Al Franken Distorts CDC Study to Claim Distortion of Study

Senator Al Franken called Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery a liar in yesterday's hearing on DOMA. Franken was the one being dishonest.

 

UPDATE (7/23): The rousing debate in the comments has convinced me that I was uncharitable to Franken.  I focused too narrowly on the factual point in dispute in the video clip rather than on the larger argument being made. See Franken v. Minnery Redux for a fuller explanation.  I’ve closed the comments here; go there if you’d like to continue the discussion.

Original post and update from that day below:

_____________________________

Senator Al Franken called Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery a liar in yesterday’s hearing on DOMA. Franken was the one being dishonest.

FRANKEN: Mr. Minnery, on page 8 of your written testimony, you write, quote, “children living in their own married biological or adoptive — with their own biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to healthcare, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”

You cite a Department of Health and Human Services study that I have right here, from December 2010, to support this conclusion. I checked the study out. And I would like to enter it into the record if I may.

And it actually doesn’t say what you said it says. It says that nuclear families, not opposite sex married families, are associated with those positive outcomes. Isn’t it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?

MINNERY: I would think that the study, when it cites nuclear families, would mean a family headed by a husband and wife.

FRANKEN: It doesn’t. The study defines a nuclear family as ‘one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family. And I frankly, don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.

Brian Powell of Equality Matters classifies this is “torpedoing” and John Cole of Balloon Juice says Franken “absolutely destroyed” Minnery.

Well, not so much.

You see, I checked the study out. It’s available in PDF here.

The title, “Family Structure and Children’s Health in the United States: Findings From the National Health Interview Survey, 2001-2007” gives a slight clue.

Yes, as Franken notes, the study defines a nuclear family as “one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family.” But, as Wikipedia reminds us, “Marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman in at least 42 states. Currently, 30 states have added amendments banning same-sex unions to their constitutions. There are five states that recognize or will soon recognize same-sex marriage.”

Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. Connecticut (2008), Iowa (2009), New Hampshire (2010), Vermont (2009), and New York (2011) have since joined the club.

So, from the period 2001-2003 and the first few months of 2004, every single “nuclear family” studied consisted of opposite sex couples. For the remainder of the survey, married same-sex couples in Massachusetts with children qualified as “nuclear families.” Massachusetts has 6.5 million people; the other 49 states and the District of Columbia contribute an additional 301 million people. And, I’m led to believe, many people in Massachusetts still chose to marry people of the opposite sex.

In short, the number of same-sex couples qualifying as “nuclear families” in the study in question amount to a rounding error. And Al Franken, who’s a pretty smart fellow, damned well knows that.

What’s particularly infuriating is that he’s using the power of his office and of the subpoena to humiliate a citizen for his own amusement and, presumably, those of his supporters. And not even for good cause. I’m on Franken’s side and against Minnery on the question of whether gays ought to be able to adopt. But there’s no need to distort studies to find an argument in support of our position because actual studies–indeed, pretty much every reputable study done on the subject–support our position! A quick Google search:

  • The Gay Science: What do we know about the effects of same-sex parenting? – (Slate, 2004)
  • Study: Same-Sex Parents Raise Well-Adjusted Kids – (WebMD, 2005)
  • Study: Same-sex couples just as good, if not better, at parenting (Ottawa Citizen, 2007)
  • Study: Children of Lesbians May Do Better Than Their Peers (TIME, 2010)

It’s hard to find a study done by someone other than an advocacy group that finds gay parenting is harmful. The worst we can say is, as Ann Hulbert does in the Slate piece, that the sample sizes, methodological restrictions, and the fact that homosexuality existed mostly underground until quite recently make it really hard to do good studies on this question.

UPDATE: Some commenters argue that Franken is simply pointing out that Minnery is attempting to use a study that has nothing to do with same-sex versus opposite-sex couples to argue that same-sex couples are less able to raise children. That’s a perfectly valid point for Franken to make but it’s not the one he made.

He specifically says what he’s arguing against in his setup:

Mr. Minnery, on page 8 of your written testimony, you write, quote, “children living in their own married biological or adoptive — with their own biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to healthcare, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”

This, in fact, is precisely what the study says.

Franken then goes on to say, “It says that nuclear families, not opposite sex married families, are associated with those positive outcomes.” Which, as Minnery acknowledges, is true. But, as my post points out, this is a distinction without meaning in terms of the study.

Now, if Minnery otherwise misrepresented the study to say that it was proof that same-sex couples are bad, then he’s an idiot or a liar. But Franken doesn’t rebut that, but rather a specific claim.

UPDATE (7/23): The rousing debate in the comments has convinced me that I was uncharitable to Franken.  I focused too narrowly on the factual point in dispute in the video clip rather than on the larger argument being made. See Franken v. Minnery Redux for a fuller explanation.  I’ve closed the comments here; go there if you’d like to continue the discussion.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Vast Variety says:

    Franken isn’t distorting the study, he is pointing out that the study says nothing about same sex marriage or same sex couples and their children where as Focus on the Family is trying to use the study as evidence that straights are better than gays, which it simply doesn’t do.

  2. Chad S says:

    What Vast said(thanks for saving me the time).

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Vast Variety and @Chad S: Yes, it’s a distortion. During the study period 2001-2007, there were a trivial number of same-sex families with children. So, Minnery was perfectly reasonable–and certainly not being dishonest–in treating “nuclear family” as defined in the study to mean “a family headed by a husband and wife.”

  4. legion says:

    What VV said. James, look at your own argument – Minnery uses this study to say that opposite-sex parent couples are vastly better than same-sex couples. But if, as you say, such couples are so few & far between as to be “rounding errors”, then the study categorically does not support the position Minnery is pushing…

  5. Rob in CT says:

    All of the following appears to be correct:

    FRANKEN: Mr. Minnery, on page 8 of your written testimony, you write, quote, “children living in their own married biological or adoptive — with their own biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to healthcare, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”

    You cite a Department of Health and Human Services study that I have right here, from December 2010, to support this conclusion. I checked the study out. And I would like to enter it into the record if I may.

    And it actually doesn’t say what you said it says. It says that nuclear families, not opposite sex married families, are associated with those positive outcomes.

    The study does not, in fact, say what Minnery (apparently) said it says. It discusses nuclear families vs. non-nuclear families, not gay parents vs straight parents. But Minnery seems to have attempted to distort that into meaning that it says gay parents aren’t as good for the kids.

    I see your point about the timing of gay marriage laws and its impact on the data set, but I think Minnery’s distortion > Franken’s, but quite a bit.

  6. Rob in CT says:

    Hah, I took so long composing my post that VV beat me to it, and explained it much more succinctly than I did.

  7. Rob in CT says:

    @James Joyner:

    No, Minnery was not “perfectly reasonable,” unless I’m misunderstanding his argument.

    Did he or did he not assert that the study in question means that straight parenting > gay parenting?

  8. This seems like a wash to me; and although I’m most decidedly not a Focus on the Family fan, I’m inclined to think that both men did not intend to mislead anyone so much as they allowed their political convictions to cloud the clarity of their thinking when it came to interpreting the study.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Rob in CT: According to the excerpt above, Minnery said “children living in their own married biological or adoptive — with their own biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to healthcare, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”

    That is, in fact, precisely what the study found.

