Tests of Evidence evaluating the grounds for arguments
Testing Evidence:some examples and applications • Florida orange juice ad • Dick Cheney on WMDs • Porsches and Sex • Misinformation in sex education classes • Bayer aspirin • Ted Haggard “cured” of being gay • False advertising by the supplement industry • Happy cows make great cheese? • Deterrent effect of capital punishment
Does drinking orange juice prevent cancer? • Are You Drinking Enough? • “The American Cancer Society reports that along with a healthy diet, drinking more Florida orange juice may actually reduce your risk of some cancers”
The Florida Department of Citrus donated $1 million to the American Cancer Society for the right to print the ads. Fruit juice has about 8 full teaspoons of sugar (fructose) per one eight-ounce glass. Other fruits and vegetables confer the same benefits: “Orange juice does have vitamins that can help prevent some cancers, but so do all sorts of fruits and vegetables…not just oranges and particularly not oranges from Florida.” Marion Nestle, head of New York University’s Department of Nutrition Suppressed evidence? VS.
August 2002: Dick Cheney insisted: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.“ November 2003: Cheney stated, "we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." January 2004: Cheney says the United States hasn't given up on finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, "I think the jury is still out...," September 2006: On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cheney acknowledged that, “clearly, the intelligence…was wrong.” Distorted evidence or outright deception?
Is it easier to“get lucky” in a BMW? • The German magazine “Men’s Car” conducted a survey of 2,253 motorists aged 20-50 in its May 2004 issue • Male BMW drivers said they had sex on average 2.2 times each week • Male Porsche drivers reported they had sex 1.4 times per week. • Following BMW drivers were: • Audi (2.1) • Volkswagen (1.9) • Ford (1.7) • Mercedes (1.6)
Misinterpreting the evidence? • The average age of the motorists must be taken into account. • BMW males tend to be younger and therefore have stronger libidos. • Conversely, males who can afford Porsches are typically older and therefore less “revved up” sexually. • Conclusion: the driver matters more than the particular car.
Misleading information in sex education programs • Washington Post, December 2, 2004 • Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that: • abortion can lead to sterility and suicide • that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus • touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy"
Bayer aspirin: A misleading comparison? • In a recent ad, Bayer aspirin claimed “All aspirin is not alike. In tests for quality Bayer proved superior.” • What Bayer didn’t acknowledge was that the tests only showed Bayer was “superior” because the tablets were whiter and less breakable than the other brands tested.
Rev. Ted Haggard: from gay to straight in only three weeks! • After 3 weeks of intensive conseling at the Pemberton Clinic, Rev. Ted Haggard claims he is now “cured” of being gay. • Haggard claims he is now “completely heterosexual” and he was just “acting out” before when he had sex with a male prostitute while on methamphetamines
But can a person be “cured” of being gay? • In 1973, the American Psychological Association delistedhomosexuality as a psychiatric disorder in its Diagnostic Symptoms Manual, DSM-IV in 1973. If it's not a disease or disorder, how can you treat it? • Also, if being gay is an “illness” or “psychiatric disorder” wouldn’t it be analogous to alcohol, e.g., once an alcoholic always an alcoholic? • To the extent that one’s sexual orientation is genetic, it can’t be “cured” any more than curly hair can be “cured” by making it straight.
Misleading claims in herbal supplement ads • Lose weight fast! Shed pounds while you sleep! • The FTC reports that many marketers use false claims, misleading consumer testimonials, and deceptive before-and-after photos to market their products • nearly 40 percent of the ads studied by the FTC, including ads that appeared in mainstream, national publications, made at least one representation that was patently false • 55 percent of the ads made at least one representation that was very likely to be false. • Nearly half of the ads claimed that the users could lose weight without diet and exercise.
Enzyte: Smiling Bob isn’t so happy now • The makers of Enzyte will pay $2.5 million and provide consumers restitution to settle a lawsuit involving unsubstantiated claims about the dietary supplement. • “Enzyte won’t make your organ larger, it will make your wallet thinner,” said David Schardt, senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Does great cheese come from happy cows? • “Great cheese comes from happy cows” claims the TV commercial by the California Milk Advisory Boards • The commercials depict happy, contented cows in idyllic conditions
So what kind of cheese comes from miserable cows? • Dairy cows don’t graze in lush, green meadows. • The cows are kept in feed lots, where they tramp in urine and dung-fouled dirt. • Calves are taken from their mothers within 24 hours of birth. • At 2 years old the animals are artificially inseminated to keep them pregnant and producing milk.
Does capital punishment actually increase the homicide rate? • States without the death penalty have lower homicide rates than states with the death penalty. 10 of the 12 states without the death penalty have homicide rates below the national average, whereas half of the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above. (New York Times, 9/22/00) • The average of murder rates per 100,000 population in 1999 among death penalty states was 5.5, whereas the average of murder rates among non-death penalty states was only 3.6.
Alternate causal explanations • Some states are more violent, owing to culture, heritage • States with capital punishment also have higher crime rates for non-capital offenses. • Higher murder rates may have precipitated the adoption of capital punishment • Having the death penalty on the books isn’t the same as enforcing it.
Useful sites for testing evidence • http://www.factcheck.org • http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter • http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker • http://www.snopes.com • http://newsbusters.org (liberal bias) • http://mediamatters.org (liberal bias)