MONDAY, MAY 7, 2012

Part 1—Chris Mooney tells several old stories: Tomorrow, North Carolina will vote on a constitutional amendment which would ban same sex-marriage and same-sex civil unions. Beyond that, the amendment would end various domestic partner benefits.

The amendment is expected to pass. Saturday, in this piece at Salon, Chris Mooney explained the “bad science” involved in the debate about this amendment.

He told a familiar tale. “Many voters who go to the polls to support Amendment One will do so believing outright falsehoods about same-sex marriages and civil unions,” Mooney wrote. “In particular, they hold the belief that such partnerships are damaging to the health and well-being of the children raised in them.”

According to Mooney, this claim is utterly bogus. The claim has been “explicitly disavowed by the American Psychological Association,” he writes. In this passage, he quotes the APA:
MOONEY (5/5/12): “Beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents...have no empirical foundation,” concludes a recent publication from the organization. To the contrary, the association states, the “development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.”
According to Mooney, the studies don’t show that same-sex partnerships are harmful to children raised in them. So why do voters think different?

Alas! In response to that question, Mooney tells a sadly familiar tale. The following passage describes a groaningly awful intellectual scam. But at its heart, the process Mooney describes is extremely familiar:
MOONEY: “Beliefs that lesbian and gay adults are not fit parents...have no empirical foundation,” concludes a recent publication from the [APA]. To the contrary, the association states, the “development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.”

So how can Christian conservatives possibly claim otherwise?

Well, one favored approach is literally citing the wrong studies. There is, after all, a vast amount of research on kids in heterosexual two-parent families, and mostly these kids do quite well—certainly better than kids in single-parent families (for obvious reasons). Christian conservatives cite these studies to argue that heterosexual families are best for kids, but there’s just one glaring problem. In the studies of heterosexual two-parent families where children fare well, the comparison group is families with one mother or one father—not two mothers or two fathers. So to leap from these studies to conclusions about same-sex parenting, explains University of Virginia social scientist Charlotte Patterson, is “what we call in the trade bad sampling techniques.”
Groan. Studies show that children in heterosexual two-parent families do better than children with just one parent. In a blatantly bogus way, “Christian conservatives” pretend that these studies have established that heterosexual families are best for kids—better than two-parent same-sex families.

That claim is groaningly bogus.

Mooney refers to this as “bad science.” If his account is correct, his judgment is groaningly apt. But then, this has been a familiar story across the political landscape over the past forty years.

During that period, our political discourse has been dogged by bogus claims in a wide array of major areas. Citizens hear such bogus claims again and again and again:
If we lower our tax rates, we get increased revenues!
European-style health care has failed everywhere it’s been tried!
Social Security will go bankrupt—belly-up—by the time younger voters retire!
The US once had the world’s best schools, but things have gone straight downhill!
Over the past forty years, American voters have been assailed with a wide array of bogus claims in a wide array of subject areas. If Mooney’s account of the “bad science” concerning child-rearing is true, it represents the latest example in a very familiar trend.

If Mooney’s account is accurate, North Carolina voters have been exposed to some very bad science. But uh-oh! To our ear, Mooney offers a rather slippery account of this process—and as he proceeds, he seems to flirt with some bad science all his own!

Again, there’s nothing strange or unfamiliar about Mooney’s basic story. American voters are often misled by bogus claim from tribal leaders. Sometimes, it even happens in the liberal world! (If you watched MSNBC spread its reams of bad information about the killing of Trayvon Martin, you saw this process unfold.)

Have conservative voters been fed “bad science” about the effects of same-sex marriage? If so, there’s nothing new about that! But after describing a familiar process, Mooney just keeps going. He continues from there to make sweeping claims about these misled voters.

Let’s step back and look at the larger question involved in Mooney’s piece, which bears a sweeping pair of headlines not of Mooney’s creation:

Does our tribe reason better than theirs? Is their tribe ruled by forms of hate? It’s always possible, of course—and such claims are very pleasing. Tribes have always made such claims, ever since tribes began.

But does our tribe reason better than theirs? It’s certainly possible! But the claim is so pleasing that it may tend to produce bad reasoning of its own. In fact, it almost certainly does.

Mooney starts with a very familiar story. After that, has he perhaps been lured into “bad science” of his own?

Tomorrow: Muddled assertions


  1. “Does our tribe reason better than theirs? - b. somerby

    >>> not to pass judgment on any one particular issue in dispute, but yes liberals do reason much better generally.

    first though, liberals are unfortunately not a tribe but the other side is significantly so. they are organized around not-being-liberals. liberals for them meaning non-real americans. liberals used to have a binding leftist (economic fairness) organizing principle but it unfortunately has been largely lost after the new left or cultural left took control of the d party in the seventies, largely crowding out the true left. now liberals are largely perpetual students of life, only attached to one another according to their support for one cultural issue or another which effects only a relatively small part of the electorate...in contrast to the big economic issues which do presently or will in the future effect us all.

    the difference in reasoning skill is not from any significant innate iq variation, but rather just that the right is at war with the left which obviously is going to cloud their thinking. but even more important, when you are at war you are very prone to lie, to lie ethically in that context. ... whereas the left is not at war with them. the right is cause (anti-non-'real american') based whereas the left is issue based. . . . and if the left is for it, the right is strongly predisposed to be against it, regardless of their own self interest.

    “Is their tribe ruled by forms of hate?” - b. somerby

    >>> yes. hatred of the non-'real american', as they see them. the liberals dont have a reciprocal organizing ethnic hatred as it would be unpatriotic to hate the sons and daughters of the english-descent founders who largely control the right wing party. (including,wrongly according to brian sykes gene based research, those of germanic ancestry who are commonly thought to be of the same stock as the english). . . . it seems to be working less and less well for the new left to organize around hating americans of irish catholic ancestry as an homage to the so called real americans. (not being irish-catholic has been and still is a big part of the english and english-sotts etc. false self perception of being germanic, when in reality theyre ethnically basically the same as as the irish...and scotts and welsh.)

    “Saxons, Vikings and Celts: the Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland” by Bryan Sykes or “Origins of the British” by Stephen Oppenheimer.

    1. Poppycock.

      A couple years ago, I attended an Alliance Francaise class in Seattle to beef up my French before travel.

      The class was comprised of eight Seattle liberals, including myself, and we spent at least half of each session discussing a wide range of issues in fractured French.

      At one point during the class, I mentioned that I had spoken with a conservative friend who was a farmer on the eastern side of Washington state.

      Virtually as one, the class turned to me and expressed amazement that I had a conservative friend. They then proceeded to disparage all conservatives as fools and villains.

      Damn if they didn't attempt to make me feel like a traitor to my tribe.

      In short, anon, you may not recognize your tribe because you're INSIDE it.

  2. Why are you talking about Salon, Bob? Don't you know no one reads Salon?

    No one pays attention to Salon. Or MSNBC.

    Since, as I say, no one at all is paying attention to Salon, MSNBC, or The Washington Post, why waste time with such irrelevancies?

    You simply have an unhealthy obsession with Salon, MSNBC, and The Washington Post. And The New York Times.

    These three, sorry, four, sources just really don't amount to anything at all. But you continue to pretend that it matters what happens at Salon, MSNBC, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

    Oh, and Mother Jones. 5.


    I don't really know any liberals who pay attention to any of those.

    We're much too busy thinking for ourselves, and telling you so.

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