Is Janice Shaw Crouse Smarter than a Fifth Grader?
December 14th, 2011
I’ve written about anti-gay activist Janice Shaw Crouse in the past. More than once, in fact. Her arguments tend to be so off-the-mark, it’s hard to decide whether she’s deliberately dishonest or just heroically incompetent.
She’s at it again. In the midst of a calm, measured, and false presentation against homosexuality, she says this, as if it were significant:
Homosexual relationships generally last only a fraction of the time that most marriages last. Very few homosexual relationships last longer than two or three years. In fact, it’s rare that they last more than one and a half years.
She doesn’t say where she got these numbers. Perhaps she doesn’t want her viewers to find out she commonly uses obsolete data in ways that piss off her sources. The problem in this case, though, is that Crouse is comparing relationships in general to marriages in particular. And if you do that, you can just as easily say:
HETEROSEXUAL relationships generally last only a fraction of the time that most marriages last. Very few HETEROSEXUAL relationships are long-term relationships.
Half of women don’t marry until after their 26th birthday. For men, it’s even later. And you know what? Before that, they date, having relationships that a few weeks, a few months, occasionally a few years. As a result, the great majority of their relationships don’t last as long as most marriages.
How many three-month relationships can you have in your twenties? And how many twenty-year marriages can you have in your life? This isn’t about hetero/homo — it’s about arithmetic.
I’m sure Janice Shaw Crouse knows arithmetic. She’s got a Ph.D. in, well, something, and she’s a paid expert on, you know, stuff, so she ought to understand the gross error in comparing length of relationships to the length of marriages. Hell, even Herman Cain understands the difference between apples and oranges.
And that brings us back to the original question: Is she dishonest or incompetent?*
Believe it or not, I’m now leaning toward incompetence. I’m reading Thinking, Fast and Slow, by psychologist (and 2002 Nobel Prize winner in economics) Daniel Kahneman. He demonstrates that humans are bad intuitive statisticians. Instead, we makes sense of numbers by inventing causal explanations even when they don’t belong — especially if the explanations fit our pre-existing bias. Then, once our brains have come up with a story that feels coherent, we interpret all information in light of that story, avoiding or rationalizing away any contrary logic or data (the book is fascinating; I’ll be writing more about it in the next few months).
This isn’t a conservative trait or a liberal one — it’s universal and human. The only way out of it is to bump up your own self-awareness and deliberately apply some critical reasoning to your own bias-ridden intuitions. That’s hard (it’s hard for everyone) but not too much to expect from a Ph.D. writing a statement she’s planning to read on camera. Apparently, though, this is something Janice Shaw Crouse is unwilling — or unable — to do.
*I understand this is not an either/or proposition.