The studies I have cited are carefully referenced and use advanced statistical techniques. But sophistication of method is used to torture data to reveal conclusions that do not obviously follow from them, but which fit either the researchers’ preconceptions or the sponsor’s policy objectives, or both.
Bad arguments do not necessarily invalidate the causes in which they are deployed. People should not drink and drive. Smoking is unpleasant and perhaps harmful to non-smokers. But these observations do not justify blurring the distinction between genuine scientific analysis and propaganda disguised as science. Policy should follow evidence, not evidence policy. It is time to reassert the principle that research must pursue the truth wherever it leads: the principle on which the social and economic progress of the past few centuries has depended.
Amen, brother. Every time I hear another innumerate nitwit dismiss data with the insufferable "lies, damn lies, and statistics" line, I have the urge to declare douchnozzle clobberin' time. But when so many skilled practitioners of research and data analysis torture data in the way Kay describes, one can hardly blame careless observers from dismissing the entire enterprise of collecting data to, you know, learn something true.
Of course, this never really changes. So count this as a reminder to everyone who feels Kay's pain: keep fighting.