    @legion: That’s a perfectly valid point. But Franken didn’t simply point out that the study had no bearing on the same-sex vs. opposite-sex families argument, he called Minnery a liar for not acknowledging that there may inadvertently have been one or two same-sex couples in the “nuclear family” category.

  10. Fargus says:

    Why don’t we start by noting that one of these men was testifying before Congress in support of withholding rights from a minority he doesn’t like? For me, that makes the question of who’s “perfectly reasonable” here crystal clear.

  11. Lit3Bolt says:

    Shorter JJ: Al Franken is bad, even when I agree with him.

  12. James Joyner says:

    @Lit3Bolt: I actually defend Franken with some regularity and called for Norm Coleman to concede months before he did even though I supported Coleman, think he got hosed in the recall process, and my wife’s company did Coleman’s polling.

    I just think Franken’s wrong here and called him out for it even though I agree with him on the issue in question.

  13. PD Shaw says:

    I agree with Elias Isquith’s take, both sides are taking liberties with the study, but Franken’s being an @$$h@t with this remark:

    how we can trust the rest of your testimony

    He’s not simply disagreeing with the interpretation of the study, he’s insulting the witness’s credibility. Franken can make a case on the study without using an ad hominem fallacy.

  14. TBogg says:

    The bigger questions is: why does anyone care what Focus on the Family has to say? Is this a case of report says/bigot say?

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    So, Minnery was perfectly reasonable–

    Somehow or other, I think if I ever found myself saying this, I would just shut up. When has FoF ever been reasonable??? About anything???

  16. James Joyner says:

    @TBogg: It’s an unfortunate Washington tradition to call on hacks to testify to get their views on the record. Activist groups will have digested all the studies and have all the relevant statistics at their fingertips. Unfortunately, they’ll distort them all to suit their agenda.

  17. LaurenceB says:

    I had the same reaction to this as Joyner.

    Minnery is clearly wrong on the larger matter of who raises their children better, but Franken’s nitpicking on this particular point appeared to me to be a mistake – for precisely the reasons Dr. Joyner spells out.

  18. ponce says:

    What’s particularly infuriating is that he’s using the power of his office and of the subpoena to humiliate a citizen for his own amusement and, presumably, those of his supporters.

    Paid members of think tanks and interests groups that try to influence the federal government or one of the two major political parties aren’t “citizens,” they are part of our government apparatus just like Al Franken and are fair game for “embarrassment.”

  19. James Joyner says:

    @LaurenceB: It’s an odd analytic habit, this business of assessing arguments on their own merit and irrespective of your views on the issue or the people involved.

    @ponce: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’re part of government, much less not citizens, but agree that the rules of engagement are different than for someone plucked from the corn fields of Iowa. But, again, there’s plenty of room for ridiculing silly ideas without distorting a study to do it.

  20. Chad S says:

    @James Joyner: James: Minney was trying to claim that the CDC study proved that same sex couples was harmful to children. It didn’t say that at all. Franken could have stuck with that, but he wasn’t distorting like Minney was. End of story.

  21. Jonathan says:

    How is Senator Franken distorting anything? His only assertion is that the study does not support Minery’s conclusions and that Minery misread the study results. The fact that the study does not exclude same-sex parents in its definition of the term nuclear family supports Franken’s assertion.
    “Sen. Franken is right,” the lead author of the study told POLITICO. The survey did not exclude same-sex couples, said Debra L. Blackwell, Ph.D., nor did it exclude them from the “nuclear family” category provided their family met the study’s definition.

    The study’s definition of nuclear family is: “one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents of all the children in the family.”

    Franken is merely stating that Minery misrepresented the data to make false claims. How is that a distortion?

  22. Vast Variety says:

    @James Joyner: The only thing you can pluck from our cornfields here in Iowa at the moment is probably dehydration or heat stroke.

    =)

  23. Jonathan says:

    @James Joyner: To make that assertion and back it up with statistical data, one would have to conduct a study that would directly compare the health and welfare of children in nuclear families with same sex parents to that of children with opposite sex parents. That would be the only way to draw supported conclusions on the matter. Why be obtuse?

  24. Jonathan says:

    @James Joyner:
    You still failed to answer Rob in CT’s question:
    “Did he or did he not assert that the study in question means that straight parenting > gay parenting?”

    And Franken did not call anyone a liar. He didn’t even say that Minnery misread the study. Franken said “…if you are reading studies these ways.”

    Franken is merely highlighting Minnery’s obvious spotlight fallacy. The spotlight fallacy occurs when observed data is incorrectly assumed to represent a different or larger group.

  25. James Joyner says:

    @Jonathan: Because, as I point out in detail in the post, there are almost zero same-sex couples that met the “nuclear family” definition from 2001-2007, since there were zero married gays from 2001-May 2004 and damned few (a handful in Massachusetts) from May 2004-2007. For all practical purposes, “nuclear family” was, as Minnery claimed, synonymous with “man, woman, and child(ren” during the study period.

    And, of course Franken is calling Minnery a liar. How else to interpret “I frankly, don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.”

  26. Another Jonathan says:

    According to Debra L. Blackwell (head author of the CDC study), same-sex couples were not excluded in the nuclear family category (per Politico: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0711/59495.html)

    Minnery’s argument is that straight parents are better than gay parents using the CDC study as one of the supporting arguments (the whole argument of Focus on the Family is to provide expert advice that DOMA should not be repealed). On the other hand, the study says that just having two parents is better than one parent. Franken is pointing out the fallacy of using the study to bolster the claim that straight parents are better than gay parents. Minnery was disingenuous to lead others to believe that the study shows gay parenting is a part of “other family forms” when in fact, gay parenting is part of the “nuclear family” definition in the CDC report.

  27. Fargus says:

    The way Minnery was reading the study was completely inconsistent with what it meant. Franken was merely pointing that out. It’s that simple. Minnery was using the study to claim that straight-parented families were better than gay-parented families when, by the definitions used in the study, both fell into the same category. That’s incontrovertible, and it’s crazy to say that Franken is “distorting” by pointing it out.

  28. Chad S says:

    @James Joyner: Whats wrong with that characterization? Minney is trying to hold up a celery and say that it proves all vegetables taste like that.

  29. Jonathan says:

    @PD Shaw: I have to respectfully disagree here. I don’t see a technical ad hominem here.
    Franken states, “And I frankly don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.”

    It wouldn’t even be ad hominem if he had stated, ‘We can not trust the rest of your testimony if your argument draws false conclusions from statistical data for support.”

    An ad hominem logical fallacy requires that a conclusion is drawn on an insult that does not support the conclusion drawn. The support of an insult has to be fallacious in supporting the conclusion drawn or asserted. I fail to even see a clear insult here.

  30. Jonathan says:

    @Another Jonathan: I agree. It’s called a spotlight fallacy and it occurs when observed data is incorrectly assumed to represent a different or larger group.

