. Written for lay persons, it draws attention to a broad range of sobering experiences typically ignored in the over-promotion of quantitative models for predictive purposes."

-- Ron Brunner, Center for Public Policy Research, University of Colorado, Boulder

"[I]t is important to remember that model sensitivity assesses the parameter's importance in the model, not necessarily in nature. If a model itself is a poor representation of reality, determining the sensitivity of an individual parameter in the model is a meaningless pursuit."

--New York Times

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