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Juggling the Statistics

November 12, 1987

"Figures don't lie; but liars do figure" is the first thought to go through my mind whenever I read about controversies in which conclusions from statistical data are involved. That was my initial reaction to Elizabeth Mehren's article, "The War Over Love Heats Up Again" (Oct. 29).

If the one example used in the article is representative of the supposedly contradictory data between Shere Hite and the Washington Post-ABC public opinion survey, I would have to side with Hite's defenders who claim that her critics are "obscuring" the issues or that it is "much ado about nothing."

Perhaps the author of the article finds some significant disagreement between "98% were unhappy with some (emphasis mine) aspect of their relationship with men" and "93% of the women called their relationship good or excellent." Given the difference between any two human beings, whether the relationship is man-woman, woman-woman or man-man, it would be no surprise if some part of any relationship caused some unhappiness, nor that in addition, many felt their relationships were "good" or excellent overall, given the vagueness of the word good.

Statistical data is a necessary evil in some parts of our lives, but it needs to be interpreted far more carefully than the example in this article indicates.

EUGENE D. GINGERICH

Goleta

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