Thursday, February 17, 2011

Utopians Wielding Stats

Have you heard that Christians in America get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians?

Don't believe it. It is not true.

While we do have our fair share of problems, we don't need to create a crisis mentality based upon faulty use of statistics. I know that I have committed this error. I'm slowly learning, I trust, to be more careful. Whenever you hear or read a statistic without context, it is virtually meaningless. Take it with a grain of salt, especially if whoever is using it is saying, "We have to fix this NOW!"


Anonymous said...

Thanks Jason! Very interesting.

Jason Parker said...

You are welcome, Chad. Speaking of the use of statistics, you are the expert I should consult!

I trust you are your family are doing well!

Anonymous said...

Well, not sure about that one. :) The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know! Isn't that true with so many things... Take care. Chad

ThirstyMan said...

Pardon my cynicism, but the stats are still pretty grim when you consider that, collectively, Catholics are less likely than conservative Protestants to divorce, and active, conservative Jews seem to have the best rate of successful marriages. One site I looked at said that only 6% of (Mormon)Temple marriages end in divorce.

So the question that begs to be asked is, "Why do so MANY Christians divorce compared to unbelievers or false believers?"

Jason Parker said...

That is a worthwhile question, but it is completely beside the point of this post. The point is that those who have utopian visions will often use statistics which create false impressions. That becomes especially dangerous when they attempt to move people to certain actions based upon those false impressions.

ThirstyMan said...

Yes, that is kind of what I was stating above. It seems like FOTF is using statistics to push forward an agenda - an agenda that says that things aren't really as bad as they seem. Because if things were as bad as reported, that wouldn't reflect very well upon their family focused ministry.

Curiously enough, I heard from someone today who told me that the divorce rate in El Paso County is the highest in the nation at 70%. Right in the heart of conservative Evangelicalism.

Maybe the Emperor (FOTF's conservative Utopia) has no clothes after all.

Jason Parker said...

Two thoughts in response to your post, Tracy.

I'm not sure how making things seem better than they are would advance FotF's agenda in any way.

Second, your second comment commits exactly the kind of error that I am warning against in this post. You heard from someone that El Paso County has a 70% divorce rate. Did you check it out and see if the figure is accurate? What does that figure mean? What data are they using to get a 70% divorce rate? What do they mean by "divorce rate"? You see, just hearing a statistic by itself doesn't prove or imply anything. Yet you have implied something by the way you used it. :-)

Third, (ok, ok, I know I said two thoughts) it seems like the statistics themselves have very little to do with your response. I think you stated what is stimulating your response in the first three words of your initial comment. In other words, you don't trust the source, so you question the statistics. That's something we all do, but going after the motive of those who publish the stats is unhelpful, at best. The right thing to do is to study carefully and reasonably why those statistics might be wrong.

The actual take-away that FotF gathered from these statistics is something that you and I would agree with. FotF did not try to snooker us into something through these stats. So I'm not sure why you object to them so strongly.

Anyway, I don't want this thread to turn into a debate about FotF. The main point is, think carefully about how statistics are used.