Monday, March 14, 2016

Medical journal editors make fools of themselves

The major British medical journals are heavily politicized -- both Lancet and BMJ.  Lancet even criticized the Iraq intervention under  George Bush II.  When they stick to their knitting -- medical research -- they do publish some good studies and are prestigious because of that.  But the people running the journals are obviously Left-leaning -- like most academics -- so they can't help misusing the platform they have to hand in order to promote their Leftist views.

That is of course bound to be an amusing exercise.  Leftist claims are so counter-factual that a political study is bound to require all sorts of distortions and evasions to make any case at all.  And the political studies they do publish are so unscholarly that the editors have obviously put their brain into  neutral before publishing them.

The latest such study in Lancet ("Firearm legislation and firearm mortality in the USA: a cross-sectional, state-level study") is a good example of that.  It purports to show that some gun control laws do reduce deaths from guns.  But the methodology behind the  article is so naive that no such study would normally get published in a good academic journal.

What the researchers did was to look at gun deaths in the various States of the USA and compare the death rates with the various gun control laws in the various states.  And they found that States with strict laws (e.g. Massachusetts) had fewer deaths per head than did States with more relaxed laws (e.g. Louisiana). And from that they concluded that certain gun control laws should be implemented nationwide.  And if that were done gun deaths would drop dramatically nationwide.

Can anybody see something wrong with that reasoning? I am inclined to think that anyone with an IQ over 100 could.  The study is an example of a fallacy that is all too common in the medical research literature:  The fallacy that correlation is causation.  If you ever do a course in logic, one of the first things you will be told is that correlation is NOT causation.  To prove causation you need a strictly controlled before-and-after study.

To show how fallacious the reasoning is in the Lancet study, let me cautiously suggest that there are other factors that could lie behind the correlation between gun control and gun deaths.  Let me suggest, for instance, entirely hypothetically, of course, that Massachusetts might have fewer gun deaths, not because of its laws but because they have fewer people there from a certain population segment that is more prone to gun deaths and crime generally.  I am not going to nominate the population segment concerned because that does not affect the argument.  But if the thought "Massachusetts has fewer blacks" pops into your mind, who am I to correct you?  Entirely as a matter of academic interest of course, Mass. is less than 2% black and Louisiana is about a third black.

The study might have been of some interest if it had controlled for other factors. So I read the study carefully looking for that.   But in fact they controlled for unemployment rate only.  Control for race would be politically incorrect, of course.  All men are equal, don't you know?  It would be a compliment to call the study sophomoric. It is a disgrace to the journal.  By normal scientific standards, it should never have been published.

German Nationalist Party Wants To Ban Circumcision

Germany’s surging anti-immigration party Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) wants to restrict some religious practices for Muslims, including a ban on circumcision.

Newspaper Bild will release leaked information from AfD’s 72-page manifesto in its Saturday edition. The draft says circumcision on religious grounds is a “serious violation to fundamental rights” of young boys.

AfD also wants to outlaw minarets and the muezzin’s call to prayer, as it violates the “tolerant coexistence of religions” that Christian churches stand for.

The manifesto is scheduled to be presented at a party convention in April. AfD is expected to be the big winner when three German states hold regional elections Sunday. Party leader Joerg Meuthen proposed a 19-foot high fence to stop refugees from entering the country during a rally Thursday.


Filibusted: Missouri Democrats Fail to Block Religious Liberty Bill Concerning Same-Sex Marriage

A minority of Missouri legislators held a much needed religious liberty proposal hostage in Jefferson City over the last two days. Democrats there filibustered for over 36 hours against SJR 39, a commonsense bill that would let Missouri citizens vote to ban government discrimination against people of faith because of their beliefs about marriage.

This was the most misguided filibuster since Wendy Davis tried (and failed) to block Texas from adopting reasonable limits on late-term abortions and commonsense clinic safety standards.

As we have seen in Indiana, Georgia, and West Virginia, big business and the left have once again teamed up with government actors to form a triumvirate of cultural cronyism aiming to block popular religious freedom protections.

Missouri’s proposal ensures continued religious freedom, a freedom that is acutely threatened in the wake of the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage last summer. Those who remain true to their religious beliefs about marriage need protection from government discrimination like never before, and the Missouri proposal provides just that.

Opponents of the Missouri proposal nevertheless claim that it will lead to widespread LGBT discrimination. This is false.

The Missouri proposal does not take anything away from anyone. It specifically says that it shall not take away anyone’s right to a government marriage license, to receive government benefits (such as health insurance or tax deductions), or to visit a sick spouse in a hospital.

The proposal is an anti–discrimination measure that protects the rights of all Missourians to be free from government punishment and coercion when they live out their beliefs about marriage.

The Missouri proposal would protect this freedom by a constitutional amendment, which means that once the protections are in place, people of faith will be insulated from state judges or politicians that are (or may become) hostile to religious freedom. It means the people of Missouri get a direct say in their own governance. It means that religious freedom is protected for all, both now and in the future.

