Gay Marraige Debate Raises Question of Scientific Bias

Professor Nelson Lund, in a WSJ article, accuses the American Psychological Association and other groups of a liberal bias when they report research that finds no bad effects from child rearing by same-sex couples.

He quotes the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was also a distinguished social scientist: “Social scientists are frequently caught up in the politics which their work necessary involves.”

Could bias influence research? I think so. In Wendell Berry’s Life Is A Miracle: An Essay Against Modern Superstition, Berry criticizes scientists who believe the mind is just a machine. He calls this the Tarzan Theory of the mind, which holds that a human, raised entirely by apes, “would have a mind nonetheless fully human.” He substitutes what he calls the Adam and Eve formula: mind = brain + body + world + local dwelling place + community.

I am reminded of cultural anthropologists who were studying village life in developing countries. When they returned from their trip, lead researchers told them to be more objective and recommended that they produce films rather than relying on their notes and personal observations. On their next trip, the researchers used cameras, but soon learned that the cameras were not necessarily more objective than individual observations, because the newly uncovered information depended on where they pointed their cameras! And where they pointed their cameras depended on what they believed were the most important things to observe.

For more on this  . . . .

What is the Sheltering Tower?

Someone at a recent book signing asked: “What is the Sheltering Tower?” At one level, the answer is simple. The Sheltering Tower is Sacred Heart Cathedral in Tampa, Florida. The name Sheltering Tower comes from  Old Abe, the Holocaust survivor, who finds a Hanukkah hymn in the choir loft at Sacred Heart Church. “Rock of ages – let our song – praise thy saving power; thou, amidst the raging foes, wast our sheltering tower.”

And at a deeper level, on page 293, old Abe writes a note to Father Monk McIntyre. “Thank you, Father, thy rock of ages, thy sheltering tower.” So this Catholic priest becomes the Sheltering Tower for old Abe.  This priest – who had so many self-doubts and saw himself as weak – is still able to provide support and shelter to this old man. Sacred Heart Cathedral is the Sheltering Tower but so is Monk McIntyre


Unmarried Moms

The review in the Wall Street Journal on new unmarried mom’s asks why young people are marrying later and why the rate of non-marital childbearing among 20-something women has risen by 27%. The answer given is that the knowledge economy has made higher education essential for middle-class life and many women cannot achieve this standard. Once marriage was the foundation for adult identity and this is being replaced by having a baby. “It’s not surprise that growing numbers of Middle Americans are postponing marriage or foregoing it all together.”

Well, I think it’s a big surprise and I think it’s shocking. If it were not surprising, this article would not have appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Typical of secular analysts, these authors focus entirely on economics and legalities for solutions. One of the major reasons people are not marrying is secularism itself. A philosophy that doesn’t value tradition, religion, or family.

Their solutions to this “non-surprising” surprise are to eliminate marriage penalties and strengthen apprenticeship programs. Government subsidies for children born out of wedlock probably helped push this trend back in the 70s and I doubt that government can fix this “non-surprising” outcome. Apprenticeship programs? As an entrepreneur who started a business on a shoestring, the last thing I worried about was apprenticeship programs.

Dumb Blondes?

Do blondes have more fun or are they just dumber than the rest of us?Dumb-blonde jokes won’t go away and mythology is usually based on at least a speck of truth. So let’s do some fun speculation. Depending on your point of view and your sense of humor, here is one of the best or worst dumb-blonde jokes:

This beautiful blonde is sitting in the first-class section of an airplane but her ticket is for economy class. The stewardess tries to convince the blonde that she must go back to the economy section, but she refuses. “I am blonde and I am beautiful, and I’m headed to Dallas,” she says. The stewardess goes to the co-pilot and he talks to the woman, but he has no success. Not knowing what to do, they approached captain. He says he will take care of it.

The captain approaches the blonde and whispers something in her ear. Amazed, the stewardess and the copilot watch the woman get up and hustle back to the coach section. “How did you manage that?” they asked the captain.

“It was simple,” the captain said. “I just let her know that the section she was sitting in was not going to Dallas.”

Since we know that being blonde is subject to hair-coloring and that blondes are no different than others when it comes to IQ, how did this mythology develop and why does it persist?

According to Wikipedia, “the roots of this notion may be traced to Europe, with the “dumb blonde” in question being a French courtesan named Rosalie Duthe, satirized in a 1775 play Les Curiosites de la Foire for her habit of pausing a long time before speaking, appearing not only stupid but literally dumb (in the sense of mute).

The notion of the dumb blonde may have originated in the mid-1700s, but I doubt that it would have maintained itself without other input. We have had a number of famous celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Mae West and Diana Dors, who served as role models for young women. This might account for some women wanting to be blonde, but how do we account for the lack of mental ability ascribed to blondes in general?

I’m thinking that being blonde was perhaps a quick way of establishing oneself, especially for woman coming from a lower socioeconomic background without easy access to an advanced education.

If it worked, and we know that men are highly desirous of attractive women, then these blonde women would find themselves in social situations with people who are more educated and perhaps brighter. In this environment, the streetwise blonde might have in fact been inferior in terms of abstract learning. Ipso facto, we have the dumb blonde.

And if the blonde happened to be bright, even if uneducated, she might have wanted to keep the dumb stereotype, since it seemed to please her partner. Why rock the boat and threaten Mr. Sugar Daddy?

These thoughts are not based on research, but it’s fun to speculate and take a fresh look at American mythology, wherever we find it. What’s your theory?

The Midwest Book Review

A new review of The Sheltering Tower. This one from The Midwest Book Review.

“Betrayal can leave many lives hanging in the balance. “The Sheltering Tower” is the story of a group struggling to endure these rough times.
Juanita, a homeland security agent, and Monk McIntyre, a pastor, come together to cope with betrayal of the church and their government. Taking solace in others, “The Sheltering Tower” explores the comfort we find in others when those who are supposed to help us don’t.”

Universal Preschool for Everyone?

Vietnam Oceania 122Will universal preschool lead to improved academic functioning? I don’t think so. I’ve been following early childhood brain-stimulation for many years, both through the literature and research, as well as direct observation. I helped test kids when the Head Start program first originated and have followed Head Start and other preschool programs through the years.

There may be initial academic gains, although they are difficult to determine, but these usually fade out by the third or fourth grade. I think the reason these programs don’t work is that the brain is simply too immature to handle the complex tasks required. In fact, it might be wise for children to start school later rather than earlier.

Why do educators think these programs work? Studies of rats show that stimulation such as exercise wheels and tunnels result in improved cognitive abilities, but this is compared to a control group of subjects that are isolated in cages. If children were locked in closets for years at a time it would impair their brain development – – and I actually saw such a situation while at the University of Wisconsin as a doctoral intern. But early stimulation for the average child is probably not going to result in significant academic changes over the long haul.

Some studies have showed significant gains, but these were very expensive investments – – up to $40,000 per child per year –– and provided families with social-work visits to their homes, parental counseling, nutrition, and health care.

If we decide to identify children from lower socio-economic groups who are not receiving anywhere near normal stimulation in their home environment, then we may choose to spend monies to assist in their overall development. But this should not include the majority of children. Now the government is calling for universal preschool for all. I don’t think it will achieve its intended goals for academic learning.