Sunday, July 29, 2007

A research finding on childcare that we shouldn't need a research finding to know

Let me say that I am of the firm opinion that we are so soaked and steeped in scientism that we tend to think that we need a study to establish our beliefs in even the most basic, intuitive truths. This tendency has the consequence that we are at once overly cautious about articulating the most basic, common sense notions on the one hand, and are overly credulous about preposterous claims made in the name of science on the other.

An example of the first would be studies you see reported every now and then claiming to establish that men and women are different in some basic respect. Of course, most people outside social science departments in our universities already know this, and don't need pointy headed experts in an ivory tower somewhere with a study to tell them this. Any normal person has already established this fact to his own satisfaction by getting married or having children. I would include the practice of quoting statistics or scientific studies showing why you should believe this or that about homosexuality, sexual restraint, or abortion in this category. If you can't figure out what you should think about these things without statistics, then your problem extends a whole lot further than just a lack of information.

An example of the second would be the tendency among some to believe something that violates common sense simply because of some piece of research they have been told supports it. The recently deceased cultural critic Neil Postman relates an experiment he has conducted among his university colleagues. Postman will run into a fellow professor in the hallway--early in the day, before he or she is likely to have read the morning paper--and ask him or her if they have seen the study in that day's New York Times showing that, say, jogging is bad for you. Without exception, he says, the experiment results in the colleague believing there might be something to it. Kinsey's research purporting to show that deviant sex, including sex with children, is normal goes into this category, as well as those ridiculous reports that animals think or communicate like humans in any significant way.

All of this is a just a long introduction to my letting you know about a new study showing that non-maternal childcare is bad for children that has been posted over at The Evangelical Outpost:
Children in first grade who had spent more time in non-maternal care from 3 to 54 months had more conflict with teachers and showed lower levels of social skills than their peers who spent less time in child care according to teacher reports.
This is nice to know, and I'm sure we should be gratified that there is some researcher somewhere willing to scandalize his socially constructivist colleagues by being willing to publish it, but shouldn't we know this already? Have human beings not been on the earth long enough to establish that children need mothers?

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