Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marine Corps Commandant Demonstrates Ignorance of Scientific Method

The Fox News headline read "Marines Chief Warns Most Are Uncomfortable Serving With Openly Gay Troops", and the article lead off with this sentence: "As many as 95 percent of Marines would be uncomfortable serving alongside openly gay troops, the retiring commandant of the Marine Corps told Fox News in an exclusive interview." This based on General Conway's survey of his troops. Of course, when you read further down in the article, it turns out the General's idea of the word "survey" means forming an impression based on various ad hoc occasions when he asked a group of Marines for a show of hands on the subject.

Now we learn from a leaked Pentagon report that an actual survey (you know, the real scientific kind) of 400,000 servicemembers showed that there is
minimal risk to lifting the gay ban. More than 70% of the respondents thought that the change would be positive, mixed, or neutral. The Marine Corps was only slightly more resistant to the change, with about 40% expressing concern for unit cohesion. Nothing like General Conway's 95% based on his own "survey".

Am I the only one who's concerned that the leader of one of our military services trusts his personal impressions over actual data when it comes to making decisions?