Scientific American Embraces Junk Science

By Jeff Knox: Opinion

Scientific American
Scientific American
Jeff Knox
Jeff Knox

Buckeye, AZ –-(Ammoland.com)- The periodical Scientific American, touts itself as “the most trusted source of science news,” but that claim of trustworthiness should generate skepticism in light of recent articles by Melinda Wenner Moyer.

From titles to conclusions, these articles represent nothing like reputable science worthy of trust.

Instead, they are agenda-driven, emotionally based arguments that depend on the “expert opinions” and “research” of radical gun control extremists, and glaringly omit any semblance of balance or healthy skepticism.

In October Moyer penned a piece which was originally published under the title, Journey to Gunland. I guess that was too ambiguous, so it was re-titled; More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows, and subtitle; More firearms do not keep people safe, hard numbers show. Why do so many Americans believe the opposite?

Melinda Wenner Moyer's convoluted and presumptuous title fits the biased nonsense that follows it

The long and repetitive article primarily dwells on three key points:

  • A 1993 survey which concluded that guns are used about five times more frequently to stop or prevent crimes than they are to commit crimes – which she dismisses out of hand.
  • That a law passed in Kennesaw, Georgia in 1982, requiring every household to possess a firearm, did not result in the significant reductions in violent crime that some claim.
  • That Congress, at the urging of the NRA, has blocked all research into firearm injury prevention – apparently to shield gun owners from the truth. [an unfounded claim that has repeatedly been reported as being false.]

The problem is that, while she makes a pretense of offering a fair and balanced examination of the facts, she treats her preferred “experts” as being unquestionable and above reproach, and provides only token mention of any conflicting opinions, dismissing them as being unreliable or biased. She also relies heavily on setting up and knocking down straw man arguments, making unsubstantiated claims about what gun owners believe, and then debunking those supposed beliefs with statistics from her preferred, anti-gun researchers.

Moyer's first target, the 1993 survey by Dr. Gary Kleck and Dr. Marc Gertz, both professors of criminology at Florida State University, asked some 5000 Americans about crime and defensive gun use. Kleck and Gertz made all of their data and methods available to other researchers, and their findings were reviewed by their peers and had been replicated several times. Even many highly respected criminologists and researchers who support gun control grudgingly admitted that Kleck and Gertz were very thorough in controlling variables, were sound in their methodology, and that their results were valid.

Arthur Kellermann
Dr. Arthur Kellerman's “research” was so deeply and obviously flawed that even many of his fellow gun control supporting academic colleagues felt compelled to disavow it.

Several years later, Dr. David Hemenway, a Ralph Nader acolyte and outspoken advocate of gun control who has produced some controversial reports of his own, published an examination of the Kleck/Gertz study, pointing out supposed flaws, which he said invalidated their conclusions. Dr. Kleck responded to Hemenway's criticisms point by point, answering all of his questions, and demonstrating that they had indeed considered and accounted for all of the factors raised by Dr. Hemenway.

But Ms. Moyer ignored this and other research that supports the Kleck/Gertz study, as well as ignoring a large body of criticism of Dr. Hemenway's own “research.”

The Kennesaw issue appears to be included merely as a way for the author to insert cultural and regional bias into the article. She traveled to Georgia and Alabama talking with gun owners and law enforcement officers. Originally from Georgia herself, Moyer presents the folks she left behind as backward science-deniers. The only evidence she presents regarding the impact of Kennesaw's law mandating gun ownership is mostly symbolic. As it exempts anyone with a personal objection to owning a gun – was to point out that claimed reductions in violent crime in Kennesaw appear to have been primarily a result of an unusually high violent crime rate in the year before the law went into effect. She neglects to note that even if violent crime didn't go down as much as it might have appeared, it most certainly didn't go up as a result of the law and its likely increase in gun ownership.

As to the Congressional restrictions on the CDC, Moyer gets some credit for making clear that Congress did NOT outright ban gun research by the CDC, but rather prohibited the agency from spending funds to support gun control laws. But she then suggests that the effect was the same since CDC officials are now too scared to get anywhere close to gun research. What she fails to mention is the clear, undeniable fact that CDC bosses were actively engaged in a taxpayer-funded campaign to reduce gun ownership. They were spending millions of dollars on “research” and “researchers” that supported their agenda. In fact, one of Moyer's other “reliable experts” for this article was Dr. Arthur Kellerman whose blatantly biased and seriously flawed “research” played a significant role in the debate over CDC funding. Kellerman received hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for “research” which was so deeply and obviously flawed that even many of his fellow gun control supporting academic colleagues felt compelled to disavow it.

