Mimsy Were the Borogoves

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CDC warns gun owners to beware of the leopard

Jerry Stratton, May 2, 2018

Public Data: Beware of Leopard

Back in February I wrote about why people don’t trust the CDC to perform research on firearms ownership. Since then, it’s become even more blatant. It turns out that the CDC ran surveys back in the nineties to disprove Gary Kleck’s research that gun ownership was in fact very effective.

Instead, the CDC’s data showed that Kleck was right. So the CDC simply never reported on that research and it was never given front-page headlines—even now that the data has been discovered.

This makes sense, of course. The CDC is focused around disease control. Treating firearms ownership as a disease by its nature will create bad data and bad research policies. If you were doing research on cancer, and it turns out cancer causes people to live longer, then obviously you’re going to distrust your research. In fact, you’ll probably bury it, because there is clearly something wrong with your study. The problem is that this is not science, let alone good science.

Firearms ownership is not a disease, and the more research that’s done on it, the more we learn that it’s not just a fun sport, it’s also healthy and a good idea. An organization centered around disease control will never have the right perspective to research something that isn’t a disease.

I could be wrong. The CDC can prove that they can be trusted to perform research outside of disease control by publicizing the data that both supports their preconceptions and that disproves it. They can convince congress to make it a law that all government-funded data must be made public. Until they can do that, I’m not even sure they can be trusted to perform research on diseases. What happens when some new disease violates their preconceptions? Will they let people die from that disease rather than report their results?

If so, then the money we use to fund their research is better spent elsewhere. The fact is, I don’t even trust this data. The CDC’s record is so bad on firearms research that it’s hard to trust anything that comes out of them, even when it accords with independent research. In Should the government (and the CDC) fund research into gun violence?, I wrote that

…what the CDC researchers appeared to be doing was crunching the numbers in their data in different ways until they found a result that pleased them. This is the polar opposite of science.

Only publicizing the results you agree with is pretty close to the same thing. Not only were they cherry-picking data inside each project, not only were they cherry-picking which projects to fund to begin with, they were cherry-picking what data even to publicize.

That kind of “science” brings us back to the dark ages.

They are producing this research to influence public policy, and they have policies that they would prefer, so of course they’re going to manipulate the data and the projects. This is not a problem limited to the CDC. The EPA is notorious for using secret science (which is, of course, not science at all). The current EPA administrator is trying to change this:

The proposal, signed at EPA headquarters, aims to expose the methodology behind scientific findings and cut back on what Pruitt has deemed “secret science.”

Pruitt said the new ruling shows “an agency taking responsibility for how we do our work, in respecting process … so that we can enhance confidence in our decision making.” He also dubbed the current process which had, until now, allowed science to be peer reviewed rather than open to public scrutiny, “simply wrong headed.”

The House bill authored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), now called the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, would mandate all scientific data and findings be made publicly available before they are used to justify agency regulations.

Opponents of the new rule say it would limit the number of available scientific studies that could be used by the agency in its rulemaking, namely by excluding a number of public health studies.

Emphasis added. The reason those “public health studies” would be excluded from public policymaking is that their data is not public. This is completely insane. That we’re only requiring that data on which public rule making is based be public now is insane. That this is considered controversial is insane. That there is a field dedicated to “the improvement of the health and well-being of populations across the globe” and they keep their findings secret is insane. It’s Douglas Adams-level insanity. It could literally be a sketch from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

There is another which states that this has already happened. — Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

In response to The plexiglass highway: Government bureaucracies can cause anything to fail, even progress.

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