Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Posted By on December 13, 2004

“They Should Try Focusing On The Facts Instead”

.: Some people say that any statistic can be twisted to support any view. Indeed, some people are very good at this. But what of a view that is supported by statistics that don’t exist? And then, what of a view that is supported by non-existant statistics that have nothing to do with it? That’s precisely the case with one Focus on the Family article I read.

.: It all began when Fox released Kinsey. Kinsey pissed off religious groups back when he was alived, and with the release of this film he’s at it again. I haven’t seen the movie, though I would like to. Just out of curiousity, I looked up some websites like Sure enough, I found their tirades against Kinsey on the front page.

.: I now direct you to this article, entitled “How to Change the Kinsey Culture.” Scroll down about halfway until you come across this List:

School Teachers Rate Top Disciplinary Problems

1940 (A few years before Kinsey’s books were published)
Talking out of turn
Chewing gum
Making noise
Running in the halls
Cutting in line
Dress-code violations

1990 (A generation after Kinsey’s books were published)
Drug abuse
Alcohol use

.: You might be wondering, “What does this have to do with Kinsey?” The answer is “nothing.”

.: Read that list again. It’s pretty shocking, no? Gum and Litter opposite Suicide and Rape? These are the kind of statements that prompts you to look for sources at the end of the article. Go ahead, go look; you won’t find any. According to, “Dr. O’Neill eventually tracked the supposed list of discipline problems to former Fort Worth businessman T. Cullen Davis. The multimillionaire was arrested in the 1976 slayings of his ex-wife’s lover and daughter. After his acquittal, he became an evangelical Christian and began opposing sex education and the teaching of evolution in Fort Worth schools. He wrote the list in the early 1980s, not as a hoax, but as an argument for how schools have declined.”

.: So, short of being the scientific study implies with its citation of the List, it’s actually just one man’s opinion. I emailed with the following query:

In your article entitled “How to Change the Kinsey Culture” (link), you make use of a list of “Top Disciplinary Problems,” as rated by school teachers:

(copy of the List)

My question is: have you read snopes recently? (link) They say the list is T. Cullen Davis’s personal opinion, not an actual study.

Surely you can either provide evidence to the contrary or, failing that, attribute the statistic to its proper source?

.: They responded:

Recently you submitted a question or comment to Focus on the Family. We are honored by the confidence you have expressed in our ministry. Please know that we are currently experiencing higher than expected volumes of e-mail. Should your situation require a response, we ask that you please allow a few additional days for handling. We appreciate your patience.

.: Then, a week later, they really responded:

Greetings from Focus on the Family. We appreciate the honesty with which you provided your feedback to a portion of the content of our online article, “How to Change the Kinsey Culture.”

We shared your comments with the article’s author who informed us that he received the information from the Reason Public Policy Institute’s, “School Violence Prevention: Strategies to Keep Schools Safe” Policy Study No. 234. We don’t have contact info for the Reason Public Policy Institute, but if you wish to reach them about the “discipline lists” you can probably find the organization on the Web.

Thanks again for contacting us. God’s blessings to you and yours.

Scott Smith
Focus on the Family

.: I googled the article they mentioned and came up with this link. Sure enough, they use the List—without citing the source. To be fair, they precede the list with the following passage:

In 1940, public school teachers ranked the top seven disciplinary problems at public schools. Public school teachers ranked the top problems again in 1990. A comparative glance at the two lists, shown in Table 2-1, does not give any actual data regarding the incidence of the problems detailed, but is nonetheless instructive. [emphasis mine]

.: I’ve already shown that the list was not the result of an extensive 50 year study, but one man’s opinion. Here’s another interesting fact: the article that cites as their source for the List mentions nothing about Kinsey! Notice above what adds to the list:

1940 (A few years before Kinsey’s books were published)
1990 (A generation after Kinsey’s books were published)

.: Huh? They might as well put this:

1940 (A few years before America entered World War II)
1990 (A generation after America entered World War II)

.: The wrong side won the war! Look at the cost of victory! Of course both of those scenarios are nonsense. Golden rule of statistics: correlation need not imply causation.

.: I wonder who the readers of are. Do these people ever think to stop and check the sources? The facts? As it stands today, has made no attempt to correct or clarify the error in their article that I so kindly pointed out to them. I wonder why.

About The Author


6 Responses to “Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics”

  1. Christina says:

    You may also want to add this to your list of non-factual factual sites. Did you know that T-rex was actually an herbivore? I sure didn’t.

  2. Cody says:

    I am confident in my belief that is the finest work of satire ever created.

  3. Nick Jackson says:

    familydotorg is some sort of religious group right? Hah. As if we expected any better from self-righteous evangelists.

  4. Steve says:

    I don’t know about you, but I like

  5. Christina says:

    Is it not the scariest thing you’ve ever seen?! I fear for the sanity of those children who are forced to read that site.

  6. Steve says:

    Scary indeed. But sometimes I think about putting my cat on there…’cause I bet she hates a lot of people. You can just tell sometimes, with those “I’m better than you and if you come anywhere near me I will slit your throat will my back claws” looks.