Letter to the Editor: Backing Up the Claims



Emily Baselt Steiger

Several weeks ago, I happened to stop by the Coop, pick up a copy of the Colgate Ma­roon-News and find the article, “Colgate’s Moral Destruction.” The article’s author seems to be trying to argue that the popular column “Minus the City” is somehow responsible for every social problem the United States has faced in the last twenty years. In our fresh­man seminars here at Colgate, we are taught how to evaluate the legitimacy of the sources we quote in our papers, as well as how to correctly cite them; these seem to be skills the author has either forgotten or chosen to ignore because the statistics she spits out haphaz­ardly in the article are so absurdly inaccurate that the Maroon-News editors were quite wise to wash their hands of the ridiculous allegations in their preface to your letter. But never fear—I’ve taken it upon myself to act as fact checker.

Contrary to the claim that “ninety percent of all cohabiting adults break up,” in its March 2010 report entitled “Marriage and Cohabitation in the United States,” the CDC found that 51% of adults who move in together marry within three years and two-thirds are married within five years. They also found no significant difference in divorce rates amongst couples who lived together before marriage and couples who did not live together prior to marriage.

The allegation that “abortions raise the risk of breast cancer by 193%, increase the likelihood of premature birth for future children and can cause infertility” has been spout­ed by pro-life advocates for decades, only to be systematically countered by scientific evidence each and every time. The National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) has found that “having an abortion…does not increase a woman’s subsequent risk of developing breast cancer,” which is a far cry from “193%.” Likewise, according to the Mayo Clinic, “only rarely would an abortion cause problems in a subsequent pregnancy.” She states that “more than 40 percent of all college women have abortions.” The US Census Bureau (census.gov) places the abortion rate for women aged 20 to 24 at 3.99%; furthermore, a 2008 study by the Guttmacher Institute attributes half of all abortions to women over the age of 25 and 60% of abortions to women who already have at least one child. There’s a huge disparity between those statistics and the implication that “Minus the City” is causing Colgate stu­dents to engage in wild, unprotected sex and then terminate their pregnancies willy-nilly.

I couldn’t actually find any evidence—other than common sense and general life ex­perience, that is—to counter the claim that “men who have multiple intimate partners… suffer a gradual destruction of the male bonding mechanism, resulting in the inability to form an attachment to anyone.” But then again, the only source I could find supporting that claim is the website coolvirginity.com, so I guess we’ll call that one a draw. Honestly, I probably didn’t need to spend so much time reading about “moral destruction” in my attempt to discredit the allegations; I’m sure most Colgate students had trouble taking you seriously after she suggested that Harry Potter should be our role model because “he understands real love.”

I think that it is inappropriate to back up your judgmental views of other people’s life­styles with statistics as fictional as the character on whom you think it would be appropriate to pattern our lives. Harry Potter was originally a children’s book, Ms. Saiki, and since Col­gate students are not children, next time please try to keep your hysteria about the “deadly concoction” of American culture to yourself.