Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"People think that if you can bombard people with numbers and jargon, you have more legitimacy"

Sometimes, those numbers and jargon are called facts--something Walter DeKeseredy, a professor of criminology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology refuses to consider-- when it comes to domestic violence research. In an interesting article in the National Journal, Neil Munro looks at the politics of domestic violence:

Proponents of the rival perspectives have amassed studies and facts to buttress their arguments. Feminist-affiliated groups cite surveys from battered-women's shelters to bolster their claims of male violence; family-conflict advocates and groups of divorced fathers cite data collected in surveys of men and women. The different perspectives "have historically been fueled rather than resolved by research, which has ... generated a variety of findings, some flatly contradictory ... [and has] left little room for cooperation," according to a report by participants in the Wingspread conference.

Advocates on either side charge the other with dishonesty and bad intentions. Murray Straus, a sociology professor at the University of New Hampshire, says that feminist groups deserve credit for launching the campaign against domestic violence. However, they "have created a climate of fear that has inhibited research," he wrote in the July 2007 issue of the European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research.

Straus and like-minded researchers are "advancing a political agenda that supports the goal of fathers' rights groups," responded Walter DeKeseredy, a professor of criminology, justice, and policy studies at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. "People think if you can bombard people with numbers and jargon, you have more legitimacy, but it is a struggle about whose side you are on -- and our side is on the side of women, and we're proud of it."

So Professor Dekeseredy admits that he is proud of the fact that he overlooks statistics and methodology, which is basically what "numbers and jargon" are--and just sides with whatever studies favor women? What kind of research is that?

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Blogger Peregrine John said...

I had the babelfish in my ear and it translated something a little different:

"People think if you can give people overwhelming evidence ranging from careful statistics to numerous case studies, you might be telling them the truth. But it is a struggle about whose side you are on -- and our side is on the side of prejudged opinions and knee-jerk reactions, and we're proud of it."

10:59 AM, April 08, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

"What kind of research is that?"

None at all.


12:04 PM, April 08, 2008  
Blogger Garou said...

"our side is on the side of women, and we're proud of it."

Wow. Just. . . wow. Notice he didn't say "Our side is on the side of the victims." No, he specifically said "women." Regardless of what the facts may be, or what the research may indicate, he's chosen a definite side here. And it's not an objective one, either.

(And how does choosing a side, in advance, qualify you as a professor of criminology or justice, anyway?)

2:11 PM, April 08, 2008  
Blogger campy said...

Isn't there a term for the tendency to ignore facts and just believe whatever you want? Oh yeah, prejudice.

4:41 PM, April 08, 2008  
Blogger BobH said...

Funny, I thought the term was bigotry.

Can you imagine being forced to take a class from him because his course was a prerequisite for some other class taught by some other, semi-ethical professor?

5:28 PM, April 08, 2008  
Blogger TMink said...

Ya know, I am on the side of the women too. I am on the side of the men, and I am on the side of the children. The animals, not so much, but I am on their side as well.

I think the problem is when people are against a side!


5:33 PM, April 08, 2008  
Blogger dienw said...

Three out of four researchers believe in facts and methodology. These are right-wing extremists. We, the one out of four, are therefore right -- in all that word's meanings

9:48 PM, April 08, 2008  
Blogger Tim Murray said...

What is woefully lacking from the public discourse about domestic violence is balance. Serious dialogue grounded in fact has been displaced by vituperative monologue where the search for truth is trumped by agendas and the monologist is perfectly content to vent to like-minded zealots. Somewhere in the midst of all the shouting, the truth – far too nuanced to appeal to fanatics – has been lost.

I suppose those who don't preach to the choir are shunned by their peers in the dv field. Very sad. So very sad.

10:59 PM, April 08, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to believe in various humors causing colds and flues, despite these stupid numbers and facts from microbiologists.

I'm going to believe my buddy Phil, because he's my buddy, despite what all of the witnesses said in court.


This guy doesn't belong in a university. That's the whole point of a university: Look at things rationally and objectively. Push things along with knowledge vis-a-vis the "regular people" out in the world who believe superstitions.

And this guy picked the side of women because he was raised that way. He got a pat on the head from mommy if he defended girls. Later, he got attention from girls by being the hero.

I honestly can't believe the idiots at some universities (some study disciplines seem to have far more of them than others - the disciplines in which you don't have to think).

6:27 AM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger Larry J said...

Remember what Barbie said, "Math class is hard!"

Doing the math and discovering the facts is hard work. It's much faster and easier to just make stuff up. Making stuff up that supports your biases and political views is even easier. So much for academia. Best and brightest, my ass.

