After reading a very moving story from Palin’s book, then the vitrolic comments on the same, I came across Jeremy Clarkson’s column.
When it comes to sweeping generalisations, I am the daddy. All Germans have no sense of humour, all instruction manuals are pointless, all cruise ships are ghastly, every single American is fat, all golfers are boring and all Peugeots are driven by people you wouldn’t have round for dinner.
Of course, I’m well aware that most generalisations are nonsense. I know several very funny Germans, and Obama Barrack is actually quite skinny. But without generalisations, anecdotes would take two years, points would never get made, comedy would suffer and everyone would sound like James May: “Actually, 42.7% of instruction manuals are quite useful; but first let me quantify ‘useful’ . . .”
Life would be a terribly dreary assault course if every fact had to be precise, but, that said, generalisations have no place in serious scientific research, which is why I was a bit startled to read last week that a government adviser from the National Academy for Parenting Practitioners said lesbians made better parents than what we can no longer call “normal couples”.
…I have done some checking on this, and the only evidence I can find comes from research endorsed by the national academy itself. The study examined children raised by just 27 single mothers, 20 lesbian couples and 36, er, differently genital-ed parents and concluded that those raised by women grew up with a better psychological wellbeing.
You can’t possibly draw any conclusions after testing 20 lesbians. Test 20 Italians and you could well end up concluding the whole nation was full of calm, incorruptible dullards with no interest in sex. Test temperatures over just 20 years and you’d end up concluding the world’s climate was changing.
Not too many people would write stuff like that these days, but Clarkson just might get away with it.