According to a recent British survey of more than 1,000 adults which was tagged on MSNBC last week, 60 percent of people who read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code believe that Jesus fathered children by everyone’s most beloved harlot, Mary Magdalene, as opposed to 30 percent who had not read the book, and that four times as many readers of the book believe Opus Dei is a murderous sect than do non-readers.
The story, as most rigorously researched articles by most esteemed journalistic chroniclers often are, is graced with a Chicken Little headline: “Da Vinci undermines faith, survey claims.”
For starters, a survey can’t claim anything. Secondly, it was commissioned by a “prominent collection of English Roman Catholic monks, theologians, nuns and members of Opus Dei,” putting the validity of the methodology of the surveyors in some question.
Third, and most serious, there is NOTHING in the story on MSNBC that says any of these people had any Catholic faith to undermine in the first place, or that even die-hard Catholics’ faith is shaken. (Are there still Catholics in England? I thought Henry VIII beheaded all of them back in the day, or are my facts, as usual, dimmed by mind-numbing quantities of alcohol this morning?)
What the numbers do say is that people who read the book are, based on this test sample, more willing to believe that Christ fathered children and that one gnarly Catholic sect kills people. Reading between the lines, the survey illustrates a common logical fallacy. In the Latin, I thnk, it’s post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this).
To wit: “All critically discerning, intelligent people can read,” DOES NOT mean “all readers are critically discerning, intelligent people.”Powered by Sidelines