Science Magazine editor slapped down over anti-gun rhetoric

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

There’s always a reason to be skeptical of scientific research. After all, that’s part of what science is. You look at data and question everything, continuing to question over and over until we have all the answers, even though that’s impossible.

But when it comes to gun owners, we have to be especially skeptical of the research. After all, how much heavily biased nonsense have researchers tried to push down our throats over the years?

And, of course, we’re still seeing it.

So it’s nice to see a little pushback.

Consider for a moment the following paragraph: Scientists should not sit on the sidelines and watch others fight this out. More research into the public health impacts of vaccination will provide further evidence of its deadly consequences. Science can show that fewer vaccines make societies healthier.

No reputable science journal would publish an article promoting this anti-vaccine sentiment, and rightly so. Not only does the assertion start with a flawed premise—that scientists haven’t published a bevy of high-quality research and commentary on the safety and efficacy of immunization—but it also assumes that further studies will only confirm a predetermined conclusion: that vaccines are inherently dangerous. [1]

Now think through this next paragraph. It’s almost identical to my hypothetical above, except this one was published in Science, perhaps the most prestigious academic journal in the world, and it pertains to gun control instead of vaccination. In an article titled “We know what the problem is,” journal editor-in-chief H. Holden Thorp wrote this:

Scientists should not sit on the sidelines and watch others fight this out. More research into the public health impacts of gun ownership will provide further evidence of its deadly consequences. Science can show that gun restrictions make societies safer.”

You almost certainly have your mind made up about gun control, and I have no desire or ability to change it. But I do have several serious problems with Thorp’s article. First, he ignored any evidence that contradicts his view. More importantly, he called on the science community to take a stand on an incendiary political issue—and announced in advance what that stance should be. This is antithetical to proper scientific reasoning and likely to undermine the public’s trust in science.

Bingo.

See, much of the problem I have with the current state of so-called gun research is that it’s coming from people like Thorp, folks who have their minds made up and are looking at evidence to support it. Earlier today, I ran into some of this when looking for data on non-gun homicides. It was surprisingly hard to find, particularly over any period of time.

Why was that? Because people only want to focus on the gun, so they keep talking about gun violence and not violence in general.

And many of them were researchers. They didn’t care about anything but, apparently, making a political point.

Another example is the CDC.

For years, federal law barred them from using taxpayer money to advocate for gun control. They then declared this meant they couldn’t conduct any gun research at all.

Yet science is supposed to be neutral. Simply researching the subject shouldn’t be considered gun control advocacy if you’re actually conducting the study to learn. The fact that they wouldn’t conduct the research made it clear their minds were already made up, they just wanted evidence to support it.

Folks, this is called “confirmation bias” and it’s a significant issue for anyone, but especially so for supposed scientists.

I, for one, am glad to see there being some pushback from someone in the scientific community, even if I have no reason to believe anyone will listen.