Lies, damn lies, and statistics communitarianism!
At this point, right now, we have over 32,000 people in Philly who have permits to carry (and) actually walk the streets of Philly with a gun. We only have 6,400 police officers. We're outnumbered nearly 5-to-1 with people who are on the streets with guns...

-- Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson

For every child killed with a gun, four are wounded.

-- The Brady Campaign

....a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be used to commit homicide, suicide, or an accidental killing than it is to be used to kill in self-defense. Residents of homes containing guns are five times more likely to experience a suicide and three times more likely to experience a homicide than residents without guns.

-- Ceasefire (quoting Arthur Kellerman)

Only 1 percent of the homosexual population in America will die of old age. The average life expectancy for a homosexual in the United States of America is 43 years of age. A lesbian can only expect to live to be 45 years of age. Homosexuals represent 2 percent of the population, yet today they're carrying 60 percent of the known cases of syphilis.

-- Rev. Rod Parsley (quoting Paul Cameron)

86 percent of pedophiles described themselves as homosexual or bisexual.

-- Steve Baldwin

...the average homosexual ingests the fecal material of 23 different men each year.

-- Brian J. Kopp, DPM

If you are a responsible gun owner who hasn't shot yourself and doesn't plan to shoot police officers, you're likely to feel a bit insulted by the gun statistics, and if you're a homosexual who is in good health and hasn't been munching on turds or preying on boys, you might not be too happy with the gay statistics. (And if you're a homosexual gun owner, may God have pity on you, you poor soul.)

The reason that so many individual gun owners or individual homosexuals would be irritated is precisely because of that individuality. There is nothing individualized about statistics. They are the antithesis of individuality.

And communitarians tend to see mankind as a vast actuarial table. There are no individuals; there are groups, demographics, trends, tendencies, correlations, extrapolations, probabilities, and possibilities. And in politics, there are "climates" and "slippery slopes." Not only are we all held answerable to the lowest common denominator, we must be reduced to it.

I hate to say that statistics are inherently communitarian, for absent an analyst with a motive, they are data. It is not until someone uses them to construct things like "policy arguments" that they become communitarian, and usually, the only way they can be used against a communitarian argument is in the few cases where there are no statistics, or where the data simply are wrong.

I think that what's often forgotten is that arguing one's individuality to a statistician is an exercise in futility (one which I learned in the earliest days of this blog). ("But I won't use my gun to shoot myself!" is wasted on someone who claims "Statistics show you will!")

If we take the example of Police Commissioner Johnson, he clearly thinks that guns are inherently evil, even in the hands of law-abiding people. If a decent law abiding citizen told him that he would never use his gun to settle an "argument" he'd be wasting his time. That's because Johnson believes that the activity (gun owning) is bad for everyone, because of the statistical irresponsibility of some. Likewise, because some homosexuals are turd-eaters and pedophiles, the rest are to be condemned.

Whether the statistics are accurate or not isn't the point. They are inherently anti-individual in nature, and I think they both inflame and expand identity politics. Statistics by their nature classify people into groups. Unfortunately, individuals who fall within the definitional parameters of these groups tend to react to the statistics. In a variety of ways. If the group consists of people an individual dislikes, he'll often want to use the stats as evidence to attack the group. (And to show that he is "better" than the group.) But if an individual belongs to that group, his natural tendency is to defend it -- as he'll see the statistic as an attack on himself. Thus, by pulling individuals into a group (or driving him away from it) statistics reinforce the identity of the identified group, as well as the counter-identity of those outside it.

Individuality is becoming a casualty.

It's also lonely, especially if you feel "alienated" by identity groups.

So, you'd better join something, or you won't have any statistics to call your own.


...male homosexuals are about one third (31%) more likely than heterosexuals to be left-handed (2), while lesbians are almost twice as likely (91%) to be left-handed as heterosexual women.

-- Canadian study, discussed here

Well, "sinister" does mean "left," so I'm not surprised.

posted by Eric on 03.16.06 at 12:12 PM


You are 95% likely to be exposed to a worthless statistic within the next 120 seconds.

mdmhvonpa   ·  March 16, 2006 8:29 PM

Maybe that is why these studies are so true

One Third of People Feel Lonely, Study Finds

daniel p   ·  March 16, 2006 9:13 PM

Yes, but according to my intuitive statistics, only one third of the people in the lonely lonely are lonely because they want to be individuals. The rest (the vast majority) are lonely because they want to belong!

Eric Scheie   ·  March 17, 2006 8:51 AM

That "43 times more likely" statistic has been discredited for a decade. Even the person who originated it has abandoned it. The correct number is more like 6-1/2 to 1. Five of those are suicides, and reducing gun access has never been shown to reduce suicide statistics. One is in a pattern of ongoing domestic abuse; some of those are probably legitimate defense. Therefore, under normal circumstances, a gun in the household his more likely to kill in self-defense than tragically, and of course hundreds of times more likely to deter a crime without killingg than to kill.

triticale   ·  March 18, 2006 10:59 AM

Most of the statistics I listed have been debunked, but not only is that of little concern to those who cite them, even if they were true, a group statistic does not describe an individual.

Eric Scheie   ·  March 19, 2006 8:04 AM

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