Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bishop Henry Should Check His Sources

Silly me - I should know better than to go past the Calgary Sun's website - I inevitably make the mistake of looking through the editorials, and I found Bishop Henry has posted another one of his misinformed diatribes about the evils of affording sexual minorities rights.

Bishop Henry quoted a "study" (more of an essay, really), by an organization calling itself "American College of Pediatricians". This study is what Bishop Henry uses to justify yet another multi-layered, irrational tirade.

Quoth the Good Bishop:

In January 2004, The American College of Pediatricians concluded: "The research literature on child- rearing by homosexual parents is limited.

"The environment in which children are reared is absolutely critical to their development. Given the current body of research, the American College of Pediatricians believes it is inappropriate, potentially hazardous to children and dangerously irresponsible to change the age-old prohibition on homosexual parenting, neither by adoption, foster care, or by reproductive manipulation. This position is rooted in the best available science."(Human Parenting: Is It Time for Change?)

Hmmm...thinks I - I should go take a look at this so-called study - it's conclusions run at considerable odds to results that have been rattling around in the psychological and psychiatric literature for quite some years. Superficially, the report appears to be fairly well researched - there's some 30-odd footnotes at the end - not bad for a few hundred words of material.

I will agree with one statement out of the conclusions - "The research literature on child- rearing by homosexual parents is limited." When you are talking about a minority group that is only documented at 3% - 5% of the population (based on census data), any research in that sub-population is going to be challenged to find a sufficiently large sample size upon which to base results. That is valid criticism of the literature - however, it does not invalidate the existing body.

However, upon further digging, you start to realize that the people that they are quoting from are people like J. Michael Bailey, a man whose writings are politely described as controversial, and often are arguably flawed. The report also vastly mangles the conclusions and observations of other papers that they have referenced.

A random sampling of the authors of the papers referred to turned up the following:

Robert Lerner, PhD. - Works in association with U.S. Government (read - BushCo)
Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandfeur - Authors of a book about the evils of single parenting that are often quoted by the pro-marriage/pro-family crowd.
P. Morgan - published by the "Christian Institute" - need I say more?

I wasn't able to check all of the papers referenced conveniently - I found enough dubious research in the survey to become suspicious of the conclusions drawn.

Looking around the website further, it suddenly becomes clear why something was ringingly wrong:

The American College of Pediatricians is a national medical association of pediatricians and other healthcare providers who specialize in the care of infants, children, and adolescents. Formed in 2002, the College was born out of genuine concern for the welfare of children and for the preservation of their natural families. The College recognizes that contemporary societal forces have placed children at great risk emotionally and physically. In seeking to protect the child, the College will develop sound policy based upon quality research to influence parents and society in the endeavor of childrearing.

Furthermore, the College recognizes the inherent value of both a father and a mother, united in marriage, rearing the child and will advocate for this optimal developmental setting. Realizing that disruption of the family is an unfortunate reality and that every child is unique and valuable, the College pledges to support all children, regardless of their circumstances. The Mission, Value and Vision statements reflect the conviction and concern of the American College of Pediatricians.

Ah - we come to the crux of it. This is a splinter organization formed (possibly) from members of the much older American Academy of Pediatrics organization. A much older, more classical medical college, the AAP was formed in 1930. Since the AAP and the American Psychiatric Association weren't making the appropriately conservative "pro-family statements", a bunch of Pediatricians went off to start their own little conservative organization. (Frankly, if I had a pediatrician that was affiliated with this new group, I'd be looking for another one fast - the last thing I need is a doctor moralizing at me over my family life)

Really, Bishop Henry is an intelligent man. He should know better than to quote sources that are so obviously partisan. It's kind of like using Michael Behe to provide a reasoned critique of Evolution Theory. You know what you're going to get, and it's mostly crap.

When political or religious ideology drives research, the conclusions are guaranteed to be suspect. But, of course, the Religious Reich doesn't worry too much about facts when they can conjure conclusions out of thin air.

The rest of Bishop Henry's column degenerated into the usual "Link Byfield-inspired paranoia" that religious freedoms are being trampled by gay rights activism. While I don't agree with every action that the gay rights activists have taken, the results have yet to constitute something that strikes me as an infringement upon individual religious freedoms.

Bishop Henry is slowly descending into the land of the blatantly political. I see the good Bishop is getting involved with this lovely little fundraiser, being done on behalf of Concerned Christians and it's former head Stephen Boisson. In a way it's rather sad to see Bishop Henry falling in with the kind of nastiness that is the worst side of the so-called "Christian Right Wing" (hmmm - a bird with only a right wing could only turn left...). I'm beginning to suspect that Bishop Henry is apt to make a run for political office in the future - probably with this goon as his campaign mangler. (I've met this man once - and trust me, goon is an apt description)

I'm not asking that the Bishop go and get his PhD. in Psychiatry or anything like that - but I am getting increasingly annoyed with his continued insistance on taking a position on a topic based on such obviously suspect sources. Even a pidgin bit of research can turn up a wide range of material in the topics that the Bishop has been writing on lately. Like the "Intelligent Design" advocates, the Bishop is being wilfully ignorant of positions and evidence that he doesn't like - or that Rome tells him he doesn't like.

This wouldn't irritate me so much but for the fact that the Bishop is a man with a very high public profile, and with rather direct influence over a lot of people's beliefs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So just how is it that the Good Bishop is able to get editorial space in the Sun?