Friday, July 19, 2013

Logical Fallacy or "That SOUNDS good but the math doesn't add up, chief"

Recently the pro-profiling crowd have used a common meme to support their behavior. Not just in support of George Zimmerman, but in support of Stop & Frisk, Muslim profiling by the TSA, and others. It goes something like this: "Of course all black men aren't murders. BUT, since black men commit more murders, it's logical to be afraid/profile". Sounds about right. I mean...if there's a behavior that is clearly occurring at a high rate in a particular community, then of COURSE when you see a member of that community it's reasonable to assume they engage in that behavior...right? Wrong...and math will help us get there!

Let's use my previous example. Black men commit MORE murders. True. Of the approximately 13,000 murders committed in 2011, 52% were committed by black males. Around 6700+ murders. There are around 42 million Black people in the USA. Approximately half are male (21 million if you're lazy or bad at math). Assuming every murderer only murdered one person...1 out of every 3100+ black men is a murderer. Or... 0.03% chance of a Black man around you being a  murderer. So let's go back...it's reasonable to be afraid of someone who has less than a half of a half of a percent chance of being a murderer statistically? Perhaps my understanding of "reasonable" is different than yours. (Side note: in 85% of murders committed by black men, the victims is black. If you're NOT black, the chance that a black man will murder you goes down to 0.004%). Math doesn't lie.

Too much math? Ok...let's do an easier problem. Most tall mountains are capped with snow. Therefore, it's reasonable to assume that if I see snow, I must be on a tall mountain. Except.... Look, you can be afraid of black men if you want. You can blame the media. You can blame misunderstanding of statistics. You can blame it on the rain (sorry Milli Vanilli...or whoever actually sang it). But in the end, there is no amount of justification you can use other than "I'm scared and it makes me feel better. The statistics don't justify your fear. It rarely does.

Base Rate Bias is the name of this logical fallacy. It says you will ignore the overall statistics when you can zero in on something that groups the statistics. I get it. "More people without college degrees are billionaires", therefore it's better financially to NOT have a degree. Wait...THAT one doesn't make sense to you? But it's the same reasoning you used before...Too deep? Ok Ok Ok... I'll make it simple. The overwhelming majority of black men do NOT murder people. Even those who DO don't murder non-black people. So no, you can't use that statistic to justify your fear. You can use your fear to keep looking for justification, though. Or...you can use your logic to overcome your fear. What ya gon do?

14 comments:

  1. I really wanted to write something about this on my blogspot page also, but you got the juice now.

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  2. I refuse to live in fear. I gave it up for Lent, circa 9/11/01. FDR had it right. "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." He wasn't talking about race, but it essentially still holds water. YOU make your own fear, and YOU can choose to rise above it, or be enslaved by it. The question I'm always left asking of naysayers is, "Aren't you tired of living in a self-created, paranoid state?"
    I sure as fuck am.

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    1. it definitely doesn't apply only race. Fear is limiting. It affects every area of your life.

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  3. Ironically, people always want to use statistics when it supports their arguments (because they think stats are argument proof), yet when it doesn't support their side, stats are all of a sudden not worth a dime. I like the way you actually broke down the stats; seems like whoever disagrees would say that you did too much (which is what everyone says when you bring a mountain of proof to prove they're wrong). There's just a lack of consistency in the thought process of humans b.

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    1. yep. the inconsistent application of logic.

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  4. I still think there is something to be said about the fact that 13.6% of the population commits 52% of murders.

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    1. Then according to logicians you prefer fallacy. Base rate BIAS isn't something I created. A better determiner for murder (and violent crime in general) is income level. In countries where poverty is low, so is violent crime, regardless of race. So you can choose to believe that race has something to do with it. But the statistics overwhelmingly say it doesn't.

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    2. Okay for starter when did I say that there was not a logical reason for this being the state of affairs. I simply said that something could be said for a smaller segment of the populous being responsible for a majority of a particular violent crime. Economic factors probably do play a role along with other environmental factors in which these kids are being brought up. That being said I want to pose a question to you. As am alumni of an HBCU I witnessed first hand a tremendous amount of on campus violence (not towards me in particular)as compared to what I witnessed on other campuses that I attended courses at. Why do you think this is?