  31. James Joyner says:

    @Fargus and @Chad S: As noted in the update, I’m assessing the argument Franken makes, not the one he should have made. Minnery’s reading of the study is exactly right, with an asterisk that’s hardly worth mentioning–the tiny handful of Massachusetts families that may have qualified as “nuclear” in the latter part of the study.

    If Minnery elsewhere makes a larger argument about the study, Franken should have instead addressed that. But Minnery’s testimony on page 8 that “children living in their own married biological or adoptive — with their own biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to healthcare, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form” is uncontroverted.

  32. ponce says:

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’re part of government, much less not citizens, but agree that the rules of engagement are different than for someone plucked from the corn fields of Iowa.

    I just ask a simple question: Would their job exist if the government didn’t exist?

    If the answer is no, I consider them government employees.

  33. James Joyner says:

    @Another Jonathan and @Jonathan: It’s not a spotlight fallacy but actually its opposite; Minnery is assuming that, because almost all “nuclear families” involve a man, a woman, and children they all do. Some sort of inductive fallacy, I guess.

    Minnery’s apparent error is assuming that the study in question tells him anything useful about the question at hand. Why Franken didn’t simply address it from that tack, I don’t know. It’s what I would have done and Franken’s certainly smart enough to recognize that this is the more legitimate argument.

  34. James Joyner says:

    @ponce: So, accountants and attorneys are government employees?

  35. Fargus says:

    It is instructive in this case to actually look at Minnery’s testimony:

    One of the more compelling reasons for preserving marriage as one man and one woman is its impact on children. The last forty years have seen a great deal of change in family formation in the United States, Canada and most of Europe. There has been an a wealth of research published in leading scientific journals across the spectrum on how these changes – dramatic increases in divorce, cohabitation, fatherlessness/unmarried child-bearing and step-families – have impacted both child and adult well-being.

    One would be very hard-pressed to find evidence in the vast social science, psychological and medical literature on ways that any of these new family forms have improved any important measure of well-being for children, adults and the society at large. Each of them has largely served to seriously diminish the well-being of children, women, men and society at large. It is a strong and dramatically consistent finding in the social science, psychological and medical literature that children do best when living with their own married mother and father.

    In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains in its new and exhaustive report, Family Structure and Children’s Health in the United States: Findings from the National Health Interview Survey, 2001-2007, that children living with their own married biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to health care, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.

    Emphasis mine. Apologies for the long excerpt, but it’s important to view the excerpt in question in its proper context. The whole written testimony is about why we should leave DOMA in place and defend marriage as “one man, one woman.” But he pulls a slight of hand here. He makes it seem as though the study provides support for his claim where it doesn’t. He uses the weasel term “mothers and fathers” instead of “mother and father” so that he’s not technically incorrect (he could mean two mothers or two fathers, after all), but in the context of what came before, he’s clearly trying to state that the CDC report was evidence against gay parents being the most effective caregivers for children.

    Franken is not claiming that the study says anything about the efficacy of gay parents versus straight parents. He’s only saying that the CDC, in its report, includes gay parents in the category that Minnery is claiming is best for children.

  36. Jonathan says:

    @Fargus: I agree with you. Contextualization and suggestion do play a huge role in what we’re discussing here.

    Minnery writes:
    “children living in their own married biological or adoptive — with their own biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to healthcare, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”

    The key words used here for suggestion are or with adoptive mothers and fathers. What the study actually shows is that children living with their own biological or adoptive mothers and/or fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to healthcare, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.

    The study does not differentiate any statistical data to conclude that children with opposite-sex parents are any better off than children with same-sex parents and that is precisely the point Minnery was attempting to falsely contextualize in spotlighting opposite-sex heterosexual parents. Franken just highlighted this false assertion in drawing from statistical data to support false claims. I don’t see how Franken distorted anything.

  37. Scott says:

    @legion:

    Brilliant!

  38. Tlaloc says:

    I have to say i think you’re in the wrong here, Joyner. Minnery pretty clearly is trying to read into a study, which never examined the difference between married hetero couples and married homo couples, a difference that he wants to see. Franken is absolutely right to point out the study does not support Minnery’s contention. What Minnery syas is technically correct in the quoted paragraph but that’s not the end of the story since he then draws a distinction that did not exist in the data as if the data supported it.

  39. Chad S says:

    @James Joyner: Minney tried to use the CDC report to show that gay marriage is bad for children. There’s absolutely nothing in that study which says so. Franken pointed out that stability is good for child development(and ergo, a gay stable couple would be good at raising children) according to the study. Minney was clearly fabricating.

    You’re not making any sense, no disrespect. Sounds like you have conclusion X that you want to get at and you’re not letting anything stop you from that.

  40. Hey Norm says:

    The author of the study sez Franken is correct…good enough for me.
    http://dyn.politico.com/members/forums/thread.cfm?catid=1&subcatid=70&threadid=5694383

  41. ponce says:

    So, accountants and attorneys are government employees?

    Yep.

  42. Jonathan says:

    @Jonathan: I must clarify that I was not referring to you, Mr. Joyner, in my comment when I rhetorically asked, “Why be obtuse?” I was referring to Minnery’s and FoF’s misuse of federal data to defend DOMA. When I came back to review my comments for replies, I realized that my statement was left to an openly ambiguous address. I do regret my error.

  43. Rick Shreiner says:

    Absolute rubbish.
    If only one family with same-sex parents fits the study, then it is erroneous to narrowly describe the study as Tom Minnery has done, using it to promote discrimination and homophobic POV.
    One family is enough to redefine the analysis to include ALL persons, not 99.99 % who are outside the narrow definition being used to EXCLUDE one family, or small group of people.

    THAT was Franken’s point, and James Joyner, you missed it.

  44. Rick Shreiner says:

    @Jonathan:
    Nor does the study in any way suggest that children of same-sex couples suffer, or experience difficulties that other children do not.
    Any inference that one is better than the other is just not to be found in the study, and THAT was Franken’s point.
    And you missed it, by a wide margin.

  45. PD Shaw says:

    @Jonathan: I interpret Franken’s statement as falsus in uno falsus in omnibus, which I consider an ad hom, not as to the statement in question, but as to the future statements that Franken asserts that he is free to disregard because he has labeled the opponent untrustworthy.

  46. Jonathan says:

    @James Joyner:
    Mr. Joyner, you state:
    “It’s not a spotlight fallacy but actually its opposite; Minnery is assuming that, because almost all “nuclear families” involve a man, a woman, and children they all do. Some sort of inductive fallacy, I guess.

    Minnery’s apparent error is assuming that the study in question tells him anything useful about the question at hand. Why Franken didn’t simply address it from that tack, I don’t know. It’s what I would have done and Franken’s certainly smart enough to recognize that this is the more legitimate argument.”

    The Spotlight fallacy is committed when
    1) a person uncritically assumes that all members or cases of a certain class or type are like those that receive the most attention,
    2) when observed data is incorrectly assumed to represent a different or larger group

    Franken merely points out that incorrect assumption. Pointing out an incorrect assumption does not constitute an accusation. There is no tacit implication that Minnery was lying. Maybe he implicitly inferred that Minnery was foolish for using the data in that manner to defend DOMA. That’s subjective. I haven’t seen or read anything to accuse Franken of overtly suggesting that Minnery was lying in testimony.

