14 February 2012

About that 98% you've been hearing about.

Lately we've all been hearing a lot about how 98% of Catholic women use birth control.  Mike O'Flynn uses his knowledge of statistics to examine that stat and comes up with an appropriate answer:  It's crap.

However, the 98% figure is bogus.  It comes from Figure 3 in a Guttmacher Institute study of the kinds of contraceptives women choose.  Now, the mission of the Guttmacher Institute is to propagandize the use of contraceptives, and their studies should be viewed in that light.  However, this particular study, though statistically primitive, does not itself make the claim attributed to it by the statistically illiterate. 

The 98% seems suspicious.  What of the elderly?  What about nuns?  What about the proverbially fertile Catholic mother?  Do they comprise only 2% of the Church?

Remember what we said that the results of sample S can only be projected onto the population P from which it was randomly selected?  Ignore for a moment the issues related to methodology, randomness, etc.  What was their population? 

We discover that the study was restricted to "women at risk for unintended pregnancy." [emph. added].  They defined this group as those:
  • aged 15-44 
  • who were “sexually active” in the three months prior to the survey 
  • but were not pregnant, postpartum or trying to get pregnant 

Fits Guttmacher profile
IOW, it excluded any woman participating in the Darwinian effort to colonize the future.  Excluded are Catholic women who are married, trying to have a baby (or at least open to the possibility), nuns and other virgins, and any woman older than 44 years or younger than 15.  This may actually exclude a fair number of "Catholic women" from the population.   

So the study tells us only that 98% of women of child-bearing age who want to have sex without having babies use some form of birth control.  That qualifies as a sort of “d’uh” moment.

Unfortunately, people these days  like their "facts" in little bite sized morsels, capable of being stated in one sentence, or a quick tweet.  A refutation which requires six or seven sentences, especially if it tells them something they don't want to hear or goes against their cosy little world picture,  will have lost their attention by sentence three.  We have the information to refute their little "facts", aka "lies", but they will never hear them.  It seems we will be tilting at windmills forever.

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