Although the proposal is not perfect, and language improvements can and should be made before final adoption, the protections in SJR 39 are generally precise, clear, and concrete—so much so that a filibustering senator was asked to point to a provision, any provision, in the proposal that was discriminatory but was unable to.

This is because the Missouri proposal would prevent discriminatory government action, not unleash it. Here are some examples:

The proposal prevents the state government from penalizing pastors and clergy who decline to perform marriage ceremonies contrary to their religious beliefs.

It protects houses of worship and Knights of Columbus halls from being forced to use their facilities to host weddings that run counter to their beliefs.

It prevents government from stripping religious adoption agencies of their licenses or contracts because they operate under the belief that every child deserves both a mother and father.

It ensures that schools, charities, elder care facilities, and crisis pregnancy centers will not lose equal access to government programs or be denied tax exemptions because of sincere beliefs about marriage.

In short, like the federal First Amendment Defense Act on which it is based, the Missouri proposal would guarantee that religious institutions can retain their religious identity in private life, in public life, and in service to the poor and the needy in the community.

The proposal also protects people like Barronelle Stutzman, a 70-year-old florist from Washington state who was happy to serve gays and lesbians but was sued, fined, and harassed because she declined, based on her Christian faith, to make custom floral arrangements to celebrate a same-sex wedding. It would likewise protect the Klein family of Oregon, who were fined $135,000 for declining to make a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding in violation of their faith.

Contrary to the mischaracterizations of opponents, the Missouri proposal protects only “closely held” businesses, only when they provide goods or services “of expressional or artistic creation” and only in the context of wedding celebrations and marriages that they cannot in good conscience endorse. In practice, this means family-owned bakers, florists, and photographers would be protected when providing custom wedding services, but not Hilton hotels.

But even these modest protections are still too much for some. Big Business still wants to crush its small competitors. The cultural left still wants to crush dissent from its new sexual orthodoxy, no matter how small. But perhaps worst of all, a few government actors still want to deny the people of Missouri the ability to even have a voice in determining their own future on these matters.

The people of Missouri should get to decide whether their state will be an inclusive place that protects reasonable and long-standing religious beliefs about marriage now and for the generations to come.

The Missouri legislature wants to give them that chance, if only the obstructionists using extreme tactics get out of the way.


Anti-Islam party Australian Liberty Alliance says members vilified, labelled bigots

The head of a new anti-Islamic Australian political party says members are vilified as bigots and shut down in mainstream channels if they speak out against the religion.

The Australian Liberty Alliance (ALA) had its WA launch on Saturday night at the Perth Convention Centre, calling for an end to "Islamisation of Australia" and guarantees of free speech, finishing one leg of what organisers said was a national tour leading up to the next federal election.

Almost 200 hundred people attended the event, which had Senate candidates from across the state address the crowd on their policies and values.

ALA director and WA Senate candidate Debbie Robinson said members were all passionate about their beliefs and deserved the right to express them.

"If this is not allowed to progress through the normal democratic, political channels, and people are constantly told that they're not understanding Islam, you don't know what you're talking about, one day there will be anarchy," she said.

She said it had been difficult to secure advertising and coverage in the mainstream media was often "biased". "If you do say something that no one agrees with you're labelled a bigot or called a name, and you're shot down in flames," she said.

"These people here ... they're not a bunch of redneck racist bogans, they're very informed intelligent people, they understand completely what Islam is about, and we're being talked to like fools."

In her speech Mrs Robinson said while the party had more than one policy, Islam was the greatest threat facing the world at the moment.

"We have so much to be thankful for here in Australia," she told the crowd. "But we must never take our liberty for granted. Make no mistake - Islam is at war with us."

The party has pledged to "stop the Islamisation of Australia", ban full-face coverings in public spaces and introduce a ten-year moratorium on immigration from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation countries.

Senate candidate for NSW Kirralie Smith said political correctness was the greatest enemy that everyday Australians were facing.

She said while the party supported a multi-ethnic society it was multiculturalism that was the problem.  "It is divisive and it's censored," she said.

"Australia has a good history of debating all the 'isms', of taking part in debate. But now we're facing this problem where we're not allowed to talk about them."

She finished that particular part of her address with the words, 'I am going to criticise Islam', to a round of raucous applause from the audience.

Along with raising concerns over Islam and more specifically the Koran and sharia law, candidates voiced their frustration over the current government, the education system, the media, the Defence Force and made calls to "bring back manners".

The ALA was founded in October 2015 with controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders flown over for the official launch, which also attracted protests.

The address for Saturday night's campaign launch was kept secret, with members and supporters told of the location only a day before.

Mrs Robinson said the party was working on fielding two Senate candidates for each state.

"We've got a long-term strategy," she said. "We've got to build slowly, part of our strength is to take our time and grow gradually.

"I think it's really important that we have a party like this to provide an alternative and swing politics back to where it needs to be."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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