    Minnery and FoF clearly use the data to defend the position that hetero opposite-sex parenting provides healthier welfare to children than same-sex parenting. Franken drew no conclusions from the study other than the study was not adequate to make that claim. Merely pointing out Minnery’s incorrect assumption in no way reflects an accusation of lying.

  47. Rick Shreiner says:

    “James Joyner says:
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 15:51
    @Rob in CT: According to the excerpt above, Minnery said ‘children living in their own married biological or adoptive — with their own biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to healthcare, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.’
    That is, in fact, precisely what the study found. ”

    Sorry James Joyce you are incorrect.
    What the study said was “children that lived within nuclear families”, and did not specify whether that meant families with opposite-sex parents, or same-sex parents.
    It simply stated “nuclear families”.
    And Frankens point then was that a “nuclear family” had two parents, not necessarily one father and one mother.

    He is absolutely correct, and you missed his point by a wide margin.

  48. Jonathan says:

    @Rick Shreiner:

    Rick Shreiner says:
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 21:57

    “@Jonathan:
    Nor does the study in any way suggest that children of same-sex couples suffer, or experience difficulties that other children do not.
    Any inference that one is better than the other is just not to be found in the study, and THAT was Franken’s point.
    And you missed it, by a wide margin.”

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but I do believe that nowhere in this thread do I even come close to implying that Franken inferred that “one is better than the other.” On the contrary, throughout my comments, I have maintained that Franken drew no conclusions from the study. He merely pointed out its misuse by FoF in proving that the study was not adequate enough to claim that it supports their respective position that children of hetero parents have better general welfare. I don’t think I missed anything.

  49. Loviatar says:

    He is absolutely correct, and you missed his point by a wide margin.

    Everyone keeps giving John the benefit of the doubt and saying he missed this one. Why not go for the simple answer; he is providing cover for his fellow Republicans by muddying the waters on a simple gotcha moment (extra bonus: he got to attack a Democratic Senator).

    Its been pointed out multiple times in this thread that the study said nuclear families and did not specify whether they were same sex or not. Mr. Minnery decided to use the term nuclear families to mean a “man and a woman” as a way to discredit homosexual families, Senator Franken called him on his disingenuous bit of trickery.

    Why would John put out a post like this and not apologize, for me the simplest answer is usually the correct one, John carried water for the Republican party with this post.

  50. Jonathan says:

    @James Joyner:

    You state:
    “And, of course Franken is calling Minnery a liar. How else to interpret ‘I frankly, don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.’ ”

    Questioning the structural integrity of how sound one’s case defense is, in no way calls Minnery dishonest. It is calling him incorrect. I don’t see how calling out someone’s testimony in defense of DOMA for being wildly incorrect is the same thing as calling one a liar. I don’t see your argument, James. I can say you are incorrect here. Does that mean I am calling you a liar? No, it means that I am saying that you are incorrect. I believe I have already marked the distinction over and over.

  51. Jonathan says:

    @Fargus:

    Thank you very much for the long excerpt, Fargus.
    It is a damning revelation that Minnery was indeed incorrectly using the federal data to wrongly support FoF’s claims that hetero opposite-sex parenting somehow provides better general welfare for children than same-sex two-party parenting. It’s incorrect at the very least. Franken just makes that point alone.
    He only points out that the data is being extraordinarily analyzed incorrectly, not that it was a disingenuous ploy by the FoF (which you and I know is probable). He’s not calling Minnery a liar. He’s proving that Minnery’s testimony is based on incorrect assumptions. He then, in essence, states that he doesn’t know how he can trust that the rest of Minnery’s testimony is as equally valid. To me, that is not calling someone a liar. It is calling them ignorant in the very denotation of the word, -not as an insult. Minnery’s ignorance, bias and preference do not make him a liar. They just make him a bigot. I fail to see where Franken called him a liar, as others have opined here.

  52. Robert in SF says:

    I am late to the party, it seems…

    I interpreted Senator Franken’s remarks to call the witness on the carpet for making a claim that the study somehow supported opposite-gender married parents as best for children, when the study actually draws conclusions on the impact of “marriage status” and quantity of the parents, not on their genders….

    So the study actually *supports* allowing same gender couples to marry, especially if they have kids, as it’s better for the children.

  53. jukeboxgrad says:

    james:

    He specifically says what he’s arguing against in his setup … This, in fact, is precisely what the study says.

    Several people have done a good job of explaining your mistake, but I would especially call attention to what Fargus said here.

    In your “specifically says” you are failing to look at the full context of Minnery’s entire statement. If you want to understand the exchange, you have to consider his entire statement, which was nicely quoted and highlighted by Fargus.

    And Franken didn’t call him a liar. Franken essentially accused him of making a stupid mistake. Not the same thing. And it’s perfectly logical to say “how we can trust the rest of your testimony” once it’s clear that Minnery made a stupid mistake.

    Although I think Franken was being too generous. Calling Minnery a liar is warranted. Pay attention to what Fargus noticed about the “weasel term” Minnery used.

  54. Jonathan says:

    A federal study has shown from sample data that children with two parents live in a state of better general welfare than those that do not

    Spotlight fallacy:
    ;therefore, children that live with a mother and a father arrangement live in better general welfare than those that do not.

    That conclusion is false in that the study does not prove that children with a mother and a father live in better general welfare than those that don’t, -namely those children with two fathers or two mothers.

    Minnery chose to spotlight that since the majority of the subjects in the study conducted were hetero mother/father parenting arrangements, it could be logically deduced that the study proves that children who live under these opposite-sex hetero parenting arrangements have better general welfare than those that do not necessarily live in that arrangement.

    That is a spotlight fallacy if I ever saw one. This fallacy often appears in clinical trials, poll data analysis and other studies where survey numbers from sample data are analyzed.

  55. jukeboxgrad says:

    James, I wonder if you noticed that Confederate Yankee is citing you. Although he seems to have forgotten to include a link.

  56. Jonathan says:

    @PD Shaw:
    You state:
    “PD Shaw says:
    Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 22:02

    @Jonathan: I interpret Franken’s statement as falsus in uno falsus in omnibus, which I consider an ad hom, not as to the statement in question, but as to the future statements that Franken asserts that he is free to disregard because he has labeled the opponent untrustworthy. ”

    PD Shaw,
    I was almost tempted to exclaim, “Touché!” But on further analysis, I have to again respectfully disagree with you. Franken has not called Minnery’s integrity into question nor has he labeled his opponent untrustworthy or dishonest. He never accused Minnery of falsifying or misrepresenting anything. He merely concluded that the very foundation of Minnery’s argument in that particular testimony was unstable and unsubstantiated, calling into question the soundness of the rest of Minnery’s entire argument in that particular piece of testimony, hence “..the rest of your testimony….”

    That’s at least how I see it. I’m just giving my take on it but I do see your point and you make a very valid point. I could possibly stand corrected. lulz

  57. Loviatar says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    That was the plan all along.

    This was one of those, well if reasonable Republican James Joyner has a problem with it… post. The post then gets linked around and established as fact among the Republican brethren that there was a problem with Senator Franken’s slapdown of Mr. Minnery testimony.

