Statistics Can Be an Effective Way to Mislead People

Mark Regnerus, professor at the University of Texas in Austin, wrote the article linked below:  “Media Gush over New Study, Only to Find Same-Sex Parents More Irritated with Their Children.”  As for the new study to which he refers, a typical headline from mainstream and social media outlets has been “Same-Sex Parenting Has No Negative Effects on Children’s Health, Study Finds.”  The purpose of the Regnerus article is to show just how inappropriate that headline actually is.

The Regnerus response begins with this sub-heading:

The social science on same-sex households with children isn’t settled. It’s just plain unsettling.

In the article, Regnerus exposes some of the statistical techniques used to present social science studies in such a way that they seem to support politically-correct social policy.  Specifically, he describes how a recent study of same-sex “families” is being used to reinforce views that a closer look at the study won’t reinforce.  He also shows how a negative aspect of same-sex parenting, identified by the study, is being downplayed by those who don’t want to admit negative aspects of same-sex parenting are possible.

This reminds me of the old saying, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  It also reminds me of a book that I recall being given to read in college for my introduction-to-statistics class:  How to Lie with Statistics.  The point of both is that it is easy to fool people with statistics.  This is because 1) statistics can be easily manipulated, and 2) statistics sound so…well, “factual”!

Though this article is well-written, it still can be considered a little tedious to read by those of us who did not grow up wanting to be statisticians (though anyone who thinks that same-sex parenting is not a problem needs to read it).  Regnerus does, however, show us specifically how statistics are being manipulated by the enemies of biblical authority to make us think that we can’t trust what God says about the proper way to do marriage.  We don’t need a social science study to know that human beings are best ushered into the world, and into adulthood, by a dedicated mother and father.

Beware of social science studies.  They not all bogus, but they’re certainly not all right.  Most of all, beware of social science study headlines – for sometimes they are all we have time to read.  And when you read the headline, you’re not reading the data – you’re reading someone’s interpretation of the data.  I would trust a headline from someone like Mark Regnerus, but there are many statisticians and writers who are either unknown, or who have proven themselves unworthy to be trusted.

(a 6-minute read; 1,547 words)

Source: Media Gush over New Study, Only to Find Same-Sex Parents More Irritated with Their Children | Public Discourse

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