After you’ve suffered through President Obama’s final State of the Union address, and watch as he “spontaneously” goes all Boehner on us, bursting into tears and pointing to an empty chair to signify all the victims of guns, remember his definition of “verified science” and is different than the rest of reality’s.
It also might help to review Reason magazine senior editor, Brian Doherty’s balanced and informative editorial on the limitations of statistical science’s analysis of gun ownership and crime. Go ahead and forward the article to your liberal friends too on the off chance it will give them pause before they starting pleading for President Obama to give the children a second Christmas and launch every firearm in existence into the sun.
Mr. Doherty thoroughly examines a number of the most inflammatory studies and surveys from both the right and the left and comes to a number of critical conclusions:
- Policy makers are ready to make policy based on whichever study they like the most, not whichever one necessarily holds up to the scientific method. “What we really know about the costs and benefits of private gun ownership and the efficacy of gun laws is far more fragile than what…the president would have us believe,” writes Doherty.
“The facts then become even more muddled as the conclusions of those less-than-ironclad academic studies cycle through the press and social media in a massive game of telephone.” Doherty touches on an incredibly crucial point that demonstrate how many scientists, journalists and politicians see true value less in the robustness of the analysis but “win” in the headline.
Later in the piece Doherty refers to a Pew study that showed that 56% of those polled thought gun homicide was increasing even though it had actually been going down for years, suggesting that a convincing narrative and a passive public beats the truth every time.
- Some scientists seem willing and able to massage their standards if it means serving what they perceive as the greater good of public safety. Yes, a number of the organizations Doherty references including the Centers for Disease Control- because apparently now gun ownership is officially a “disease”- seem to start out with the objective notion that gun ownership is dangerous and must be proven to be valid.
Doherty writes that Harvard gun violence researcher, David Hemenway “believes, given the good he thinks can come from legal interventions about guns, that we don’t need to be that certain we are right for policy work.” Other anti-gun researchers come to similar conclusions, according to Doherty. They suggest that just because an analysis might not conclude that guns aren’t too violent for statistics doesn’t mean that science should punish the real world by letting things carry on as they are.
Again with that convenient greater good.
Arguably, Mr. Doherty’s greatest conclusion is that current levels of social scientific study are incapable of providing any definitive empirical conclusion on the causality of gun ownership and gun crimes. The number and depth of variables make it basically impossible to truly know, especially when taking into account the intensive political and social heat around the topic.
What is equally true but significantly more disturbing is just how much President Obama will ignore that reality during the State of the Union and declare the subject decided.