Friday, March 25, 2016

Beware the Bias

I recently heard and read in a few places people (conservative people) saying, "HEY y'all who support 'transgender' people and kids, you should look at what the EXPERTS are saying..." and they then proceeded to cite the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) who have come out with a study entitled, "Gender Ideology Harms Children..." and they begin citing some of the findings of this study.

Hmm, I thought. That's odd, I had not heard anything about professional doctors making this suggestion, not from the AMA or the APA... it struck me as odd that the professional organization for pediatricians was coming out with a study like this. But, having an open mind, I looked into what the experts were saying.

It was then that I realized that these were "experts," not experts. The ACP is NOT the big association of pediatricians that I assumed it was by the name. The well-recognized and long-lived pediatrician's association is the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP has been around since 1930 and has over 64,000 pediatrician members. They publish peer-reviewed research and have a staff of 390 people. The AAP has NOT come out in support of these "findings," that's the ACP.

And who is the ACP? They are a splinter group that formed out of the AAP to promote traditional and religious views of family. They were founded in 2002 and have between 60 and 200 members (not all of whom are pediatricians, I read). They have no peer-reviewed research. They welcome members who agree with their religious/moral views up front. Which is to say that their research is "validated" by people with an agenda to promote a specific bias.

This, of course, is not science. Scientific organizations have no faith creed you have to agree to at the outset. That is anti-science.

A TINY group (less than 1% the size of the AAP, mind you) with an agenda publishing "studies" that validate their pre-held biases is akin to tobacco-funded doctors coming out in favor of smoking, with "studies" that back up that bias. If you are dedicated to a religious/moral view going in to your research and your peers will only validate research that supports that pre-held bias, that is not science.

Beware groups that use science as a tool to further an agenda - especially so blatantly - and that does not have peer-reviews for their studies. That is not science, that is religion.

Also, beware any political groups/people who have traditionally decried "the so-called experts" who suddenly begin trumpeting "Hey! Science is right and validating what I believe!" They aren't dedicated to facts, science or truth. They are dedicated to an agenda. Which is fine if that's what they're dedicated to, but they should be clear on that point up front.

*Side note: I am not saying that scientists are free from bias. Of course, they aren't, they're human with human biases. But there's a difference between having a bias but still being dedicated to going where the data leads while being open to peer-review as a check against any possible biases... there's a difference between that and using science to try to validate your views. Again, that's religion (and in a negative sense), not science.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Answering a Question...

I'm striving to get away from arguing with people who do not understand my points so my point here is not to argue. I'm just answering a question because it's a reasonable question with a reasonable answer. Stan at the blog, Winging It, recently asked a question about those who'd say that conservative types sometimes appear to be speaking for God, presuming that their opinions are one in the same as God's Word.

He says he doesn't understand those who object to this. Here is my answer to his question. First, a bit of context. Stan wrote...

Oddly enough, it appears that those who are complaining that a straightforward reading of Scripture -- reading it like it is written and taking it as it appears to mean -- is not a reasonable means of knowing what God thinks are pretty sure that they know what He thinks ... at least enough to know you're wrong.

I'm trying to figure out what's being said here. When they complain that we read and feed back what the Bible says as true and call it "speaking for God", what are they saying?

What we are saying is clear and I call as my first and only witness, Stan Smith:


This is a simple, demonstrable fact. When I or folk like me read the Bible, strive to take it seriously, seeking to follow God and conclude that...

Genesis is clearly written in a mythic style;
That the Bible does not "define" marriage anywhere;
That the Bible clearly does not teach sola scriptura, that this is a human theory contrary to biblical teaching (or at least beyond biblical teaching);
That clearly Jesus teaches us that Christians killing people in wartime is contrary to his teachings;
That clearly we are to live simple lives;
That clearly Jesus would support gay folk loving and marrying;

etc... that when we conclude these as overtly clear and obvious biblical teachings, YOU DO NOT THINK we are reading the Bible correctly. We are telling you what we think the Bible "obviously" or "clearly" is teaching and you disagree with our hunches. So, the obvious fact of the matter then is that you, Stan Smith (and people like you) do not believe that all those who read the Bible understand it correctly.

The obvious follow up question then is, "Well, Stan, if you do not think we all read the Bible correctly, on what reasonable and consistent basis do you conclude that you and those who agree with you are the ones that are correct?"

The answer to THIS necessary question is that you have nothing. You have nothing other than your opinion. The one and only answer you have is, "Well, because I think it is clear that they are mistaken..." Which is to say, you have your opinion.

As a point of fact, your opinion is not provable (if you could prove it, you would do so. You can't.) It IS your opinion. And there's nothing wrong with that, so long as you don't conflate your hunches and opinions with God's Word or fact.

As a further reasonable conclusion then, we can safely determine that you (nor I) have a definitive way of knowing that your opinion is the correct one.

What are we left with then?

That Stan Smith definitively does not rationally believe that we can "know" what the Bible is teaching and say with authority that he (or we) have the authoritative answer.

The defense rests. Thank you Stan for your testimony. (And if I have misstated something or made a mistake about your opinion, by all means, correct me. I don't believe I have.)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Sharing an Excellent Post

I almost never do this, but I am sharing an excellent post from another blogger who has made some extremely salient points about the Trump candidacy. While I often disagree with Stan, over at Winging It, he is right on the money on this post.

Trump Card

Trump himself is, in my mind, not the problem. There are always crackpots out there and PT Barnum types (which is closer to what I think Trump is) and other loose cannons. That's life. So, it's not a problem to me that there is a Trump in the world. The problem is that he is receiving something like 20-40% of the GOP/conservative/evangelical vote in a race for the presidency.

So, while I appreciate GOP leaders stepping up and denouncing Trump, what it seems like needs to happen is for GOP leaders to step up and denounce the ~30% of their followers who support someone like him. Stan is in the right on this one. This is not a man to vote for.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

With Each Trail I Hike

with each trail I hike
 I gather stones in my pockets,
 twigs and moss in my hands
 and one day
 I will build a small home
 made up of all those trails.
It behooves me, then,
 to gather my stones carefully
 and my twigs and moss with wisdom
and grace

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Beauty in Grief, Comfort in Community

A few moments of grace, love and beauty from my wonderful father's funeral. Crowds of people from all corners (Baptists and pagans, Catholics and airplane model builders, old and young, conservative and not) came out to celebrate the joy and love and strength of his amazing life.