“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” -Abraham Lincoln

How People Misuse Statistics to Prove an Unrelated Point

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My friend – the same friend who accused me of ‘drinking the fox news kool aid’ [see previous blog entry] – posted this article on his facebook page yesterday, entitled
“Why Americans believe Obama is a Muslim.”

Why Americans Believe Obama is A Muslim

The article begins with the following statement:

The research by Spee Kosloff and colleagues suggests people are most likely to accept such falsehoods, both consciously and unconsciously, when subtle clues remind them of ways in which Obama is different from them, whether because of race, social class or other ideological differences.

These judgments, Kosloff argues, are illogical. He also suggests they are fueled by an “irresponsible” media culture that allows political pundits and “talking heads” to perpetuate the lies.

“Careless or biased media outlets are largely responsible for the propagation of these falsehoods, which catch on like wildfire,” said Kosloff, visiting professor of psychology. “And then social differences can motivate acceptance of these lies.”

Then, it proceeds to provide evidence, such as the following:

Among the results:

* On average, participants who supported McCain said there is a 56 percent likelihood Obama is a Muslim. But when they were asked to fill out a demographic card asking for their own race, the likelihood jumped to 77 percent. Kosloff said this shows that simply thinking about a social category that differentiated participants from Obama was enough to get them to believe the smear.
* Participants undecided about the candidates said there is a 43 percent chance McCain is senile – a number that increased to 73 percent when they simply listed their own age on a card.
* Undecided participants said there is a 25 percent chance Obama is a socialist – a number that jumped to 62 percent when they considered race. “Even though being a socialist has nothing to do with race,” Kosloff said, “irrationally they tied the two together.”

This evidence is supposed to support the conclusion which closes the article:

“As his job rating goes down, suggesting that people feel like he’s not ideologically on their side, we see an increase in this irrational belief that he’s a Muslim,” he added. “Unfortunately, in America, many people dislike Muslims so they’ll label Obama as Muslim when they feel different from him.”

However, to me, this evidence is inconsequential.

The reasoning in the article does prove that some people jump to conclusions for for invalid reasons. However, the article is entitled “Why Americans believe Obama is a Muslim,” and it is designed to convince us that it’s only because they’re stupid and drawing conclusions based on irrelevant data. Given the evidence presented, I am not convinced that this proves that people only think Obama is a Muslim because they are jumping to inaccurate conclusions for no valid reason.

Let me use an example. 56% of McCain supporters think Obama is Muslim, and then when an unrelated factor is presented (ie, they are asked to fill out a demographic card asking for their own race), the percentage goes up to 77%. So 21% of people changed their mind for an unrelated, invalid reason. 56% still thought he was Muslim initially, and out of all of them, some of them might have had valid reasons.

I, personally, have encountered many valid reasons for Americans to believe Obama is Muslim. [I will mention here that I don’t care whether Obama is Muslim, and I think its ridiculous that anyone does, but that is beside the point.] However, here are few valid reasons for people to believe he is Muslim:

1. His father was Muslim, and according to their religion, it’s passed down through the father.
2. As a child, he went to a Muslim school, and was a top student of the Qu’ran.
3. He refused to say the pledge of allegience
4. He invites people over for Ramadan
5. He makes decisions that are pro-Muslim, yet does not appear to reach out equally to other religions.

I have not kept up with all the evidence because I DON’T CARE WHAT HE IS, I ONLY CARE WHO HE IS. However, this is the first video that popped up when I searched on youtube last night, and it includes various clips of Obama admitting that he is a Muslim American:

There are plenty of reasons for them to believe that besides being swayed by subliminal forces like pictures of Obama with a turban, and besides believing rumors. The article itself is, ironically, relating an unrelated study to a point it’s trying to prove, perhaps trying to sway people against believing the rumor that Obama is Muslim under the guise of presenting an interesting case about human behavior; but the evidence of their thought process is inconclusive. The article proves that a significant portion of people jump to conclusions based on unrelated facts about who they are personally. However, it does not prove that the ONLY reason they believe this is because of subliminal messages provided by anti-Obama media.


My Personal Stance:

– I don’t care whether Obama is Muslim, Christian, Indonesian, half black, or half white. I don’t care WHAT he is, I care WHO he is. I have said this more than once to be very clear.

– I don’t think this article provides conclusive evidence to prove Why Americans Believe Obama Is Muslim, yet it provides interesting statistics about human nature which are designed to sway people to believe that it’s only because they are, in essence, ‘swallowing the fox news kool aid.’


Written by rikijane

September 8, 2010 at 1:21 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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