L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

21 August 2007 Blog Home : August 2007 : Permalink

Some Is Not All

There are times when I wonder about the victim-mongers and PC enforcers, the people who claim that certain others have been wronged because someone has published a book or scientific paper that goes against PC orthodoxy. What I wonder about them is how they can fail to grasp the difference between SOME and ALL. A case in point (via Instapundit) is Dr J. Michael Bailey who wrote a book with a controversial claim:

In his book, he argued that some people born male who want to cross genders are driven primarily by an erotic fascination with themselves as women. This idea runs counter to the belief, held by many men who decide to live as women, that they are the victims of a biological mistake — in essence, women trapped in men’s bodies. Dr. Bailey described the alternate theory, which is based on Canadian studies done in the 1980s and 1990s, in part by telling the stories of several transgender women he met through a mutual acquaintance. In the book, he gave them pseudonyms, like “Alma” and “Juanita.”

Note the first sentence "some people". "Some people" does not mean "all people", "most people" and may not even mean "many people". It means a number greater than 2.

Now you may think this is silly but it isn't. Because the same fundamental inability to grok the difference between some and all is why people attacked Larry Summers at Harvard and is why people get worked up with all those IQ studies that show that there are differences between races, sexes etc. etc. Statements like "on average type A is more X than type B" does not mean that all type A people are more X than type B. Indeed some type A people may be less X than all type B

The same issue arises when we get into crime statistics and it absolutely applies to sloppy journalists who report on Muslim attitudes, attitudes to Muslims and for that matter the views of the "Arab street" with regards to America etc.

The statement "Some Muslims are terrorists" is true but the statement "All Muslims are terrorists" is false. However frequently organizations like CAIR (in the USA) or the MCB (in the UK) seem to deliberately conflate the two claiming that people who say the former mean the latter.

Mind you the concept is not completely limited to the chattering classes. It is after all what leads to scares about food and safety. E.g. Some Chinese made toys are dangerous. Some British cows suffer from BSE. Chances are that some in these cases is a vanishly small proportion of the millions actually present, but some is probably enough to cause people to panic and not buy any.

And of course it is why bansturbators get so worked up. Some students can't drink responsibly so we propose banning alcohol for all students. Some people hurt others with knives, guns etc. so therefore all people must be banned from using them. In France it was swimming pools. Some people failed to watch out when their children were playing around the pool so now all pools have to have a fence or motion detector. Fitted at significant expense and making, as far as I can tell, no difference what so ever to accidental drownings in swimming pools. But then that is frequently the case.

Some bans are effective does not mean all bans are effective.