In a follow-up November 2017 article in Scientific American which relied on the same “gun violence experts,” Moyer touted 4 Laws That Could Stem the Rising Threat of Mass Shootings like the recent ones in Las Vegas and Texas. Though she quietly admitted deep in the body of the article that none of the four laws would have prevented those two heinous crimes, she and her “experts” offered “research” to “prove” that they would work in other cases and “could reduce the terrible death toll from mass shootings.”

Neal Knox - The Gun Rights War
Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War

Again, her research failed to include any experts with differing opinions or research that has come to different conclusions, and there was no critical analysis of any of the study she blindly embraced.

It looks like Scientific American is following the old CDC model of picking a desired outcome and selectively promoting views and data which support the objective.

That doesn't sound very scientific to us.

About Jeff Knox: Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His father Neal Knox led many of the early gun rights battles for your right to keep and bear arms. Read Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War. The Firearms Coalition is a loose-knit coalition of individual Second Amendment activists, clubs and civil rights organizations. Founded by Neal Knox in 1984, the organization provides support to grassroots activists in the form of education, analysis of current issues, and with a historical perspective of the gun rights movement. The Firearms Coalition has offices in Buckeye, Arizona and Manassas, VA. Visit: www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

  • 13 thoughts on “Scientific American Embraces Junk Science

    1. Moyer should stick to Molecular Biology. In the world of Law and Logic, her article would be shreded to pieces. There are so many logical and statistical errors in the article, it’s hard to know where to start. I don’t know of anyone arguing that “more guns” means less crimes. So we start with a Straw Man Argument; Logical Fallacy Number One. Of course, I have heard some people say that guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens stop some crimes, which has statistically been shown to be true. This article mentions households. Criminals also live in households. I have heard no gun rights advocate arguing that criminals should have guns in their households. Rather, existing guns laws should be enforced, which does not happen to any significant degree in major cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. Moreover, problem is, no statistics are kept on the number of people saved from being crime victims by owning/using guns, including outside the home. The article impliedly admits this. And Reason tells us why this data is missing: 1) Gunshot injuries MUST be reported by medical personnel, and statistics are kept by law enforcement. 2) There is no system to report crimes being prevented by the presence of a gun, inside or outside the home. Certainly, a criminal will not report that he was deterred from committing a crime by the presence of a gun. And most citizens, including me, will not bother to report a criminal running away when he saw a gun drawn. Without this critical data, a benefit/detriment analysis simply cannot be performed, and Moyer’s thesis is shot to pieces.

    2. I didn’t bother to read the tripe this leftist publication produces. Jeff Knox’s explanation is good enough for me. I haven’t read a comic book in a lot of years but I am sure it would be more accurate and factual.

    3. I’m a technical writer and subscribed to SA for 40 years. But I cancelled my subscription when they signed on with the Left’s agenda. Not surprising, since the entire academic world has turned Communist, anti-America and anti-Israel. When Khrushchev famously remarked, “We will bury you!”, everyone laughed. But, he didn’t mean with a shovel… THIS is what he meant. Who’s laughing now?

      1. True. I canceled my subscription to SA over 20 years ago. I have the uncanny ability to leftist smell b.s. if I get even the slightest whiff.

    4. Argue back and forth all you want. But in a world where you can’t even go to church without worrying about some nut coming in with guns blazing I much prefer to be armed. If someone wants to just lay down and die that is their decision. But I will not give it up without a fight. One thing these killers understand is bullets coming their way. Those who propose a lay down and die ideology are very foolish and only encourage more killing. So, stay alert. Stay armed. Practice. The police will only show up AFTER your dead.

      1. Well said, you would be surprised how may liberals think the police will come to save you, like they were hiding in the criminals car trunk waiting for them to make a move. The average response time of police around the country is 20 minutes. Do people really want criminals to have 19 minutes to do as they please to inflict whatever on them and their friends and family? When I realized I was too old and out of shape to protect myself and family, I bought guns, learned how to use them, moved to a safer state, and obtained License To Carry. I carry at home, when I travel, everywhere I can legally, even in church. I highly recommend anyone who owns a gun to take the extra effort to get qualified to carry a firearm at all times. The police to a great job at what they do, but they can’t be everywhere.

    5. I see that Scientific American does not allow commenting on articles
      In the 4 th paragraph she states that there are 170 million more guns and crime has gone down
      It seems like the rest of the article was not needed after that statement

      1. I noticed the same thing. Went to their site only to find a way to reg. As a member, not away to comment, Convenient.

        Probably hopefully that people will reg. To make comments, then boost about their follower numbers.

        Very interesting, NOT

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