Is Janice Shaw Crouse Smarter than a Fifth Grader?

Rob Tisinai

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.

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2011

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.

Or read BTB regularly. The authors here try very hard to apply logic and consistency, knowing that if they compare apples to oranges some reader will call them on it. Be part of the BTB community for a while and you will instinctively begin to say “oh really?” when you hear a statistic or asserted “fact”.

The book sounds fascinating. I’m putting it on my Nook list to buy.

TwirlyGirly

December 14th, 2011

Rob,

Apparently Janice Shaw Crouse graduated with a degree in Speech and English from Asbury College in 1961, then received a doctorate in Communications Theory from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1979. Neither of which qualify her as an expert in the topics on which she opines. (And as you pointed out, math isn’t her strong suit, either).

Jim Burroway

December 14th, 2011

I suspect if you were to ask Crouse where she got her statistic, she would say it came from a “Dutch Study.” In which case, her statistic is bogus for precisely the reason you gave: she’s comparing relationships with marriage.

Here’s the info on the “Dutch Study”:

http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/Articles/000,003.htm

Richard Rush

December 14th, 2011

Like Janice Shaw Crouse, virtually none of the anti-gay zealots have credentials in the subject they talk about most. For example, Dr. Michael Brown, recently self-published a 691 page tome: A Queer Thing Happened to America | And what a long, strange trip it’s been. Take a look at his Academic C.V. to see his impressive credentials on the subject: http://askdrbrown.org/about-dr-brown/academic-c-v

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2011

Well … I’m not exactly sure that engineer (Jim), accountant (me), architect (Daniel) or instructional designer (Rob) are exactly the credentials that most qualify one as experts on the subjects that BTB covers. Sometimes one’s self-education on a subject, study, and experience are better qualifiers.

It isn’t Brown’s CV that is the problem. Actually, he is quite qualified to talk about the Bible and how the various passages can and should be interpreted. Rather, it is Brown’s bias that leaves him incapable of reaching any conclusions that don’t fit his preconceptions.

TwirlyGirly

December 14th, 2011

TIm writes: “Well … I’m not exactly sure that engineer (Jim), accountant (me), architect (Daniel) or instructional designer (Rob) are exactly the credentials that most qualify one as experts on the subjects that BTB covers.”

That may be true. However, one of the reasons I trust BTB is usually you cite and link to the study/article/etc. you’re analyzing or quoting, allowing the reader to verify what you’ve said for themselves.

The “experts” we’re talking about don’t do that. They quote secondary sources, throw out “facts” without revealing their origins, misrepresent and quote-mine and just plain make up stuff.

Honesty and transparency go hand in hand. As Dr. Phil says, “People who have nothing to hide, hide nothing.”

It’s funny you mentioned the “Dutch Study,” as it was a Google search on a quote from that study that led me to my first visit to BTB a couple of years ago. Someone I was debating online quoted from that study, it sounded “fishy” to me – and as it turned out, my instricts were correct.

Now when I’m debating and need to verify a claim someone makes, BTB is the FIRST resource I check.

Argo

December 14th, 2011

“engineer, accountant, architect, instructional designer”
No wonder I feel so comfortable here — with the value BTB puts in rational discourse.

andrew

December 15th, 2011

The causal connection fallacy is particularly powerful and pernicious. It’s often counter-intuitive, and it plays particularly well into any party that engages in anti-intellectual strategy and “dumbs down” their rhetoric.

This is precisely the reason Pirates are revered amongst Pastafarians (they will end global warming, you see… look it up – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster#Pirates_and_global_warming).

So, although the fallacy is non-partisan, the demonization of leading thinkers as “elitist” *is*. When some choose to discuss policy in terms of causality, they are shouted down by those who want the simple explanation that fits on a bumper sticker, and that appears to have better fit the description of the GOP strategy since the 1970’s than the Dems.

That said, it behooves us to question anything anytime we hear someone cite information, especially when it tells us something we want to hear… Who’s telling, what stake do they have in it, how trustworth, what conclusions have they really drawn, and did how did they arrive at things. Scarely possible to discover from print media these days, and notably drowned out on the web…

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