    As I said earlier James was carrying water for the Republican party, he put his reputation out there as cover for a bigot. Not the first time he has done it, won’t be the last.

  58. hey norm says:

    Let’s see:
    A hyper-partisan-looney-bin-hack like the Confederate Yankee is citing this post.
    The author of the study says Franken is correct – ipso facto the post is not.
    I’m not sayin’ it doesn’t look good for J.J…I’m just sayin’

  59. Rob in CT says:

    So… yeah, I was right. Minnery was indeed attempting to use the study to argue that gay parents are bad for kids. I assumed that was the case (Focus on the Family, hello!) and went to the obvious conclusion:

    Franken was pointing out that the study doesn’t mean what Minnery thinks/asserts it means. The study doesn’t tell us anything about straight v. gay. It tells us about “nuclear” (as defined in the study) vs. non-nuclear. Nothing more.

    The lead author of the study backs this up.

    Franken: 1, JJ: 0, Minnery: -5000.

  60. Elsea says:

    Way to use Wikipedia as a source. I stopped reading the article after that.

  61. James Joyner says:

    @Elsea: Wikipedia is an amazingly useful and accurate source for basic factual information such as the dates that states adopted same-sex marriage.

  62. jukeboxgrad says:

    Elsea, James is right (about this). There’s nothing inherently wrong with using Wikipedia as a source. It’s as least as good as any comparable source. In many instances, the work in Wikipedia is superb.

    Using Wikipedia properly means understanding how to recognize the difference between claims that are supported and claims that are not. In a good Wikipedia article, it’s easy to evaluate and confirm the claims that are made. And this is the case with the particular claims that James was citing.

  63. Elsea says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    Anyone can edit a Wikipedia article. Anyone. It is a joke. You can’t seriously use Wikipedia to support a claim and expect it to be respected in an academic environment. If you want to site something properly, why not site the sources for the Wikipedia article?

    That said I understand this isn’t an academic article so I took another look at the siting.

    “Yes, as Franken notes, the study defines a nuclear family as “one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family.” But, as Wikipedia reminds us, “Marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman in at least 42 states. Currently, 30 states have added amendments banning same-sex unions to their constitutions. There are five states that recognize or will soon recognize same-sex marriage.””

    Its unclear to me why it is that the second sentence follows the first. I don’t understand the connection being made. Why does it matter how Wikipedia defines marriage? We’re talking about the study.

  64. James Joyner says:

    @Elsea: The cited definition of “nuclear family” was from the study in question, not Wikipedia.

    I used Wikipedia to point out that 42 states–not Wikipedia, state laws and constitutions–expressly define marriage as being one man and one woman and that only 5 states allow same-sex marriage. I also used Wikipedia to give me the dates when those states legalized same-sex marriage, which was relevant since the study in question was from 2001-2007 and only one state allowed same-sex marriage during that period.

    The alternative would be to find separate citations for each state, which would not only be pointless in the case of “common knowledge” but actually deny credit to the source that I used for my research.

    Wikipedia was in its infancy when I was teaching college but I’d certainly allow its use for this sort of information. It’s a handy reference guide that’s quickly updated and monitored aggressively by a team of editors.

  65. Rob in CT says:

    @Elsea:

    JJ’s “point” in his post is wrong.

    Having said that, he wasn’t quoting how wikipedia defines marriage. He was pointing out that most states still don’t allow gay marriage, and if you go back to when the study started being done it’s even fewer than today. Wiki was just his source for the info on the states (which seems accurate to me, or close enough).

    His (silly) point was that because the study defined nuclear family as “one or more children living with two parents who are married to one another and are each biological or adoptive parents to all the children in the family” and most states don’t allow gays people to marry, therefore the data set for the study effectively excluded nearly all gays. So the study says nothing about gay parenting.

    The funny part is *that was Franken’s point* so James’ post ultimately doesn’t make sense.

  66. jukeboxgrad says:

    Elsea:

    Anyone can edit a Wikipedia article.

    That’s true. That’s why it’s important to understand how to click through and check sources.

    You can’t seriously use Wikipedia to support a claim and expect it to be respected in an academic environment.

    That depends entirely on whether or not the relevant claims can be verified. If the Wikipedia article is properly written (and many or most are), then the claims can be verified.

    If you want to site something properly, why not site the sources for the Wikipedia article?

    I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. The sources for the claim that James quoted are indeed provided in the Wikipedia article.

    Its unclear to me why it is that the second sentence follows the first. I don’t understand the connection being made. Why does it matter how Wikipedia defines marriage? We’re talking about the study.

    This is a separate issue. I didn’t say I support James’ reasoning. I don’t. I already said that I think he’s making a mistake. All I said is that there’s nothing inherently wrong with citing Wikipedia. And the claim he quoted from Wikipedia seems to be correct. That doesn’t mean James’ overall point is correct.

  67. James Joyner says:

    @Rob in CT: If that was Franken’s point, he made it in a very odd way.

    The study concluded that nuclear families were best. For all intents and purposes, as you agree, nuclear families as defined by the study meant, as Minnery said it did, one man, one woman, and one or more kids that were either theirs biologically or which they’d both adopted.

    Rather than trying to embarrass Minnery on a technicality–that the definition doesn’t theoretically exclude gays, even though the study for all practical purposes did–Franken should have said something along the lines of, “But you realize that the study has nothing to do with same-sex and opposite-sex families, right? That there was no control for this? That most of the dysfunctional family types studied were also heterosexual? Further, that it would be reasonable to conclude that, since gays can raise families now, that the only effect of DOMA is ensuring that they can’t create nuclear families, which you acknowledge is the the best type of family?”

    Had he done that, I’d have posted the video applauding him for the salient point.

  68. Fargus says:

    Here’s the easiest way I can come up with to describe how you’re wrong. If you read the excerpt from Minnery’s testimony, you can see that he is trying to say that straight-parented families are better than gay-parented families, along with all other types of arrangements. He uses the CDC study to shore up his case. But his main point is that straight parents are better than gay parents. Franken simply points out that the CDC study puts them into the same category. He’s not saying that the study covered some disproportionate amount of gay people.

    At this point I just think you’re being stubborn. I can’t even see the hair you’re trying to split, it’s so fine.

  69. jukeboxgrad says:

    James:

    For all intents and purposes, as you agree, nuclear families as defined by the study meant, as Minnery said it did, one man, one woman, and one or more kids that were either theirs biologically or which they’d both adopted. … that the definition doesn’t theoretically exclude gays, even though the study for all practical purposes did

    I highlighted those words because they contain your mistake. The relevant ‘purpose,’ from Minnery’s perspective, is exactly to show that gay families are inferior. To do this, he pretends that the definition (of ‘nuclear family’) excludes gays. Trouble is, it doesn’t. And it’s not that “the definition doesn’t theoretically exclude gays.” The definition doesn’t exclude gays, period. The entire absence of gays from the study (if that’s true) doesn’t change this.

