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Response to TPaine7 (Reply #43)

Sat Jun 9, 2012, 02:23 PM

46. The less you know...


I have to address this first:
The fact that you are defending the NRA in this may be the best proof yet that you lack even a drop of scientific integrity, and are interested only in the politics here.

No person who even understands what science is could have honestly written that sentence. Science is about discovering truth, not ensuring that one is against the NRA. I defend the truth as I see it. Anyone who that happens to help gets the benefit. The scientific method does not consist, to the tiniest degree, in ensuring that one is opposing the NRA.

Unfortunately, your view is probably the prevalent one among too many gun researchers today. You would fit right in as a peer reviewer where scientific integrity = opposition to the NRA.

I very clearly criticized you for defending the NRA in this -- meaning defending the NRA's use of political influence to defund research it didn't like. That if the gun violence research is bad science, then scientists should be the ones to make this determination -- not lobbying groups. And your support of the NRA in this is evidence of your lack of scientific integrity.

But you ignored the words "in this", insisting that I somehow claimed that anyone who criticizes the NRA is unscientific. Why are you resorting to blatantly misrepresenting my words?

OK, moving on. I think we've mostly exhausted the discussion about the flaws peer review -- yes, it's flawed, but, like Democracy, all the alternatives are much worse, so if you want to deny the bulk of the peer reviewed evidence in favor of what it says on gun blogs, you're going to have to do better than "anti-gun bias" and "peer review is flawed".

And also, I think we've covered your silly caricature of scientific knowledge as divided into isolated subfields. This may come as a shock to you, but mathematicians (and physicists, and computer scientists) working on DNA actually do understand DNA thoroughly -- there are other ways to learn about DNA besides going to graduate school in biology, particularly if you are already a working professional scientist. As I pointed out in my last post (and you ignored), Keynes -- the most influential economist since Adam Smith -- did not have a degree in economics.

I could go on and on with examples of people doing important research outside of their original field. How about Herbert Simon, who get a PhD in political science, and won not just a Nobel Prize in Economics, but also a Turing award (the Nobel-equivalent in computer science). But, but... how could a political scientist possibly know anything about computers!!!!! Maybe he hired a "real computer scientist" who understood computers "thoroughly" to babysit him so that his research would qualify as "legitimate"... LOL

OK, on to the conspiracy theory..

This is very elementary, and I can't help but think you're feigning convenient ignorance. If I study X and find that its presence in the water causes children to die from a disease, then advocate against X, that is legitimate. If I plan a campaign against X and want to use "science" in the service of propaganda to advance an agenda of "dirty, deadly - and banned" that is illegitimate. It is a declaration of war against X. It is anti-scientific. Can you see the difference?! Let's not pretend that these are equivalent situations.

LOL. So the timing is the thing, right? As long as the study comes first, its OK? OK, then. Well, the first widely cited study on gun violence that I know about comes from 1968, from (criminologist) Frank Zimring. So Rosenberg had over twenty five years of research evidence to work with by the time he spoke that sentence in 1994. Even public health research into gun violence had been going on for about a decade by then. By 1994, the majority of researchers in both criminology and public health already believed that gun control would reduce homicide and save lives.

One person? One person?!!

When Obama said he wanted to kill terrorists, I didn't think he was planning on going through Seal training. When Steve Jobs said he wanted to revolutionize music distribution, I didn't picture him writing the code for the iTunes store and uploading the songs. If a leader a vision to the press, that means, almost without exception, that he has

1) Talked to other people above and below him about the advisability of the goal and the strategy
2) Put his finger to the wind and seen how popular his proposal is likely to be with the target audience
3) Ensured that he has the support of his bosses or is likely to be well received by customers

Of course, Rosenberg is the exception. He woke up that morning and thought, "I am going to try to make guns 'dirty, deadly - and banned', I think I'll go talk to a reporter about my new idea!"

