Category Archives: Research and Scholarship

Comment of the Day: “The President’s Irresponsible And Untrue ‘One in Five Women Are Raped’ Claim”

numbers_statistics_stats

Rich (in CT) adds a superb and learned enhancement to the day’s post about President Obama’s dubious rape claims during the Grammy Awards.  It raises a question I hadn’t considered before: is part of the problem that researchers are as clumsy in their understanding of language as liberal arts types are in their use of statistics and numbers? The word “rape” has meaning; this is no place for Humpty Dumpty’s habit of using words to mean whatever one pleases. [“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”—― Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass” ] Rich writes, “This data is important, as mental health and sexual disease propagation is affected by such contact, even if the traditional criteria imaged for “rape” is not met. ” I’ll concede that the data is important, but shouldn’t important data be clearly and accurately described? The data isn’t about rape! It’s about a variety of conduct linked by the researchers that they chose to call “rape,” knowing, presumably, that people who never read the data will take the misleading “rape” description and use it to confuse, persuade, deceive, and engage in scaremongering for political gain.

Rich writes that “not enough evidence is given to suggest that either study is unethical in and of itself.” Isn’t using vague, overly broad and misleading terminology for a study that is going to be made public intrinsically unethical—irresponsible, incompetent, untrustworthy?

Here is Rich (in CT)’s enlightening Comment of the Day on the post “The President’s Irresponsible And Untrue ‘One in Five Women Are Raped’ Claim”: Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Research and Scholarship

Rand Paul, Anti-Vaxxing and Signature Significance

"Got it, Senator. NEXT!!!"

“Got it, Senator. NEXT!!!”

It would be nice if a genuine, rational libertarian candidate could be part of the national political debate. The problem is that there are no genuine, rational libertarians. To be genuine, a libertarian has to decide on his or her policy positions based on the dictates of the ideology, which is backwards: as a leader, rather than a professor or theorist, one must figure out what is going to work, and what you wish would work or what a pre-determined formula says should work are not germane to the issue. For proof of the flaw in the latter approach, all we have to do is consider the past seven years.

Thus libertarians are prone to saying things like, “The United States should never have entered World War II.” This has been a staple of Rand Paul’s deluded father, Ron Paul, and properly places pure libertarianism with pacifism, also known as Cloud Cuckoo Land. The Berrigans used to say the same thing, you know. I believe it was Philip who said that nobody tried passive resistance to defeat Hitler, so we’ll never know if it would have worked. When you say things like this for public consumption, you forfeit the privilege of being taken seriously. It is signature significance: your judgment can’t be trusted.

For me, Rand Paul’s libertarian moment of signature significance was when he questioned the need for the 1964 Civil Rights Act, essentially saying that the nation would have been just fine allowing people like Lester Maddox to chase African-Americans out of his restaurant with an axe handle, or bus drivers to force Rosa Parks to sit in the back of the bus until change occurred naturally, you know, like after the race war. Such statements are not isolated instances of momentary madness; they are markers of serious ethical and cognitive problems, and it was inevitable that the source of that opinion would have more of the same, and perhaps worse. Continue reading

35 Comments

Filed under Character, Childhood and children, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Health and Medicine, Incompetent Elected Officials, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Professions, Research and Scholarship, Science & Technology, U.S. Society

Bias Check: Update

pcgraphpng.php

Responding to my recent post on trying to identify one’s own political biases and the 39 questions that everyone agreed left much to be desired in dividing liberal from conservative, an old friend from both law school and the stage has suggested another resource to try. He is a professor of telecommunications at a prestigious Midwest university, and pointed me to a site called The Political Compass. It has a more nuanced set of questions, and multiple choice answers that will place you on a Left-Right (economic)/ Authoritarian-Libertarian (social) grid.

The site is clearly British, and obviously hasn’t been tended for a while: it looks like it was set prior to the 2012 election. I have other problems with it, not the least of which that it places Barack Obama in the Right/Authoritarian quadrant. The site charts past political leaders, and it looks to me like the President is the ideological clone of…Margaret Thatcher. I’d say it needs some tweaking.

I haven’t taken the test again to check, but how the program scores the distinction between agreeing or disagreeing and strongly agreeing or disagreeing  intrigues me; in my case, which I chose was a toss-up. (Update: I just took the test again with all “strongly’s” checked. The result was virtually the same—a tad more left and libertarian. That’s my first test result above. )

As you will see if you take the test, some of the questions are phrased to create a false choice, like.. If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations,  and All authority should be questioned, and Taxpayers should not be expected to prop up any theatres or museums that cannot survive on a commercial basis.
Continue reading

90 Comments

Filed under Character, Government & Politics, Research and Scholarship

The Ethical Hoax

An unlikely research team produces remarkable results!

An unlikely research team produces remarkable results!

As anyone who reads Ethics Alarms with any regularity knows, I detest hoaxes large and small, from the Piltdown man to the Hitler diaries to the offal thrown into the information stream by websites like The News Nerd.(Let’s see: what “satirical, humorous, obviously fake” story does the site that calls itself “America’s premium news site” offer as fact today? This: “As Deflategate looms over the heads of the New England Patriots, a source with the NFL has revealed that the league is considering permanently barring Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick from ever working in the National Football League in any capacity. That drastic action would only be taken if it is discovered that Belichick was directly responsible for the deflated footballs…” I guess that’s obviously satire because the NFL would never have the integrity to take such action, right? The story isn’t there to fool gullible blogs and sportswriters working on a deadline into republishing it…) Hoaxes are lies intended to deceive in order to humiliate whoever believes them, and often to enrich the hoaxer.