    The definition doesn’t “exclude gays,” and it definitely doesn’t “exclude gays” from the perspective of the ‘purpose’ that’s relevant here. So your “all” (which you said twice) is wrong, because for the purpose that’s relevant to this discussion, the definition pointedly did not exclude gays.

    Franken should have said something along the lines of, “But you realize that the study has nothing to do with same-sex and opposite-sex families, right? …”

    That’s essentially what Franken said, and I think the way he said it is clearer. Consider these two statements:

    A) The study defined same-sex and opposite-sex families as part of the same category.

    B) The study has nothing to do with same-sex and opposite-sex families.

    What he said is pretty close to A. You’re looking for B. I think A and B are pretty similar, but I think A is more specific and clearer. Anyway, I agree with Fargus that it’s hairsplitting to make a fuss about A vs. B.

  70. Eric Florack says:

    Senator Al Franken called Focus on the Family’s Tom Minnery a liar in yesterday’s hearing on DOMA. Franken was the one being dishonest.

    The only thing surprising about this is that anyone finds it surprising anymore.

    Had he done that, I’d have posted the video applauding him for the salient point.

    I doubt that, James, because had he done so I suspect it would have slid right past everyone’s attention, including your own. Which asnwers your other question, too…. he play that line because it made a bigger splash on the liberloon websites.

  71. jukeboxgrad says:

    James:

    One more thing.

    Rather than trying to embarrass Minnery on a technicality–that the definition doesn’t theoretically exclude gays

    What you’re calling “a technicality” is anything but. It’s the heart of the matter. The core of Minnery’s deception was to pretend that the definition did exclude gays. The fact that the definition did not exclude gays is exactly the reason why the study can’t be used the way Minnery tried to use it. That’s why the most clear, correct and succinct way for Franken to point out the problem was to state the way the study defined ‘nuclear family.’

    And the absence of gays from the study (if that’s true) is a red herring, even though you’ve put a lot of energy into this aspect. The key point is not how many gays were in the study. The key point is how the study defined ‘nuclear family.’

  72. James Joyner says:

    @jukeboxgrad: I agree with you and others who argue that Minnery was using the study to show something that it simply didn’t. And Franken makes that point, too, at least tangentially, here:

    And it actually doesn’t say what you said it says. It says that nuclear families, not opposite sex married families, are associated with those positive outcomes.

    The reason I think Franken’s line of attack here is unfair is that, while CDC was not studying the effects of same-sex vs. opposite-sex families, for all practical purposes “nuclear family” and “opposite sex married families” were synonymous from 2001-2007.

    So, Franken’s right that the study didn’t say what Minnery is using it to claim. But Franken’s wrong in attacking Minnery for claiming tha t”nuclear family” and “opposite sex married families” were synonymous in the study.

  73. James,

    I write for a web site that regularly debunks claims made about studies (It’s amazing how much bad “research” is reported and even more how the work of decent researchers is distorted by unscrupulous people). And you make very good points about how this study doesn’t really tell us much at all about same-sex couples who would make marginal impact on the results.

    However, I don’t think that you are correctly assessing what Minnery was there to say or how Frankin correctly identified the flaw in his assertion. It’s like this:

    We have three groups that we are discussing:

    G = same-sex couples who wish to marry (that’s the subject of the hearings)
    N = families consisting of a married man, wife, and children
    O = families that are unmarried, divorced, separated, etc.

    (First a quick segue to note that there is no logic to the argument that because children in married families do better, we should not let gay people marry. Unless, of course, we want their children to do less well.)

    The study found that children in Group N do better than children in Group O. On this we all agree.

    But Minnery’s entire argument is based on the assertion that Group G is a subset of Group O (and therefor inferior to Group N). Minnery even changed the wording of the study in his testimony so that Group N excluded Group G.

    (Segue Two: There is no logic to the assertion that all subsets, especially small subsets, have the exact same characteristics as the whole group. For example, if a study found that recent immigrants to the US speak Spanish at a higher rate that others, this does not mean that recent Greek immigrants (a subset of all recent immigrants) generally speak Spanish.))

    (Segue Three: There is no logic to the argument that because Group G is a subset of Group O (it isn’t), that therefor Group G should be denied rights granted to every other person in Group O)

    However Minnery’s premise is entirely wrong. Group G is not a subset of Group O, but is instead a subset of Group N. According to the researchers (who confirmed in follow up), to the extent that the study looked at the children of same-sex couples, it put them in the married category.

    (Segue Four: Regardless of what a state recognizes or bans, same-sex couples often make vows before their family, friends, and church and function as married. Many epidemiologists find it more accurate to classify gay ‘married without paperwork’ couples as “married” rather than, say, “roommates”. )

    And what Frankin said (and all that he said) is that Minnery’s assertions are wrong. And they are. It isn’t a matter of debate.

    I think perhaps you are not catching the wording that you are defending. Because it appears that you are making the same false assertion. You’ve said that Minnery’s page 8 quote is “precisely what the study says.”

    But it is not precisely what the study says. In fact, Minnery’s rewording of the study is precisely to the words that the study does not say: “…their own biological or adoptive mothers and fathers…”

    Minnery, seeking to argue that Group N excludes gay people, changed the words and the conclusions of the study. It did not say “mothers and fathers”. It matters not that you think it should have said that. Nor that most of the participants were mothers and fathers.

    And Minnery deliberately changed those words to change the results of the study. If Minnery had used the real language, the real findings of the study, it would have no value to his argument.

    In reality, this study is irrelevant. It says nothing whatsoever about whether children in same-sex stable couples do as well as mom-dad-kids couples (other research suggests that the gender of the parents has no measurable impact). It also doesn’t tell us anything about red-headed parents or left-handed grandparents.

    But Minnery had an argument to make with no research to support it. So he just changed the wording to be what he wanted it to be and hoped no one noticed. He engaged in what can be best categorized as “false witness” (which, incidentally, is one of the Big Ten no-no’s in Minnery’s religion).

    Before you dismiss the importance of this, consider if Minnery had made a different change. What if he had said “children living in their own married Christian families were generally healthier and happier” and so therefor Muslims should not be allowed to marry.

    Now it is true that a vast majority of Americans identify to some extent with the Christian faith (which is your argument about the married status of the participants). But by putting that little extra fact in there – one that is absent from the research – it would have entirely changed the focus of the research from married v. single/divorced to Christian v. Muslim.

    Minnery tried to take research that was focused on married v. single/divorced and claim that it was really about straight v. gay. And that was a lie, a deliberate intentional lie.

  74. The study explains the distinction made within the study, using the term “”traditional’ nuclear families,” and noting that “spouse” was defined as husband or wife. There were evidently not enough same sex married parents to cause a bump in their years-long process.
    Regardless of your personal political leanings, there simply is not enough empirical or historical evidence to justify changing the basic unit of society. There’s more historic evidence that polygamous families are stable forces in society than there is for same-sex couples.

  75. Well no, Beverly,

    The study did NOT use the term “traditional” nuclear family OR note that spouse was husband or wife. And really really really wishing it did doesn’t make it so. And claiming that it did only makes you a false witness.

    I’ll not comment about your views on polygamy.