He didn't know that he had the support of his superiors at the CDC and possibly the President for his propaganda campaign. He had no idea whether he had the sympathy and support of people like Hemmenway and others. He didn't know whether researchers would line up for CDC money, researchers who shared his vision and would reach the proper results. He had no idea if gun control was popular among medical professionals. He had no idea if his employees were likely to revolt against his anti-science approach.

And no, I am not saying that Rosenberg, Hemmenway and others got together in a dark basement and formed a formal, classic conspiracy. No, these guys think "guns are bad, let's use science to prove just how bad." They don't even consider the idea that guns are positive or neutral, just like most people don't consider the possibility that cannibalism, child porn and slavery are neutral or good.

Rosenberg thought he was stating obvious TRUTH. The reason for his unforced error was his conviction that the TRUTH that guns should be "dirty, deadly - and banned" was self-evident.

You will never convince me that slavery is good. We may disagree on precisely how bad it is, what its negative effects are and are not, and how best to eliminate it, but belief that slavery is good is beyond the pale. To Rosenberg and many like him, guns are bad. The idea that they are positive or even neutral is beyond the pale. Science is only useful to back up the obvious TRUTH.

This is a wild fantasy, plain and simple. Unlike the president, who is the commander and chief of the military, or Steve Jobs, who was CEO of Apple, Rosenberg didn't come anywhere close to having the authority to dictate what gets published in peer-reviewed journals. Which is why, starting from a one sentence from a bureaucrat, you concoct a vast group of co-conspirators that includes his superiors, scientists, and maybe even the president.

And notice that your "Rosenberg sentence" actually compares guns to cigarettes. Not slavery or child porn, but cigarettes. It's only in your fantasy world that he, or anyone, really, "hates" guns with the same moral passion that you hate slavery. And not just Rosenberg, but also everyone else who is part of the "silent conspiracy". Of course! And all from one sentence that was spoken after gun violence research had already been going on for decades!

Here's a scientific concept for you: Occam's razor. It suggests that the simplest explanation of observable evidence is likely to be the correct one. It's usually a good one to keep in mind when contemplating conspiracy theories. Yes, it's possible that the "Rosenberg sentence" is the tip of a huge iceberg of anti-scientific gun hatred among scientists and government officials, all of whom have the goal of imposing strict gun laws because they, umm, hate guns so much "just because". But it's more likely that these are just scientists doing their science, and Rosenberg is just one bureaucrat who thinks that he could combat gun violence in the same way as smoking.

And, really, for a one-sentence pitch, the analogy that Rosenberg draws with smoking is actually pretty good. After the first decades of studies, the evidence pretty strongly showed a link between smoking and cancer, but it was necessary to do more, both on the scientific front, to study the link in more detail and address shortcomings in the original round of studies, and then also on the publicity front, informing people that smoking does in fact kill, and changing the image of smoking from James Dean in a leather jacket to something that's dangerous and now outlawed in many public places.

Are there plenty of people peer reviewing medical articles who "would like to see peer-reviewed studies showing that homeopathy works"? No, there are not.

Umm... no, you're missing the point here. The analogy is to Rosenberg, who is not a peer reviewer but a bureaucrat. Yes, there are plenty of bureaucrats that would like to see peer-reviewed studies showing that homeopathy works. Peer-reviewers are simply scientists, and while most scientists don't believe homeopathy works, this is not because they hate homeopathy the way you hate slavery, but rather because that's what the evidence says.

And, really, I think most scientists, including the ones peer-reviewing the papers, actually would like to see more peer-reviewed studies showing that homeopathy works. Because, if it did, it would be an earth-shattering result that would require us to revise some very fundamental principles of physics. It would be a fascinating scientific discovery, the kind of thing that scientists live for.

Now think for a moment. What would happen to a young researcher who found an instance where it did work and tried to publish?

Actually, this has already occurred many times. What happens, contrary to what your conspiracy theory predicts, is that the paper gets published, as it should be. It's pretty easy to google up some examples, like this study, which found that homeopathic treatment significantly decreased the duration of diarrhea in children. A certain percentage of clinical trials will positive results just by chance. But then people try to replicate the result and fail, and the fact that most RCTs find no effect for homeopathy (as do meta-analyses), combined with the fact that there is no plausible mechanism for it to work, means that very few people in the scientific community believe that it is anything more than placebo.

