Monday, April 30, 2012

The Monday Sermon: If You Twist Science In The Name Of Family And Morality, You're Still ... Lying.

Lying ... is lying ... is lying ... is lying. False research? Hell, it's only lying on a different level. And in a sense, it's worse, because it is much more premeditated: sometimes we lie on the spur of the moment to cover something up, but false research, twisted research, takes thought. Lots of it.

Many organizations in our country have become extensions of today's pulpit: The American Family Association, The Family Research Council, Focus on the Family spearhead a movement to legitimize hate and promote their form of "morality" through junk science and "research." The Barna Group, for example, touts itself as an unbiased pollster, but it's findings are anything but unbiased: George Barna's profile can be found on the website for Newt Gingrich's campaign, the section titled "Faith Coalition." 
He founded the Barna Research Group in 1984 (now The Barna Group) and helped it become a leading marketing research firm focused on the intersection of faith and culture.
The Family "Research" Council has done it time and time again: presented bad research as the truth. In fact, the use of discredited research such as Paul Cameron's studies about gays is what has prompted the Southern Poverty Law Center to list the FRC as a hate group. Ditto the American Family Association (Bryan Fischer) Ditto Abiding Ministries (Scott Lively). Ditto AFTAH (Americans for Truth About Homosexuality). Ditto NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality). Ditto the late Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship:
Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship faked the data to make it appear as though taking part in their Christian rehabilitation program had a much higher rate of success in avoiding recidivism than it actually did. 
To the average American, false research has occasionally been exposed when it deals with homosexuality*. The machinations of Tony Perkins (FRC) and Bryan Fischer (AFA) have been questioned for years. But the truth is that false research has been demoralizing other religions and social arenas like Islam, women issues, and global warming for a good time as well.
The prolific use of shoddy research was on display when Rep. King used the dubious contention that over eight out of ten mosques in the U.S. advocate radical Islam as a rationale for holding congressional hearings on the radicalization of Muslim-Americans.The thoroughly debunked claim that extremists dominate over 80% of American mosques was first made by a Muslim cleric who has never been able to document or verify his assertion, but that hasn’t stopped anti-Muslim activists from repeating it ad nauseam. Frank Gaffney, Jr., of the Center for Security Policy, one of the most vociferous anti-Muslim ideologues, cited the phony statistic to defend his campaign to prevent the construction of mosques in America, and Religious Right leader Gary Bauer cited unnamed “experts” to support his allegation that those who disseminate “radical Wahhabist ideology” fund 80% of American mosques.
One typical evangelical response to global warming is given by the website Got (The Bible Has Answers!)
The “consensus” claimed by most global warming theorists is not scientific proof; rather, it is a statement of majority opinion. Scientific majorities have been wrongly influenced by politics and other factors in the past. Such agreement is not to be taken lightly, but it is not the same thing as hard proof.
Ah, politics! It's the best defense against true research. Two weeks ago, when researcher Robert Spitzer recanted his findings about the possibility of homosexual "change", the AFA and the FRC cited "politics" and the ferocious machinations of the "homosexual lobby."

"Liar Lair" and Vetting The Research.

The aggressiveness with which today's socially conservative organizations tout these pieces of misinformation is always limited to the people who will never question them, so one solution may be meet aggression with aggression: screaming  "lair, liar pants on fire!" But what about the morality of such aggression? This is probably where morality must be weighed and hate-enabling becomes far too heavy in the balance: make no stake about it, knowingly manipulating numbers and outcomes is intentionally harmful.

In our last Monday Sermon, we wrote about vetting your belief, and just as much as you need to vet your belief, you need to vet the research spouted by organizations that would make you distrust or hate a group, a religion or a science. 

You might say that vetting isn't enough, shouting "liar liar!' isn't enough. On the other hand, letting the lies go unchallenged is...a sin.

*TWO:NEW YORK — In a letter made available to Truth Wins Out, the authors of a book on the health of gay men have accused Focus on the Family of distorting their research. The researchers publicly repudiatedan article written by “ex-gay” activist Jeff Johnston in Focus on the Family’ web magazine, Citizen Link, which falsely linked homosexuality to childhood sexual abuse. This letter marks the tenth researcher in two years who has claimed that Focus on the Family misrepresented their work.