I apologize if anyone went to last night's debate hoping for a scandal.
What I (and most people) expected to be a heated, emotional debate, turned out to be two men having very different conversations in the same space.
Indeed, the most exciting moment of the evening was when a terrifyingly large Palmetto bug flew out from a corner and landed on Brian McCarter's arm.
But I am not here to talk about insectoid interference.
What stunned me the most, aside from Mr. Schwartz's inability to answer a question directly, was his refusal to acknowledge the relevance of an informal poll of Mr. McCarter's.
While it can be universally agreed that if you want to learn about a religion, you go to a leader of that faith. However, I feel that if you want to learn about its place in a culture, you go to the people.
Mr. McCarter went to a predominantly Muslim neighborhood in Queens, and asked 20 young Muslim men if they felt the First Amendment was good, then repeated the question with a very extreme qualifier.
Mr. Schwartz refused to acknowledge this information as "representative of moderate Muslims."
At no point did he define what a Moderate Muslim is, nor who would be described as such.
While I appreciate his desire for accurate information coming from informed sources, for the debate at hand, I (and many others) felt that "The Man on The Street" would be the better source. If you're talking about immigration, and the potential for restrictions, Average Yusuf may be a better representative than a more official individual.
If I have a question about Halacha, I'll ask a rabbi. If I have a question about what it's like to be a young, female, observant Conservative Jew in New York, I'll ask my old roommate.
If I have a question about a Mystery of Catholicism, I'll ask a priest. If I have a question about Catholic youth culture in America, I'll ask my friend Alissa.
Which brings me to a question I've been mulling for many weeks now...
There's a saying that goes, "Anecdotal evidence isn't."
Okay, fair enough. The story your friend told you about her cousin's best friend in Ohio probably isn't a good source of information. But then you are pressed for official information. From studies. From journals.
I can think of at least one recent "official study" that's totally bogus.
Meanwhile, there are hundreds (thousands?) of minority groups who are dealing with injustices and oppression, but their stories either aren't heard, or deemed irrelevant because no one's put out an official study about them.
If I can't use the personal experiences of a Female-to-Male transexual professor at MIT to demonstrate sexism in the science community, and no study has been done on it, what use is that person's complaint? Or the complaints of other women in the science community? (This happened in an email conversation I had recently.)
This feels like a dirty trick by the majority to determine what is relevant and valid, and what is just the "uppity" minority whining about something or other.
We can't cherry pick. At what point do situations become relevant/interesting/exotic/dire enough to warrant studying? At what point do anecdotes become data?
I really am curious about this. Why, in so many instances, does something have to be sanctioned for its information to be "real?"