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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.4 > The Gadfly

The Gadfly

Are You in the 43 Percent?

I HAVE LONG BEEN FASCINATED BY HOW IT happens that some statistics make their way into the public conversation, taken for granted as being as reliable as pi— though if you gently blow on them, they disintegrate like dandelions. For example, Laura Kipnis, in her book Unwanted Advances, reports Edward Greer’s indefatigable investigation (in 2000) into the origins of the claim that that “only 2 percent of rape allegations are false”—a claim taken as undisputed in most Title IX investigations. Greer found that all roads led to Susan Brownmiller’s 1975 book Against Our Will. She got it from a judge’s speech given to the New York Bar Association in 1974; the judge apparently was quoting a newspaper account, written, Greer learned, by a reporter who was a friend and neighbor of Brownmiller’s.1 (In a previous column, I discussed a further complication in the 2 percent claim, namely that an allegation doesn’t have to be false—that is, an intentional lie—to be wrong, a result of honest but incorrect perceptions and memories.)

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About Skeptic

UNDERSTANDING FLAT EARTHERS WHO SAYS THE EARTH IS FLAT, AND WHY? COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Water Fluoridation: Public Health, Not Poison, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: Are You in the 43 Percent?, by Carol Tavris DEBATE Does God Exist? A Rebuttal of Theologian Brian Huffling • God is Not a Moral Being: A Response to Gary Whittenberger on the Problem of Evil ARTICLES Understanding Flat Earthers • Shroud of Turin Update • The Girl Who Smelled Blue: The Colorful Case of Willetta Huggins • How to Navigate Contentious Conversations • How Much Longer Will Cancer Screening Myths Survive? • Nationalistic Pseudohistory in the Balkans • “Prove that I am Wrong!” What QAnon, Descartes, and Brains in Vats Have in Common REVIEWS Reviews of Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness • The Human Swarm: How Tolerance of Strangers Creates Society • Darwin’s Apostles: The Men Who Fought to Have Evolution Accepted, Their Times, and How the Battle Continues • Forensic Science Reform: Protecting the Innocent • The Psychology and Sociology of Wrongful Convictions: Forensic Science Reform • Blinding as a Solution to Bias: Strengthening Biomedical Science, Forensic Science, and Law JUNIOR SKEPTIC Victorian England’s Jurassic Park, by Daniel Loxton