Occasionally, however, a hoax becomes an ethically justifiable tool. Such is the case with the bogus scholarly medical research article created by Dr. Mark Shrime titled “Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs?”

Shrime was disturbed at the number of apparently legitimate medical journals with impressive names like the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology that offer to publish papers for a $500 fee. Shrime calls them predatory journals, in part because they prey on trusting third world researchers and scientists for who $500 is a fortune. The other reason they are predatory is that they exploit the confusing—to laymen, which is to say, journalists– welter of legitimate scholarly journals in order to dangle intriguing junk science in front of the eyes of reporters who barely comprehend what they are reading. As Elizabeth Segren writes at Fast Company: Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship

Campus Rape: How Opposing The Use Of Fake Stats, Lies and False Narratives Became “Conservative”

fondo abstracto de tecnologia 3d.Lenguaje binario

I just don’t see how or why insisting on using objective and verifiable facts in policy-making and public discourse became “conservative bias.” I don’t recall the media’s interest in correcting fake combat statistics during the Vietnam war being regarded as “liberal bias.” I can’t bring myself to believe that only moderates and conservatives care about making sure that the public isn’t deceived into believing things that aren’t true.

But why does this stuff keep happening, and particularly, why does it keep happening under the supervision of Democrats and their supporters during the Obama years? I know I’ve been harping on “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” and the deification of Mike Brown as contrary to all evidence, common sense, fairness and rationality, but such cultural embrace of lies is objectively outrageous and dangerous. I also resent being called a “teabagger,” a racist, or a right-wing nut for pointing this out.

One reason resent it, perhaps the main one, is that I’m a lifetime iconoclast, curmudgeon and contrarian (just like Dad!) and while I know that having  people, even friends, angry at me never changed my opinions, words or behavior very much, most people are not like me. Most people, when they are called racists on Facebook or bombarded with dishonest Daily Kos internet memes or realize that their friends aren’t inviting them out for beer because they will object to the conventional liberal wisdom of the nonce, decide its more important to get along than to fight the good fight, so they just adopt the prevalent opinion of their “crowd.” Usually, personal growth and education on the issue stops about then: if you listen hard, you will hear the sound of a slamming door. Soon they’ll be calling others racists on Facebook.

The fake campus sexual assault issue is another area where this phenomenon is occurring. CBS’s Sunday Morning gave one of its gauzy features about it yesterday, beginning with the assumption that for some reason (the reason was already pre-programmed and injected directly into the Democratic Party’s second most reliable “base” group, young single women bloodstream, with its “war on women” convention theme in 2012) campus sexual assault is epidemic. On the show’s website, proving that this was propaganda rather than journalism, was this sentence: “According to the U.S. Justice Department, one in five college women will experience some kind of sexual assault while in school.” (It had been removed by this morning.) Continue reading

33 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Quotes, Research and Scholarship, The Internet

Ethics Hero Emeritus: Irena Sendler (1910-2008)

Sendler

I missed learning about the death of Irena Sendler (Irena Sendlerowa) in 2008, and this occurred because the mass news media barely took note of it. Lots of celebrities died that year whose passing prompted extended mourning in the press and examinations of their legacies: Paul Newman, Heath Ledger, Sir Edmund Hillary (a member of the Ethics Alarms Heroes Hall of Honor), Charlton Heston, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and many others. There was no room for a final appreciation of the life of Irena Sendler, apparently. Today, the website Bio.com doesn’t list her among the notable deaths of that year, though it finds room for Fifties stunt singer Yma Sumac—remember her? She had a four octave range! And Arthur Showcross: he murdered 11 women from 1988 to 1990 in upstate New York, earning the nickname “The Genessee River Killer.”

All Irena Sendler did was save 2500 children from the Treblinka death camp. Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, History, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, War and the Military

Whose Ethics Alarms Are Ringing Over “Truthy”?

Colbert

Sad but true; the NSF spent a million dollars of a project named after a Stephen Colbert gag. But that’s not the worst part…

It certainly seems that most of the ringing over Truthy, the disturbing University of Indiana internet speech monitoring project funded by the National Science Foundation, is occurring in the brains of conservatives. Does that mean that one is a biased right-winger to think that the government has no business deciding what is “misuse” or “abuse” of social media—social media meaning “the communication of opinions, statements and ideas over the web”?

I don’t think so. I think it means that a troubling number of progressives, including a large constituency in the Obama administration, are convinced that the only way for their ideology to prevail is to marginalize opinions they don’t like as “hate speech,” restrict the First Amendment by demonizing opponents, and engaging in de facto censorship though harassment. Being opposed to that doesn’t make anyone right wing. It means that they reject the unethical theory that the ends justify the means, which at this point in our history seems to be flourishing primarily on the Left.

Did you miss the news about Truthy when it first provoked a flurry of news reports last fall, almost exclusively from conservative media? That’s because the mainstream media—surprise!—saw nothing at all alarming or even newsworthy about a government-funded project to “study how memes spread on social media,” to identify what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online,  to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution” —in other words—mine—-to track down opinions and assertions on the internet that argue against Obama administration policies, progressive movements and the agendas of liberal-biased researchers.

When the conservative news service Washington Free Beacon blew the whistle on this under the radar and misbegotten project—a project that could only scratch the surface of being ethical if it was absolutely non-partisan and neutral in all respects, which in 21st century U.S. academia is impossible—the reaction at the University tells us everything we need to know. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Research and Scholarship, Rights, The Internet, U.S. Society