    But our constitution doesn’t have a mandate that “historical evidence” be provided in order to apply rights and protections to all citizens. Pentecostal denominations are only about 100 years old – way way too short to measure whether they are as good as Catholics, but they still have freedom of religion. And we don’t ponder whether Americans of Laotian heritage have really proven that they deserve the right to vote. And free speech, well we know that divorcees are the opposite of a stable force in society and, by golly, we still let them speak.

    You see, Beverly, civil rights are not something you have to prove yourself worthy to possess. They are inalienable, They are inherent. They are ours, even when the government won’t recognize the rights of their citizens – as many governments do.

    And the onus is not on the people saying, “hey, treat us equal” to prove their worth, but rather the onus is on those saying “treat them as inferior” to prove why the promises of Constitution should be ignored in this instance and why equality and decency and kindness and treating your neighbor the way you want to be treated just doesn’t apply to these people.

  76. David says:

    The point Franken should have made was that the CDC study provides excellent testimony in favor of repealing DOMA, so that the children of gay parents can also have married parents.

  77. jukeboxgrad says:

    James:

    Franken’s wrong in attacking Minnery for claiming that ”nuclear family” and “opposite sex married families” were synonymous in the study.

    Please consider these two statements:

    A) ”nuclear family” and “opposite sex married families” were synonymous in the study, in the sense that all the families in the study happened to be “opposite sex married families.”

    B) ”nuclear family” and “opposite sex married families” were synonymous in the study, in the sense that the study intentionally and explicitly defined “nuclear family” as “opposite sex married families.”

    A and B are materially different. I think this is the key point you’re not getting.

    A is true (or at least I’m willing to assume it’s true). But the truth or falsity of A is not important. What’s important is the truth or falsity of B. The key problem with what Minnery did is he pretended that B is true, even though it’s not. The key problem with what you’re doing is that you’re treating A and B as interchangeable, even though they aren’t.

    The dispute between Minnery and Franken isn’t about A. It’s about B. Bringing A into the discussion is a red herring.

  78. Jon says:

    Beverly,

    Now that’s convenient–arguing that there should be no same-sex marriage because there is not enough evidence about same-sex relationships. Of course, the reason that there is not enough evidence is because there is not full legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Based on that logic, the status quo will always be maintained. Meanwhile same-sex couples and their children will continue to be treated like second-class citizens.

    Anyways, the evidence at debate here is collateral to the issue of same-sex marriage. DOMA doesnt prohibit family formation by same-sex couples; it just thwarts complete recognition of the family unit under the eyes of the law. Same-sex couples will expand their families with or without DOMA in place.

  79. Jonathan says:

    @PD Shaw
    I’ve been thinking about it. The reason I feel it can’t be categorized as a falsus in uno falsus in omnibus is that it relates to accusing the witness of willfully falsifying a matter in order to impeach the witness. That does not follow without a direct accusation that the witness willfully falsified testimony. We can see that Franken was very careful and never made any accusation that Minnery was lying under oath. There are others that are already calling for Minnery’s perjury! That is an asinine plea and I don’t see that as Franken’s intention at all.

    Minnery was not guilty of lying. He was guilty of assuming. Franken’s behavior aligns with my reasoning. The only way to logically and factually assert that Franken called Minnery a liar is if he actually did do just that. Anything else is just speculation and assumption.

    Now, Argumentum ad logicam can be used as an ad hominem appeal by malignly vilifying the opponent’s good faith or character credibility to undermine the speaker, rather than addressing the speaker’s argument. But it would require a direct impugnation to cast scrutiny on the contentious nature of the witness’ character.

    Franken never made any assertion that Minnery’s character was of dubious nature. If there be a quote from Franken in the transcription of the hearing to support this claim, I would already know of it. One simply does not exist because Franken never attacked witness character. He did not question Minnery’s good character. Only the logic of his FoF prepared statement for testimony was called into question. He rightly addressed the witness’ argument which consisted of a document of testimony prepared for and submitted to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.

    It has been asked how else to interpret “frankly, don’t really know how we can trust the rest of | your testimony | if you are reading studies these ways.” We can interpret as just that, a criticism of the written document of testimony itself, not the witness himself. That is a fair argument.
    —————————————————————-
    @James Joyner

    Now, Mr. Joyner
    I know that you are reading this and I think I have made my case and successfully argued it. Asserting that Franken called Minnery a liar is erroneous, illogical and severely flawed. He never called Minnery’s honesty into question, -only his judgment and logic. That has nothing to do with Minnery’s own respective honor, integrity and truthfulness. He only questioned the logic used in the method of analysis contained in the testimony itself.

    As I said before, questioning the structural integrity of how sound one’s defense is in no way calls Minnery a dishonest person. It is calling him incorrect. I don’t see how questioning the validity of testimony for interpreting data incorrectly to show that the data is being presented in a fundamentally skewed way (I already covered the spotlight fallacy) is the same thing as calling one a liar.

    Mr. Joyner, you yourself stated, “If Minnery elsewhere makes a larger argument about the study, Franken should have instead addressed that.” In the following excerpt from Minnery’s submitted testimony, he CLEARLY asserts that the study shows that children living with a married mother and father are healthier, happier and have better general welfare than those living “in any other family form.”

    “It is a strong and dramatically consistent finding in the social science, psychological and medical literature that children do best when living with their own married mother and father.
    In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains in its new and exhaustive report, Family Structure and Children’s Health in the United States: Findings from the National Health Interview Survey, 2001-2007, that children living with their own married biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to health care, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”

    I quote you as saying that “This, in fact, is precisely what the study says.” The study does not say that those children are better off than with any other family form. You state that what Minnery asserts about what the study concludes is absolutely correct. It does not. He asserts that what the study concludes is “…that children do best when living with their own married mother and father.” The proof is in the pudding.

    Now, Franken’s reasoning in informing Minnery that the nuclear family definition means two married parents, not necessarily a mother and a father, is absolutely warranted and required because it helps others to reason the fundamental flaws in Minnery’s assertion in order to disprove it:

    “Hey man, you know it doesn’t necessarily mean married mother and father right? It means two parents.”

    On this premise alone, one can disprove Minnery’s assertion that ‘children do best when living with their own married mother and father.”

    1) The study was conducted on married parents and most (if not all) married parents were opposite-sex heterosexual parents at the time.

    2) Despite that fact, the study still does not provide conclusive evidence to show that children living with married mother and father are actually better off than those living in “any other family form” of other married parent arrangements.

    3) What the study does conclusively show is that children living with two married parents are better off than those living under any other arrangement.

    Concluding that this must therefore mean that children living with married mother and father are generally happier, healthier and in general better welfare than those living under any other married parent arrangement is inherently flawed with spotlight fallacy.

    The study was conclusive in finding that children with married parents are better off than with any other living arrangement that does not include two married parents. Since the study happened to be conducted primarily on married mother and father combinations, Minnery assumed that this fact also proved these children were better off than those living in any other married parent arrangement. “It does not.” This study does not provide any data to support that conclusion. Minnery’s error in reasoning is called a spotlight fallacy.

