The argument ipse dixit is a logical fallacy

I used to watch "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" reruns every midnight before going to sleep. I stopped only recently, when a propaganda piece for marriage redefinition was so heavy-handed that the propagandizing outweighed the entertainment value of a generally well-written and well-executed episode.

SVU always did that once in a while. Snarky left wing cracks by Detective Munch (now departed from the series) about moronic neocons or the evil of George W. Bush were not every-episode occurrences, but they happened often enough to be irritating. And the other cast members always agreed with him.

This time, there was sort of an excuse, though. A crusading homophobic attorney used bogus studies to convince the gullible grandparents of a child with two mothers that such an arrangement was dangerous to her development to drive a wedge between the grandparents of a child and the partner of her deceased mother- the only living parental figure the little girl knew- and get the grandparents to play dirty in order to be able to provide the little girl's new home and stop the partner from getting custody..

Now, I've always been a bit bemused by the strong evidence that children who grow up in single-parent households are at something of a disadvantage, not least because they grow up lacking either a same-sex model to teach them how to relate to the opposite sex, or an opposite-sex model to provide a context for learning the same lesson. There doesn't seem to be much controversy over that. It's not that such children are doomed, or anything; it's just that there is an area of life in which they figure to have things a bit tougher than other kids.

But if the studies are to be believed, all bad effects of lacking parental role models from each gender disappear if there are two parents of the same sex. It's hard to see why this should be the case- unless it's because those who do the research have a vested ideological interest in finding that it is so.

The ADA prosecuting the bewildered older couple for false imprisonment or something pointed to American Psychological Association and American Sociological Association studies reaching just such a politically-correct conclusion. That settles the matter, right?

Well, apparently not. A recent study on the changeability of attitudes toward marriage redefinition among people who actually talk with gay folks about it- amply peer-reviewed and carrying all the proper seals of academic approval- has turned out to be a fraud. It seems (as if this were surprising or new) that it's not only the social Right which is capable of faking statistical evidence and coming up with skewed studies.

But why should that surprise us? I wonder how many Americans- in and out of the journalistic profession- are aware that when the American Psychological Association board first voted to remove homosexuality from its official list of psychiatric illnesses, the vote went strictly along the lines of sexual orientation. The gay majority (one of whom was still in the closet at the time) voted "yes." All of them. The straight minority- all of them- voted "no."

When the APA convention decided to let a referendum of the membership decide the issue, the proposal seemed doomed Survey after survey showed huge majorities of the APA membership who considered the proposal ludicrous. "What are we going to remove from the list next?," one psychologist famously asked. "Schizophrenia?" Indeed, for over a decade surveys would show overwhelming majorities of the APA membership disagreeing with the change.

But a gay advocacy group somehow got ahold of the APA membership list, and spent quite a bit of money on a campaign, not to get people to vote in favor of the change, but to convince APA members to disagreed with it to abstain in order not to embarrass the APA board. The effort was successful. A remarkably small percentage of voters participated, and the change was narrowly approved.

Most of those who disagreed with it simply didn't vote.

Eventually, of course, the official APA position on the matter became a club with which to beat dissenters over the head. It gradually became as much as a psychologist's professional reputation was worth to suggest that homosexuality was in any sense a psychological problem. Gradually, studies which supported the orthodox position were routinely peer reviewed without much concern for problem of procedure or statistical validity, while dissenting papers were carefully vetted for excuses to declare them invalid.

Human nature being what it is, it shouldn't be surprising that the increasingly left-wing membership of the APA- dissent being sternly discouraged as the "march through the institutions" removed any shred of ideological neutrality from the topic even among professionals- should find it easier to find fault with studies they disagreed with than with studies which affirmed their own positions.

It seems that peer-reviewed studies approved by the APA and the ASA and other such institutions may not be quite the infallible source of truth the Left would like us to believe. That's the problem in subcultures where dissent is suppressed: it becomes hard to find, and the natural tendency to like what one agrees with and find fault with what one disagrees with produces an atmosphere in which the flaws of studies taking the orthodox position are examined less critically than studies which dissent from it.

Peer-reviewed scientific studies are fine sources of reliable information- but only when the peer review involves enough peers who disagree with the ideology which stands to benefit from the study that a truly critical examination of the study takes place. This happens routinely with studies which find some negative aspect of homosexual parenting or some negative consequence of living as a homosexual.

But not with those which find no evidence of such problems.

If the professionals can't be trusted to be objective (not, it should be emphasized again, because they are consciously dishonest but because the ideological bias of a sufficiently large percentage of them predisposes them to be more critical of studies they disagree with than of studies which confirm their own preconceived notions), perhaps it would behoove professionals and non-professionals alike to be a little more careful jumping to the conclusion that because a professional organization of experts endorse (or criticize) a study, that necessarily should be the last word.

There is a reason why the appeal to authority: authority agrees with them on ideological grounds. The argument ipse dixit, as it's called- is considered a logical fallacy. Even experts should have to be able to defend their conclusions as a prerequisite for having those conclusions accepted by the rest of us.


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