Strong religious convictions are no excuse for misrepresenting research

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The faithful can live how they choose, but not dictate to others


There have been few debates on social issues in Ireland in which religion did not loom large; whether the topic has been contraception, homosexuality or divorce, theologically derived opinions have often been centre stage. Even now, in debates about abortion and same-sex marriage, these views are still heard. The threatening behaviour of the past may be gone, but it has been replaced by the more insidious ploy of misrepresenting research to lend credibility to discriminatory views.

The abortion debate provides numerous examples of such contrivances. In this paper recently, Breda O’Brien brandished a study by Ferguson et al (2013) and claimed abortion damages women. However, her championing of this study is textbook cherry-picking that fails to withstand even a cursory examination.

The scientific consensus is that abortion does not damage mental health, a conclusion supported by volumes of meticulous research and recently reiterated in high-quality major reviews by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2011) and Johns Hopkins University (2008). Ferguson himself has expressed dismay at pro-life groups using this study, calling this use “misleading”.

More dubious still was last September’s “Dublin declaration”, a statement insisting abortion is never necessary to save the life of a mother. Yet even a cursory inspection reveals this is simply not true. Pregnancy is not risk-free and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states: “Abortions are necessary in a number of circumstances to save the life of a woman.”

Written By: David Robert Grimes
continue to source article at irishtimes.com

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  1. If you have blind faith evidence is rendered surplus to requirements, and that is what is so dangerous about religion, which I consider to be, not to put too fine a point on it, the worst self-inflicted wound humanity suffers.

    Now I must get back to doing the gardening.

  2. In reply to #2 by aroundtown:

    I read the story but I don’t get it really. Their “strong religious convictions” are obviously the excuse for misrepresentation or it would not be happening. Whatever brings about their wants and needs are justified in their minds although they would never admit to that. I think they believe they…

    I think it’s worth pointing out that most religious people are probably not so self-centredly cynical that they do good only for the promise of divine rewards. I think most of them really believe, whole-heartedly and unselfishly, that what they are doing is the right thing, and they trust their god’s judgement on the matter. The problem is that they think about the issue in ways that are utterly unhelpful, such as trying to pin down a categorical distinction between human and non-human (and then elevating the former to “special” status), insisting on the soul as sacrosanct regardless of age (which leads to absurdities), and mistaking the sexual oddness of gays for evidence of moral failure. And it’s encouraged by their religious beliefs, which are so out there that they’re bound to clash with scientific findings and even everyday common sense.

  3. I thought I recognized that image.

    David Quinn, a most egregious apologist for the Catholic church here in Ireland. His weekly column in the Irish Indo really is quite amusing if only for its erroneous content, straw men, and blinkered view of the world.

    Mr Quinn wishes we could all still live in 1950s Ireland.

  4. Quite right. We need more religious convictions, not excuses. Closely followed by the non-parole religious prison sentences.

    I don’t understand how this can be some kind of abuse of the scientific process when it’s got nothing to do with science.

    So children are better off with biological parents. Does that even need to be researched? It wasn’t that long ago that similarly religiously motivated folks were justifying the forced seizure of the newborn children of ‘fallen’ women. Same thing happened for children who were unfortunate enough to be born to mothers of the ‘wrong’ racial classification. So much for allowing biological parents to allow their children to be better off by remaining with them.

    Presumably the control groups for this ‘scientific’ experiment were children in Irish orphanages run by sadistic paedophile nuns and preists.

    It makes sense that biological parents would be specially motivated to nurture their own offspring. But how does it make children better off to prevent non-biological parenting from happening? Especially when most of the problems of non-bioligical parenting have been associated with the religiously inclined. It would make more sense to make religion illegal that to make non-biological parenting illegal.
    It just doesn’t make any sense that such children will be better off if non-biologically related adults are prevented from willingly accepting full legal parental responsibility, regardless of those children’s biological parents being unavailable or unwilling to provide responsible parenting.

    This reminds me of the YouTube video of Christopher Hitchens’ response to: “How can you justify taking away something that gives meaning to 95% of people and replace it with something that gives meaning to just 5%?”

    Response: “…what an incredibly stupid question… firstly you can’t take it away from people as long as they remain afraid of death. Probably quite a long time. Secondly I’m happy for people to have these toys and play with them at home, but they are not to make me play with these toys. I will not play with the toys. Don’t bring them to my house. Don’t say that my children must play with these toys. Don’t say that my toys are not allowed by their toys. Enough with bullying and intimidation. Is that finally clear?”

