Monday, March 23, 2015

Bad science meets bad journalism on sexual orientation

We all know the narrative: Being gay is inborn. Science has shown this unequivocally. No reasonable person disputes this.

That, at least is how we hear it from the same people who for many years pointed to the Kinsey Reports of the 1950s that purported to show that around 10 percent of the population was gay, a claim that turned out to be completely bogus.

All this in the service of the ideology behind the sexual revolution. But when you hear the term "politicization of science," don't make the mistake of thinking that this applies to the inflated, misleading, and in many cases flat out false claims of people on a campaign to destroy traditional sexual morality.

The term "politicization of science" applies only to claims of those on the outs with the Gender Police, never to the own claims.

In a story last week, CNN again invoked gender dogma, attacking prospective Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson for being "wrong about how gender orientation works."

Now one measure of integrity of any report on what is good science is whether the report itself is good journalism. In CNN's story on Carson, the first question to ask is, "Does the story follow the recognized rules of reporting?"

After all, if a report on what is good science is not good reporting (which is easy to detect), it raises the question of whether the science reported on in the report is good science (which is harder to detect). If you're careless in your journalism, chances are you are careless in your appraisal of what you are reporting on: In this case, scientific research.

Alas, what we find with the CNN report, rather than good reporting, is advocacy journalism.

For one thing, any time journalists―particularly those without any hard scientific background themselves―use the expressions like "Scientists say," or "according to science," you should immediately downgrade the reliability of everything that follows to about a 2 on a reliability scale of 10.

With very few exceptions, "scientists" don't say anything monolithically. "Researchers" ends up referring to all the researchers who agree with the narrative on display in the article. On the vast majority of issues, some scientists say one thing and some another. And there is no such thing as "science" as one uniform entity. "Science" never says anything. It's like saying, "according to Wall Street" to express a reification of a collection of financial institutions and individuals. The term "science" in a statement like this is a careless and almost meaningless abstraction.

"But scientists say decades of research overwhelmingly shows sexual preference is inborn, not a choice," say the authors of the CNN story.

Nonsense. Anyone who says something like this should be disregarded immediately.

Then there is the matter of one of the most basic rules of reporting, which is the importance of quoting both sides. I realize that this rule seems to have gone down the toilet in today's journalism, but it hasn't diminished in importance in proportion to how it has diminished in actual use.

The only people quoted in the story were sources who supported the clear prejudice of the writers. No one from the other side was quoted at all.

In fact, here is the most amusing statement in the report: "Overall, the scientists with whom we spoke said they were shocked at Carson's arguments." The scientists with whom they spoke were all shocked? One wonders what the proportion of shocked scientists would have been had they spoken with scientists who were not shocked; namely, those on the other side.

According to science, there is a direct correlation between the viewpoints of respondents in any study with their own views. And researchers say that if you study only those who agree with you, there will be a high level of agreement between you and them.

Oh, brother.

Then there is what exactly counts as hard science. Here is a list of people quoted in the article, all on the same side:

* Gerulf Rieger, a lecturer in the department of psychology at the University of Essex in England
* Cynthia Struckman-Johnson, a professor of psychology at the University of South Dakota
* Robert Dumond, a mental health counselor who's testified to the Department of Justice
* Chris Hensley, a criminologist at the University of Tennessee

Other than Hensley, who criticized the one thing Carson was wrong about in his statement (and which he admitted), you have two psychologists and a "board certified and licensed clinical mental health counselor."

Not a neuroscientist in the bunch.

And since when did anyone (other than psychologists overly impressed with themselves) consider psychology a hard science? In fact, the only research Struckman-Johnson lists on her site has to do with sea tbelt and motorcycle helmet research, and research on texting among drivers. Exactly how a knowledge of seat belts, helmets, and texting translates into expertise in sexual orientation is unclear.

Then there is Gerulf Rieger, the only one quoted who actually has a degree in a field at least loosely-related to the issue with which the article is concerned. He has at least written publications on the issue of "sexual orientation," but the research listed on his site has nothing to do with biological or genetic predetermination of sexual orientation.

And, finally, there are the actual studies cited by the article that prove that sexual orientation is innate. These studies include ... Hmmm. Well, surely the article that claims that there are studies that prove homosexuality is biologically determined would cite actual studies that prove it. But, in fact, it doesn't.

It doesn't cite a single study.

The sorry state of the media discussion we now see on this issue has created a climate of almost complete credulity in which the claims of gender radicals are, with few exceptions (in fact, I can't think of a single one), accepted at face value.

Some day, the scientific community is going to look back on this debate―one in which they the prostituted themselves to gender ideology―with severe embarrassment.

1 comment:

Old Rebel said...

Leftists think genetic science doesn't apply to humans except in "sexual orientation." Then it's DESTINY.

They're so funny.