Think About IT: Quoting Statistics May Undermine Truth

In the quest to seem with it in our present scientistic milieu, preachers and Christians often pursue fluency regarding the latest polls, statistics and studies more than they do with Scripture and linear thinking. This quest is often characterized by indiscriminate reliance upon and usage of these tools, which actually leads people further from the truth both in their thinking processes and in their conclusions. Although these tools are useful at times, they should be used judiciously and sparingly lest one unwittingly becomes a scientistic myrmidon and by his example lead others to do likewise. The following are some inherent liabilities of such tools:

  1. There are always conflicting conclusions between different studies and polls; thus, cherry picking is common.
  2. Statistics can be used to demonstrate almost anything by inclusion or omission of certain variables related to the study or poll.
  3. One rarely understands how the study or poll was actually done, which can dramatically transform both the study’s certainty and conclusions being presented.
  4. Often a conclusion drawn is presented as THE conclusion while it may in fact be only one of the derivable conclusions, or may actually be misleading when other variables are considered.
  5. Often these tools are used to demonstrate proof when, even at their best, they can actually only demonstrate varying degrees of probability.
  6. The wording of the questions, order of the questions, tone of the questioner, time of the questioning and the pool of the questioned greatly influences the statistical data and conclusions.
  7. Double blind studies are rarely used.
  8. Fraud, personal agendas, shoddy work, biases and misrepresentation of the data are found repeatedly, and without being privy to the entire process, etc., one cannot detect this.
  9. Decisions about what to do and not to do with regard to people, morals, etc., with these tools revamps the way modern man thinks, which is consistent with sole reliance upon science or scientism, but is actually contrary to linear, logical or biblical thinking because all one needs to know is what does the most recent study—experiment—say.
  10. Although used to determine what ought to be and what ought not to be, these tools can only tell one what is or is not and can never tell one what should be.

For example, statistics may be used to show how many people are without health insurance, and the truth is that is all the statistics regarding how many have or do not have insurance tells us. Therefore, when politicians start drawing conclusions from such, they may very well be misreading the data or, perish the thought, misrepresenting the truth for their own agenda.

Say that thirty percent do not have insurance. This, in and of itself, does not tell us: how many have chosen not to have insurance, how many have chosen to spend their insurance money on other things, how many are covered through the generosity of hospitals, how many of those would rather be without government intrusion than to have insurance, how many are in transition between insurances, how many have strategically chosen to invest that money elsewhere for the potential future payoff and do not want Obama Care, who have made personal decisions—even religious ones—which led them to be without insurance and do not think others should have to pay, how many have the intention but have not made the choice to spend their money on insurance or are waiting on someone else, how many have made a conscious decision to eliminate their insurance for what they deem to be a worthwhile alternative, ad infinitum!

It is the truth that makes one free, but the present undue reliance of preachers on these fragmentary tools in order to bolster their preaching conclusions may bear short-term fruit, but in the long run may undermine the very truth they passionately desire to communicate because it trains a whole generation to rely upon polls, statistics, and studies with credulous trust. Moreover, there is very little incentive to develop a godly mind through devoted study and digging deeply into the Word of God.