  5. Talking of religious convictions and misrepresentation -

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23094320

    A senior Italian cleric has been arrested in connection with an inquiry into a Vatican bank scandal over allegations of corruption and fraud.

    Monsignor Nunzio Scarano works in the Vatican’s financial administration. A secret service agent and a financial broker have also been arrested.

    They are suspected of trying to move 20m euros (£17m) illegally into Italy.

    Pope Francis ordered an unprecedented internal investigation into the bank’s affairs in the wake of recent scandals.

    ▬▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬▬

    David Willey BBC News, Rome

    An allegedly corrupt Italian monsignor who until recently helped administer the Vatican’s financial assets ends up in handcuffs and is hauled off to prison in Rome together with a financial broker friend and an Italian secret service agent.

    ▬▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬▬

    Monsignor Scarano, 61, worked for years as a senior accountant for a Vatican department known as Apsa (the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See).

    He was suspended from that position “about a month ago, after his superiors learnt about an investigation into his activities”, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

    Monsignor Scarano has been under investigation by Italian police for a series of suspicious transactions involving the recycling through the Vatican bank of a series of cheques described as church donations.

    Nunzio Scarano is a priest from Salerno in southern Italy, who is called “monsignor” in recognition of his seniority at the Vatican.

    He was arrested along with two other men suspected of plotting to move 20m euros illegally from Switzerland to Italy. One, Giovanni Maria Zito, is described as an Italian secret service agent, and the other, Giovanni Carenzio, a financial broker.

    The denial mindset, seems to be a deep-rooted part of the RCC Italian mindset!
    http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/06/24/a-coup-detat-berlusconi-rails-against-judges-who-ignored-30-witnesses-and-sentenced-him-to-7-years-in-prison/

  6. I find more and more that it’s not “religious convictions”; rather it’s a commitment to a particular ideology. So IMO the religious do not have a monopoly on “insidious ploy of misrepresenting research to lend credibility to discriminatory views.” Ya know, it was a long hard road to get atheism mainstream, let’s not blow it.

  7. It has got to the stage where it needs to be recognized at official and governmental levels that the Abrahamic religions and any other religious organizations resembling them are a hazard to public wellbeing, because of the persistent discrepancies between their superstitious beliefs and reality as is being evermore clearly revealed by the advances of science. These religions are enemies of truth, and we need to know the truth if we are to prosper in the real world. It is no longer acceptable to let representatives of these religions commandeer the word ‘truth’ to refer to their superstitions. Let them establish the truth of their beliefs just as anyone else has to, or let them go to blazes. The time is long overdue for withdrawing from these religions the respect and privileges that have customarily been accorded them. Their spokespeople deserve to be ignored in discussions of public policy, where genuine knowledge of facts and probabilities are essential and superstition is irrelevant.

  8. I’d say that saddling a woman with a child they don’t want, can’t afford, or whatever would be a whole lot more damaging to their mental health, not to mention the child’s mental health. Imagine growing up unwanted, or unloved, or even uncared for (i.e. food, shelter, or any sort of nurturing.) Personally, I feel that if you don’t have an active uterus, you don’t have a right to comment one way or the other. By all means, sit down and shut up. It don’t matter if you’re from Ireland or Iowa.

    • In reply to #13 by fishhead:

      Personally, I feel that if you don’t have an active uterus, you don’t have a right to comment one way or the other.

      I’m a guy and a feminist but I disagree with that statement. I hear it fairly often from people I otherwise mostly agree with. When you think about the logical implications its rather obvious that its not a viable model for democracy. So should men be the only ones who can comment on laws about circumcision? Or should old people be the only ones who can comment on social security? Or should laws about reforming the three strikes law (mandatory sentencing for felons) only be talked about by people who have at least one felony conviction?

      I do agree with you that a woman’s perspective on the problem is often missing. There were some hearings a while ago where an all white all male panel (many of them priests and other “spiritual leaders”) went before congress to talk about reproductive health issues. I think that was the hearing where they barred the one female Sandra Fluke. Those kinds of events are travesties I agree but I think its an irrational over reaction to go to the extreme and say your genitalia determine which topics you can comment on.

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