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    3. Didn't say you did. However, you did point out a statistic without stating it's meaning. The entirety of this blog was about erroneously justifying profiling black men because of the behavior of an insignificant minority. Less that a half percent. In other words, 99.97% don't murder. So any fear/profiling based on "disproportionately higher rate" is logically silly. As to your experience at an HBCU, it's anecdotal. I attended an HBCU and had no issues. A number of factor COULD be responsible. Any answer I give wouldn't be based on fact though. Let me ask YOU a question...in industrialized African nations, the crime rate in the middle class and above is about even with the crime rate in the US. What accounts for that? For the most part, these are almost entirely black people. Humans tend to look for reasons to segregate. That segregation (and lack of communication thus lack of trust) leads often to violence. Several studies (easily googled) have explained it. There are dozens of studies that indicate race isn't a factor in crime. Very few (if any) show that race alone is indicative of a higher tendency to be criminal. So if race isn't the cause, what other factors account for it? And why aren't those factors either eliminated, or the factors used in the profiling? To be clear, I don't suggest we prifile anyone. I'm saying science, statistics, and logic show that race isn't a good way to determine it.

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  5. your math leaves out some critical facts ...when you look at the actual numbers on murder in the USA 52% are committed by BLACK MALES aged 15-24 which is a huge reason to fear black males with hoods on ....would you as a black person get on an elevator in a chicago tenement at 10 pm with a single black man in a hood without being afraid ?

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  6. No, I included the 52% number. The ages 15-24 isn't a fact at all. Fact 52% of murders are committed by black males. Fact, yes I would get in an elevator at 10pm with a young black male. Because fact, 99.97% of black males DON'T commit murder. More deaths are caused by car accidents each year than by black/white/Latino combined. Do you stay off the road? Using that logic, and the fact that 400% more deaths are caused by cars than people, why aren't you 400% more afraid of driving than being in an elevator? No matter how you turn the statistics, the view of black males as highly likely to rob/kill you is illogical. And since many people like to blame the liberal media for all things irresponsible, perhaps Bill O'Reilly's recent piece on crime & race would be helpful. The fact remains, if you're NOT black, you're 7 times LESS likely to be a victim of a crime committed by a black male. I'm not afraid and I'm black. The numbers don't lie. Fear does.

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  7. Your numbers sir are way off ..look up the color of crime . your comparison between cars and people is bull, cars dont hunt, look for or intended to murder. you need to get your facts straight and pay attention to whats real. Mr Zimmerman could have been guilty as sin at this point it doesn't matter he was tried and found not guilty right or wrong ...thats done with but....if your going to say that his case has anything to do with black on white or white on black you need to 1st consider that he's not even white ...white people have two white parents black people have two black parents ...if one parent is white and one is black they are neither they are mixed, or biracial or according to the urban dictionary they are mulatto ....your stupid comment about fearing cars makes about as much sense as blaming a gun or skittles or arizona ice tea for what happened and BTW we do fear dying in car wrecks thats why we have seat belts and air bags and Cars are a necessity of life murder rape and robbery or not !!! this is by MICHAEL SUTTON.

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    1. Your first statement came with no correction. If my numbers are off (and they're not. Those are the numbers given by the DOJ and confirmed by every outlet available including Fox News) why didn't you offer accurate numbers? I specified the color of crime. I pointed out that 52% of murders were committed by black men. It's not that my numbers are off. It's that you prefer to ignore reality. Reality is...a non-white person is HIGHLY unlikely to be killed by a black person in this country. 1000 white people murdered by Black men vs 4000 murdered by white men. Reality is, statistically a white person has a better chance of being "hunted" by another white person than by a black person. And not ONE word was mentioned about Zimmerman being racist or racial profiling in this article. I made a correlation to that case being used by OTHERS. I've never made that leap. Now, since you brought up "if you say this case has anything to do with black on white"...can you admit that i DIDN'T say this case had to do with that? Can you also admit that i briefly mentioned the case (one line as a part of a larger sentence) and admit that you are reacting not to what i SAID, but what you assumed I said? Or are you just going to ignore that and keep ranting about...nothing? And nope...i didn't make a comment about "fearing cars". I made a comment about people being far more likely to die in a car accident than by murder. Rationally, a car accident is far more likely than murder (regardless of the color). Yet, even with seat belts and air bags, there is not "fear" of cars.

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  8. "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

    ~Mark Twain via Benj Disraeli

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