If you’ve been following the same-sex marriage debate, you’ve probably noticed a trend. In an effort to establish the legitimacy of their particular agenda, each side of the argument has released studies and statistics that support their view.
But a recent same-sex marriage study published in Science (which has to be one of the most self-aggrandizing magazine titles of all time) is being forced to retract its findings. “Irregularities” became apparent in its data collection when a group of college students wanted to do a follow-up survey. It turns out its conclusions had been based on fake data. Yes, a few college students working for extra credit or something had better scientific standards than professional sociologists publishing in a peer-reviewed journal. I’m sure this was just a clerical oversight. Yeah.
In what can only be described as a remarkable and swift series of events, one of the authors of a much-ballyhooed Science paper claiming that short conversations could change people’s minds on same-sex marriage is retracting it following revelations that the data were faked by his co-author.
Quite remarkable. This news has an interesting meta quality to it, does it not? The whole purpose of faking a study like this would be to indicate to opponents of same-sex marriage that opposition to same-sex marriage is unreasonable and based on limited information. “See, we talked to these other people, and they were willing to change their views after only a short conversation. You guys that are still against same-sex marriage sure are on the wrong end of this one.”
Except, people really didn’t change their minds. So this study about changed minds designed to help change minds was nothing more than bad science predicated on bad logic.
It was bad science for obvious reasons, but as a tool to change minds it was based on an argumentum ad populum: an appeal to the masses. “If everybody is being convinced, why aren’t you?”
Science, the magazine that originally published the erroneous study, has since posted a notice that the article is being reviewed. Which is odd since the author of the article actually requested a retraction. I’m sure Science is just approaching this with all the rigors of its namesake. Right.