Scare Story Supported by Dodgy Reasoning

I took exception to some dodgy reasoning in the letters page of the 12 October Evening Standard. I emailed a rebuttal but I suspect it will be cut if it appears at all, so here is the full text:-

Professor Anthony Glees indulges in some statistical slight of hand (Letters, 12 October).

He begins by saying “For Prof Malcolm Grant to suggest that 30 percent of terrorists having been at University tells us nothing significant flies in the face of the evidence”, follows with a couple of anecdotes and concludes “What is Prof Grant saying about the worth of higher education if a significant proportion of those receiving it want to destroy the society which has provided it?”

Prof Glees provides no evidence that “a significant proportion” of students want any such thing. The only number he provides is the 30% figure in the first paragraph. Is he trying to give us the impression that 30% of students want to destroy society? For his information, 30% of terrorists having been to University does not equate to 30% of University students being terrorists.

I do not pretend to know how many Islamic terrorists there are in the UK but the number cannot be high. The IRA managed to sustain a terrorist campaign for decades despite having no more than 1,000 active members at any one time. Apart from the July 7 outrages, Islamists have not been able to sustain a campaign in this country which suggests that their numbers are much less than this. If 30% of them have been to University as is suggested then the number of university educated Islamists will be in the low hundreds at a maximum. Compare that with the number of people who have received higher education which is in the millions. Tens of thousands of these will have been Muslim so around 1% of Muslim graduates might be Islamists. Obviously it would be better if the figure were 0% but it is clear that universities are hardly the hotbeds of radicalism that Prof Glee suggests.

One can only hope that he employs a much higher standard of reasoning in his academic work than he does here.

D- . Must do better.

Yours sincerely

John Hawcock
[Address given]
[phone number given]

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One Response to “Scare Story Supported by Dodgy Reasoning”

  1. csrster Says:

    You could also have pointed out that nearly 100% of terrorists have been to primary school! And over 90% eat _bread_ on a regular basis. Primary school and bread are destroying our society!!!!!

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