    Please correct me if I am wrong but I think I have managed to split finer hairs here but it’s all been in the good-natured fun of friendly discourse. Still, being a responsible a journalist, Mr. Joyner, I respectfully call on you to publicly retract your statement because its nature is fundamentally flawed by good logic. It’s only a respectful request but I think a reasoning man would comply.

    Thank You,
    VTY
    Jonathan Cuellar

  80. Jonathan says:

    Urgh. In the second sentence of the second paragraph above, the words for interpreting data incorrectly should have been parenthesized for correct grammar and semantics. I apologize. There is no way for me to edit it now.

  81. N Waff says:

    —–
    It is a huge stretch for Franken to imply same-sex marriages are represented in this report.

    Even though the report does not speak to heterosexual marriages or homosexual marriages specifically, it does speak to the peculiarities of heterosexual “mother-stepfather and father-stepmother” families. If the report was including same-sex marriages it would have noted them just as it noted step-parents, which is a more-likely indication that the report pertains to heterosexual marriages than any homosexual marriages.

    —–

    Instead of Franken torpedoing Focus on the Family – I think Franken shot himself in the foot.

    Franken’s conjecture is merely wishful thinking.

  82. Jonathan says:

    @N Waff:

    There is no evidence to support the contention that Franken ever implied that same-sex marriages are included in the study. He pointed out that what Minnery was asserting in the prepared statement was incorrect. I highly suggest that you read the prepared testimony before jumping to conclusions.

  83. Jonathan says:

    @David:

    Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 19:10
    You state:
    “The point Franken should have made was that the CDC study provides excellent testimony in favor of repealing DOMA, so that the children of gay parents can also have married parents.”

    @David
    That is a great point but I don’t think that this study data can be analyzed in that way. The study was conducted for entirely different purposes so to analyze it in that way would be fellaciously making unwarranted extrapolations, -just as Minnery has done with the data. To be fair, a study could be done comparing the general health and welfare of children with gay same-sex parents to those with hetero opposite-sex parents in a segment of the country where gay marriage is allowed. Isn’t there a block of four states that form a square region of gay marriage states? I could be wrong.

    Anyhow, Senator Patrick Leahy gets Tom Minnery to admit under oath in testimony that DOMA certainly puts these children at a financial disadvantage.

    http://ontopmag.com/article.aspx?id=8989&MediaType=1&Category=25

  84. Jonathan says:

    I keep forgetting to attach the word married in all the right places so here his a more concise and accurate explanation of Minnery’s exhibit of spotlight fallacy

    The Spotlight fallacy is committed when

    1) a person uncritically assumes that all members or cases of a certain class or type are like those that receive the most attention,

    2) when observed data is incorrectly assumed to represent a different or larger group

    A federal study has shown from sample data that children with two married parents live in a state of better general welfare than those that do not

    Spotlight fallacy:
    ;therefore, children that live with a married mother/ father arrangement live in better general welfare than those that do not.

    That conclusion is false in that the study does not prove that children with a married mother & father live in better general welfare than those that don’t, -namely those children with two married fathers or two married mothers.

    Minnery chose to spotlight that, since the majority of the subjects in the study conducted were married hetero mother/father parenting arrangements, it could be logically deduced that the study proves that children who live under these married opposite-sex hetero parenting arrangements have better general welfare than those that do not necessarily live in that arrangement of married parents.

    That is a classic spotlight fallacy if I ever saw one. This fallacy often appears in clinical trials, poll data analysis and other studies where survey numbers from sample data are analyzed.

  85. Justicar says:

    I must say, for such an intellectually easy piece, there was an awful lot of spin in it.

    Dr. Joyner, one wonders why it is that you cite to secondary and tertiary opinions on primary sources instead of the sources themselves. They are, after all, publicly available. Slate, “Ottowa Citizen”, and Wikipedia are what we’re using for sources these days in academia?

    It’s entirely immaterial that you have erstwhile supported Franken, or anyone else for that matter. Previous correct actions do not immunize one from present incorrect actions. No amount of bolstering one’s “cred” can mitigate the fact that discrete arguments and incidents are discrete, and unrelated events do not bear on them in the slightest degree.

    You correctly note that what Franken said is factually correct. You correctly note The Witness agrees that it is also true. Never mind any of that, we should take what you say as deciding the matter. No. This won’t do at all.

    The researchers were as aware as was everyone else aware of the state of the marriage issue throughout the states. Further, to say that from 2001 – 2003 was a time during which no same-sex marriages were around is a not-clever way of saying that for the remaining four years of the study they were. It’s like saying 25% of all rapes are from strangers as a way of brushing over the fact that 75% happen by people one knows. In other words, you cite small proportion of data to obscure its complement.

    Then again, you’re a Political Science kind of guy; I suppose spin is to be expected. But at least be clever about it next time – thanks.

    – The Justicar

  86. Jonathan says:

    “It is a strong and dramatically consistent finding in the social science, psychological and medical literature that children do best when living with their own married mother and father. In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains in its new and exhaustive report, that children living with their own married biological or adoptive mothers and fathers were generally healthier and happier, had better access to health care, less likely to suffer mild or severe emotional problems, did better in school, were protected from physical, emotional and sexual abuse and almost never live in poverty, compared with children in any other family form.”

    Testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, S.598
    July 20, 201
    Tom Minnery
    Senior Vice President
    Focus on the Family
    *Bold text added for emphasis
    ———————————————————————————-

    The main conclusion drawn by Tom Minnerty here in this paragraph is that the CDC study empirically supports the assertion that “It is a strong and dramatically consistent finding in the social science, psychological and medical literature that children do best when living with their own married mother and father… compared with children in any other family form.”

    In speaking to Minnery in the hearing, Senator Franken quotes most of this paragraph from the Minnery’s FoF prepared testimony. He then goes on to say, “You cite a DHHS study that I have right here, from Dec. 2010 to support this conclusion.”

    | The main conclusion (drawing support from this cited study) formed in the paragraph is “that children do best when living with their own married mother and father… compared with children in any other family form” as purportedly supported by the CDC study. |

    FRANKEN: “I checked the study out and I would like to enter the record, if I may. It actually doesn’t say what you said it says.”

    | -namely the assertion that that the CDC study empirically shows “that children do best when living with their own married mother and father… compared with children in any other family form.” |

    FRANKEN: “It says that nuclear families, not opposite sex married families, are associated with those positive outcomes. Isn’t it true, Mr. Minnery, that a married same sex couple that has had or adopted kids would fall under the definition of a nuclear family in the study that you cite?”

    | -cited specifically to support said conclusion |

    MINNERY: “I would think that the study, when it cites nuclear families, would mean a family headed by a husband and wife.”

    FRANKEN: “It doesn’t…”

    | and neither does it then support said conclusion that the CDC study empirically supports the claim that “children do best when living with their own married mother and father… compared with children in any other family form.” |

    Again, as a responsible journalist, Dr. Joyner, I respectfully implore you to publicly retract your statement because its nature has been shown to be fundamentally flawed through the use of good logic. It’s only a respectful supplication and I’m sure you prove to be a reasonable man. I am sure others will petition you for a corrected statement as well.

    Thank You,
    JC