The abuse of science

We see creationists distort science all the time. They usually do it when the topic is something they really don’t understand; they’re driven by an ugly agenda. Sometimes that agenda is to explicitly undermine real science. Other times it’s to abuse science. This post is about an instance of a creationist engaging in that abuse.

New study links father absence to increased bullying – so when people want to reduce bullying in schools across the board – instead of just protecting their favored students – remind them how important stable one man / one woman families are.

This comes from Neil, that religious nutbag who doesn’t know the difference between the scientific concept of development and his subjective declaration of “humanity”. Committing the same error as his source, he draws inappropriate conclusions from the study. Fortunately yours truly is here. As someone who isn’t interested in distorting science for my own gains, let me explain what the study actually said.

This research investigates the relationships among bullying behavior, mother’s and father’s work hours, and early adolescents’ perceptions of whether they spend sufficient time with their parents. In cross-sectional models, we find maternal work hours are modestly associated with increases in bullying behavior. However, in more rigorous change models, our findings indicate that over time maternal work hours bear no direct relationship to bullying behavior. Moreover, in our final models, an interaction between father’s work hours and perceptions of time spent with him has one of the most robust associations with bullying for adolescents. When paternal employment is full- or overtime and youth perceive they do not spend enough with their fathers, bullying behavior increases. Other important factors that shape bullying behavior are the quality of the home environment and the adolescent’s school performance.

That’s just the abstract; the rest is behind a paywall. More information can be found in the ScienceDaily article.

Basically what the study showed was that when kids had their fathers around, they were less likely to be dicks. Great. What the study didn’t do was compare children of gay couples who had both parents around. It is logically, scientifically, and morally inappropriate to conclude that same-sex marriages produce kids who tend to bully more. We have no evidence even suggesting as much.

It really bothers me when people take these sort of studies and then try and use them to denigrate gay marriage. It isn’t that the bigotry behind it all is frustrating – though it is. It’s that, hey look, we have this scientific study here that was done by a lot of hard-working people with a lot of experience and knowledge, their methods are good, the conclusions are interesting, and there are some clear things we can draw from it all. But then there are these anti-scientific, lazy people with no experience or relevant knowledge, no understanding or appreciation of the methods used, and they aren’t interested in the conclusions at all; it’s all about abusing the science for some petty point, a point that isn’t even on the right side of history.

I’m all for applying our scientific knowledge in how we run ourselves as a society, how we consider our worldviews. I just don’t want to see it all get abused for political points. That’s what happened to this study. It’s unfortunate. We have this serious issue of bullying being considered by a group of serious individuals, and we have these good results that tell us kids are more well adjusted in a particular category when they perceive their fathers, married and heterosexual, as being around more, but then someone has to come around and piss all over everything. All we know from this research is what is says about kids with married, heterosexual parents versus other kids with married, heterosexual parents. Claiming it tells us something different or more is an abuse of science.

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2 Responses

  1. [...] I’ve also written about in the past is the abuse of science. People will commonly read a study which supports something they believe, but then they will [...]

  2. [...] comes from our friend Neil. I usually reserve him for use in my “Punching Bags” series, but I’m actually [...]

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