In the past few years, I’ve become increasingly wary when media reports certain findings as “scientific”. What once used to be a respectable way to know more of the truth of God’s universe has become more a way to manipulate and justify a moral or political will.
The data derived from a well-designed study isn’t the problem. That’s science. It’s the conclusions that are drawn (or ignored) and the recommended response that often turns real science into something more like politics or religion.
A recent case in point:
An article by Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council cited a study from the Washington University School of Medicine which touts lower birth rates among teens who were given birth control implants to avoid pregnancy. Ok, no surprise there. Birth control implant = less births among teens.
But there are two two problems here, and neither have to do with science.
First, the study ignores the very likely implications of such implants: increased freedom to be sexually active, which likely leads to increased exposure and contraction of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). According to the Centers for Disease Control, STI’s are already disproportionately found among teens and young adults, perhaps for the very reason of increased risky contact without adequate protection. As we all know, protection from pregnancy and protection from STI’s aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Second, just because intrauterine devices (IUD’s) are effective at reducing the overall birth rate among teens, doesn’t mean it’s worth risking our children with the added medical complications of both STI’s and the medical complications some girls have with such devices.
The findings about reduced birth rates by the use of IUD’s among teens are scientific data. The ignoring of the obvious consequences of such intervention (STI’s and medical complications of the device) and then using the findings to insinuate that use of such devices is a “moral good” merely because it reduces pregnancy rates isn’t science. Rather, it’s the consequences of using scientific data to advance the gospel of secularism.
A word to the wise. When we hear reports about scientific studies, we should always ask ourselves why the researchers were conducting the study in the first place and who funded it. That will tell us a lot about how the data will be used by various policy groups. And most every policy group wants to advance it’s cause more than know real scientific facts.
When certain facts are ignored in order to report other facts, we betray our real desire for advancing a cause more than seeking to know scientific truth.
Understanding a few simple thoughts about the reporting of scientific data can help us become better consumers of science in the media.