More nonsense in the newspapers

14 February 2013

There’s another one of those fatuous “studies” in the papers today, based upon that favourite newspaper device, the false correlation. This time it’s about marriage; if you want to make your marriage work, move to Dorset, because part of it has the highest number of married couples in the country and they are more likely to stay married. The implication is that there must be something magical about Dorset, and that if you moved to, say, Wimborne, or Curry Rivel, any marital problems you might have had would immediately evaporate.

Of course the reason more people are married in Dorset is that the average age of the population there is greater, and the older you are the more likely you are a) to be married and b) not to get divorced. It is also why Dorset has the highest life expectancy in the country; again, by simple stats, the older you are the greater your chances of living longer. It is odd that the papers tend to fall for this sort of false correlation; they cannot, surely, be THAT stupid, can they? And yet you see an example of it almost every week.

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  • William Reid Boyd

    (Off topic) 1. Who will be the first fearless political (or not as the case may be) commentator who dares to throw open an utterance on the Pistorius case to a comments forum?

    (Off topic) 2. And which will be the first fearless newspaper to investigate whether “pitch black” bedrooms can exist anymore in these days of street lighting and winking led lights from computers, TVs and so on, especially after your eyes have adapted following a snooze?

    Answers on a postcard please and not by email and thank god it wasn’t one of our cyclists done it.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Is there some kind of correlation about why there are so many lesbians on the BBC and why they seem to want to talk endlessly about their sexuality?

  • William Reid Boyd

    It’s not actually true that Francis Galton, the founder of stupid statistics, discovered that the more you prayed for Queen Victoria’s family the more her children died for some reason, but it makes a good story.

    He did actually investigate whether prayers offered up for the Royal family had any effect compared with not offering them up for pretty well everyone else amongst the landed gentry and came to the conclusion that they didn’t, which is exactly the sort of thing that happens when you bring science into something

    Course the Royals have homeopathy now, God bless them all.

  • Roger Hudson

    Cornwall has been under occupation by ‘furriners’, as we were called in the early sixties,for a century or more. Cornwall Educations ‘ethnic diversity co-ordinator’ must be the best sinecure in the country.

  • Walter Ellis

    I moved to New York because there are more billionaires here than anywhere else on Earth. Yet 12 years on I doubt if I’m worth even a hundred million. What’s that about?

  • Mark Cooper

    This type of article accounts for about a fifth of all online ‘news’.

  • Kitty kitty

    My grandparents live in coastal Dorset, are in their 80s, love each other very much, and have been married for more years than I’ve had Golden Syrup tins and certainly more than other things that won’t be mentioned. They moved there from the Stansted airport area, and before that, Chingford. Is it any wonder, really?

  • Neil

    It’s causal correlation, rather than false correlation.

    Curry Rivel is in Somerset.

  • Eddie

    Would that be nonsense – or nonce-sense? Or have we had a tad too much of that over the last few months of Savile-sniping?

  • Grrr8

    “that favourite newspaper device, False correlation” – pot calling the kettle black here?

  • Noa

    Is this a fatuous story about the fatuous stories that the newspapers print every week? Or is it keen, incisive, cutting edgy journalism? A masterful polemic on the post modern condition?

    I have noticed a high correlation between your own observations and their origin in the Daily Mail. Obviously though, I draw no conclusions or causal links between the two.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Apparently if you’ve got no legs you are statistically more likely to shoot your girlfriend.

    • Wessex Man

      You sicko!

    • Noa

      And its too late for him to go on the run…

  • humeanbeing

    Anything for an easy story, I suspect. They’re just filling the space between the ads.

  • DougS

    “…It is odd that the papers tend to fall for this sort of false correlation; they cannot, surely, be THAT stupid, can they?….”

    Oh yes they can – there’s column inches to be filled and more often than not they’re filled with this kind of utter nonsense.

    One of the favourites is “cost to the economy” due to:

    sickness – dozens of versions of this one!
    lazy gits
    road works
    not having HS2
    not tackling human caused global warming

    In fact, just about anything. If you added them all up it would probably exceed our GDP!

  • EP

    Apologies for the pedantry, but it’s not the correlation that’s false, but the assumption that correlation=causation.

    • Baron

      spot on, EP, spot on.

    • Eddie

      Absolutely. I remember reading some ‘research’ that stated that people in a certain area were more likely statistically to get pregnant. The same area had a high consumption of marmalade.
      Ergo, if one confuses correlation and causation (which all politicians do deliberately and most journalists too), then eating marmalade makes you preggers!

  • Baron

    The newspapers may be right, you wrong, you know. Look, if you live amongst the not divorcing people you are yourself likely to divorce less because the married may shun you, give you the cold shoulder when it comes to Christmas parties, perhaps even scorn your lack of judgement in choosing your wife so badly, detest your lack of staying power when the marriage turns sour. It’s a sort of self enforcing state of affairs not unakin to your living for inst. amongst the wolves adopting the canine’s behavior, or in London mimicking the way of life of the newcomers like having a picnic on the underground, spitting handsomely as you walk and stuff like that.

    • Kitty kitty

      Baron: It was probably the lack of staying power that made the marriage turn sour.

      Personally I have two simultaneous opinions about people that get divorced. 1. They have no spine, discipline, principles, loyalty, reason, and ginger. 2. They’re braver than I am.

      • Colonel Mustard

        It’s about oaths and whether they really mean anything. For all their brutality and crudity our ancestors would be horrified by the easy way that we now break our oaths and lie (especially politicians!).

        • Swanky Yanky

          Good point.

        • Eddie

          Oooo I don’t know – representatives of the Church were famous in the Middle Ages for breaking their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience (to the ten commandments). Just read Chaucer.

          Then there;s the king (Richard II) who vowed to pardon the leaders of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, then had them all executed.
          Same old same old, I’m afraid…

          • Colonel Mustard

            Yes, oaths have been broken, just as they have been maintained. That is not down to the organisation but to the individual. And still is. The meaning of the oath and whether it binds you is in your heart and in your mind. There is always cynicism and venality just as there has always been honour and duty. Just read Christine de Pizan.

            I would still argue there was once more rather than less. And now there is hardly any.

  • Wilhelm

    Moving to Dorset, it’s more like White Flight. Cornwall, Devon, Cumbria are still English, the rest of England is ”under occupation.” Check out the map.

  • Slugger O’Toole

    Rod, Curry Rivel’s just outside Taunton, erm, in Somerset.. (do you need to get out of London more often?). But your mention of Wimborne is much appreciated by this particular ex pat Ulsterman… who’s still looking for that magic after nearly thirty years of living in my English home from home…

    • DougS

      You’re right – but even if you weren’t, I don’t think that Rod would want to mix it with someone call ‘Slugger O’Toole’!

      • Mick Fealty

        I’m as gentle as a fresh Dorset breeze… 😉

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Hi Slugger, you don’t sound “drunk as a rule” but that might have been “fighting Bill Tracy from Dover”. I will have to have a word with “your man Mick McCann” as he was skipper of the Irish Rover!

  • Jim Fraser

    You’d call it lazy journalism, only it’s not journalism.

    • Azif Baimajik

      Oh, I don’t know about that. Some of Rod’s blogs are quite good.

  • The Red Bladder

    By exactly the same token you are far less likely to have a child, break your ankle in a school sports day fathers’ race or get involved in the Boy Scouts. We also have not a single city nor a yard of motorway. Don’t let this put you off staying at home though, when it comes to retired people we are full up!

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