I think Niall has made an excellent point. Statistics can be very misleading when looked at in a vacuum. Stepchildren may die much more frequently than children living with their true parents, but we have to be cautious not to make a causal fallacy, more specifically, the complex cause fallacy. I do not see Ridley making a logical error, but he does leave the door open for readers to do so.
Because death may be more common in stepchildren is it fair to say that being a stepchild increases the odds of dying? Or are we simply assuming there is a direct cause and effect relationship where one really doesn't exist. I'm just not sure, but I tend to think that stepchildren do come from less than ideal backgrounds (as a general rule) and, therefore, have a much higher probability of receiving poor nutrition, supervision, love, attention, medical care, housing, education, etc...
Tara has some experience with this due to being a teacher, so I'll take her word that stepchildren tend to come from middleclass families. I was both a stepchild and a fosterchild ...and almost
an adopted child, and I came from a middleclass background. During my years in fostercare I did see kids coming from all different backgrounds, but it seemed to be more came from lower class than middle class. Perhaps its different with stepchildren than fosterchildren. I do think that a properly designed statistical analysis that included foster kids into the mix would see foster kids as having the very highest level of childhood death. A stepchild or adopted child is probably receiving a degree of love from one or both parents, while a foster child is more or less abandoned and alone.
Anyway....good point Niall. As skeptics it is important to extend our skepticism to all
claims...not just the wacky ones. I have reread what Matt Ridley said on page 215 and I don't see him making any logical fallacies. He presents the information and provides his source, which was Daly & Wilson's 1988 "Homicide."
He really doesn't go too far with drawing inferences - instead allowing the reader to take the information and process it.Chris "When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,for there you have been, and there you will always want to be."