In reality, a lot more money has gone into researching homeopathy than is scientifically justifiable. It's sort of the opposite of what happens in gun violence. Most scientists think that the grant money would be better spent on things that might possibly work. So homeopathy is actually an example of the resilience of the scientific process (including but not limited to peer review) -- the influx of funding for homeopathy studies has not swayed the scientific consensus.

What would happen to a researcher who found evidence that smoking--once or twice a month for ceremonial purposes, let's say--actually tends to prevent certain diseases? I would not trust the medical establishment as far as I could throw it to evaluate such a claim. There are multiple layers of resistance. The idea that smoking, even very rarely, is positive is not acceptable to the medical community. Therefore, peer review by the medical community will reject that idea. Some reviewers
might even be able to see the reality, but will reject such papers for other reasons. What if children hear that smoking is healthy? What if people skip over the part about the tobacco being natural and only used bi-monthly? What effect will this have on anti-smoking campaigns that save lives? I oppose smoking in enclosed public places and around children in the home, but I can see that the medical establishment wouldn’t be a fair judge.

So not only do you not trust the scientific establishment to be a fair judge of gun violence research, you also don't trust them to be a fair judge of research on smoking or homeopathy.

I have another scientific principle for you that might be helpful. If a theory makes false predictions over and over, then you throw out the theory. For example, based on your posts, I had a theory about you that predicted that your disregard for scientific results would spill over from gun violence to other areas -- since you care a lot about gun control, your denialism in that area would be particularly strong, but even on "neutral" topics like homeopathy or tobacco, your judgement would be based more on conspiracy theories and political suspicions than on scientific facts. Looks like my theory is doing pretty well!

On the other hand, your conspiracy theory of science has already made one false prediction, which is that studies finding homeopathy to be effective wouldn't get published in peer reviewed journals. And now you've just made another one. I'm referring, of course, to the extensive literature in peer-reviewed medical journals about the beneficial effects of nicotine, and the potential for treatment of cognitive disorders such as ADHD, Alzheimers, schizophrenia. The problem is that nicotine is highly addictive and has negative side effects, but that doesn't mean scientists haven't found out and published papers on it's beneficial effects.

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Arrow 47 replies Author Time Post
TPaine7 Jun 2012 OP
gejohnston Jun 2012 #1
safeinOhio Jun 2012 #2
gejohnston Jun 2012 #3
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #4
safeinOhio Jun 2012 #5
gejohnston Jun 2012 #7
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #8
bongbong Jun 2012 #6
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #9
Tuesday Afternoon Jun 2012 #10
DanTex Jun 2012 #16
Progressive dog Jun 2012 #11
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #12
Progressive dog Jun 2012 #21
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #25
X_Digger Jun 2012 #32
gejohnston Jun 2012 #33
SGMRTDARMY Jun 2012 #13
gejohnston Jun 2012 #14
Progressive dog Jun 2012 #22
ellisonz Jun 2012 #24
friendly_iconoclast Jun 2012 #28
DanTex Jun 2012 #29
friendly_iconoclast Jun 2012 #36
DanTex Jun 2012 #37
friendly_iconoclast Jun 2012 #38
DanTex Jun 2012 #39
friendly_iconoclast Jun 2012 #40
DanTex Jun 2012 #42
gejohnston Jun 2012 #41
gejohnston Jun 2012 #26
friendly_iconoclast Jun 2012 #27
gejohnston Jun 2012 #34
beevul Jun 2012 #15
clffrdjk Jun 2012 #44
DanTex Jun 2012 #17
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #18
DanTex Jun 2012 #20
ellisonz Jun 2012 #23
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #31
Tuesday Afternoon Jun 2012 #45
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #30
DanTex Jun 2012 #35
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #43
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DanTex Jun 2012 #46
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #47
TPaine7 Jun 2012 #19
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