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Facts Are Never Simple


Auther of Factfulness

writer icon Emma Lindgren     Gapminder   |   Culture     🕐 12. Feb. 2019


In his review of ‘Factfulness – why things are better than you think’ by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund, sociologist Roland Paulsen cautions against the  simplified and optimistic view of facts presented in the book.

“It doesn’t so much matter what the correct facts are, [what matters] is what is being interpreted from them and what is actually worth presenting”, Paulsen says in relation to his critique. 

Moreover, he feels that the book's emphasis on success stories and ‘good’ statistics, such as an increase in lifespan or income, take precedence over more negatively charged data on climate change and income gaps.

The critique does not end there.
In his two DN debate articles, Paulsen finds that Rosling and the other co-authors behind ‘Factfulness’ fail to provide enough critical discussions on issues of global inequality and economy in their due contexts.

“When addressing inequalities [Rosling] wrote that it does not come down to rich and poor, [but] that rather humanity can be divided up into four different income levels. These were indiscriminately categorised into groups of 'those who earn less than US$2 a day' and those who earn 'over $2, $8 and $32' respectively. And 'Poof – like magic', the income bracket of the really rich [the richest 1%] was just gone”, Paulsen argues

The focus on the richest 1% continues, and Paulsen draws a parallel between how if the richest were to pay 0.5% higher taxes, according to recent Oxfam calculations, it would cover enough medical expenses to save 3.3 million peoples' lives.

He also finds that other, similarly difficult, issues are not addressed sufficiently. As a consequence he asks if, when a book calls itself ‘Factfulness’, it should perhaps do a better job of including all possible findings into the midst of its posited truths.

Other areas singled out by the sociologist include statistics that “illustrate how, for instance, giant pandas and black rhinos have had an increase in populations, yet [they] forget to mention that biodiversity is still rapidly declining worldwide”.



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