Though it’s a statistic of dubious reliability, the calculation that 3.7-million Americans claim to have been abducted by aliens is a good fit in Amazon’s blurb on David Boyle’s book The Tyranny of Numbers: Why Counting Can’t Make Us Happy.

Never before, the entry notes, “have we attempted to measure as much as we do today”, and yet in contenting ourselves with counting — “if it can’t be measured it can be ignored” — we overlook what numbers don’t tell us and, in particular, that “they won’t tell you precisely what causes what”.

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