8:37 AM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger Mike said...

You still have to be careful about statistics. Statistics have been used to "prove" that there is an IT labor shortage, when in fact there has been no meaningful rise in the average salary paid to IT workers of any type. Which are you going to believe? Lot's of fancy numbers, or an occam's razor application of the law of supply and demand? Groups like the ITAA can throw numbers at me till the heat death of the universe, but I won't believe them until something more fundamental like the law of supply and demand backs them up.

I'm not saying that this is the case here, but rather that statistics are very often not facts.

That said, there is ample reason to suspect that the books have been cooked by the establishment WRT domestic violence, and the professor is just upset that he has been called onto the mat.

4:30 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger Roger J. said...

Dr. Helen: the basic problem is that (1) the american public does not understand statistics and data; and (2) the american media is too stupid to explain what the numbers mean.
A sad commentary on both the state of our educational system (K-16); and the "profession" of journalism.

5:04 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger Jamie said...

jg, I disagree, sort of... I don't think that being "on the side of" women in the way that this fella seems to mean it results from being lionized by women. I think it comes of being taught (read: indoctrinated, forced to parrot) that women (pardon me, "womyn") are superior. Or, more to the point, that men are intrinsically and deeply flawed by dint of possession of a Y chromosome. Poor soul.

The men I respect are "vive la difference" sorts who have fully internalized my right to equality of opportunity under the law without forgetting that I look better in heels than they do. They don't try to paint me as a superior being on the one hand (wherein I resent the opened door or the social privilege of being first served) but as a perpetual and hopeless victim on the other (wherein, by definition, I could not possibly be the perpetrator of domestic violence).

5:22 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger M. Simon said...

My favorite side?


I'm hungry this afternoon.

5:49 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger spool32 said...

You can tell from the "studies" part of the professor's title that he's not actually in the business of teaching Justice or Policy, or Criminolgy. "xyz Studies" is common code for "leftwing political slant", and I wouldn't be surprised at all to find a dramatic leftist bias in his syllabus.

5:49 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger M. Simon said...

I look better in heels than they do

What you got against cowboys?

5:51 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger M. Simon said...

the basic problem is that (1) the american public does not understand statistics and data

Should read:

the basic problem is that (1) reporters do not understand statistics and data

Which explains point #2

5:54 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger Ronnie Schreiber said...

I suppose those who don't preach to the choir are shunned by their peers in the dv field. Very sad. So very sad.

It's worse than sad. Murray Straus, who was quoted in the linked article, and his colleagues Richard Gelles and Susan Steinmetz have been responsible for some of the most extensive longitudinal studies on DV. They have said that the evidence is consistent on a 25/25/50 men/women/mutual split on who initiates violence. Steinmetz was rewarded with attempts to prevent her from getting tenure and bomb threats at her daughter's wedding. Straus has been called a wife beater and a sexual molester and his grad students have been threatened with career death for working with him.


6:15 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger Helen said...

Auto Report World Editors,

Yes, I remember reading about Straus and his colleagues. The funny thing is that he is totally against domestic violence and very much against spanking -- believing that no child should ever be spanked:


I imagine that Straus's findings on domestic violence were probably pretty startling to him--it was bad for his career as you point out but he was brave enough to report his findings. We need more like him, not fewer.

6:33 PM, April 09, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a concrete example, there are reports that the physicist Steven Hawking has been beaten by his wife.

As most of you know, he is in a wheelchair and absolutely unable to defend himself.

I wonder what the Important Perfessur would think about that case. Is he still just on the side of the woman?

6:50 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger GT_Charlie said...

I have been actively employed in the science grift for 32 years. Science is not about advocacy, and advocacy is not about science.

Science is about proving a hypothesis at or beyond p=.05. Advocacy is about getting your way. Anyone who mixes the two has an engine out emergency, and had better start looking for a site to crash land.


7:32 PM, April 09, 2008  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

MikeT - I find that if you grab statistics by the throat and tell you who their friends are you can get the truth out of them.

9:50 PM, April 09, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be helpful if men's rights and women's rights advocates were on the same side.

But Dr. Walt is Canadian and an academic - no wonder he's confused.

4:18 PM, April 10, 2008  
Blogger Ronnie Schreiber said...


I don't know if Straus' career has been harm, though he has been threatened.

Steinmetz left the field because she was tired of the harassment.

Gelles career doesn't seem to have been harmed as he's dean of the School of Social Science at the U of Penn.

3:44 PM, April 11, 2008  

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