Intellectual Honesty

I am a public health professional.

And I like guns.

This make me a heretic in American public health, where embracing firearms and the rights of gun owners is a gross violation of orthodoxy.

Vik Khanna is “public health professional, educated at the vaunted Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Hygiene and Public Health”. And, as stated above, he likes guns. He writes about it in “Why Public Health Needs a New Gun Doctrine”.

It’s rarely a good thing when everyone is lock-step and unquestioning of doctrine. He takes his field to task on their regard for firearms.

In 2013, the Institute of Medicine, at the behest of the Centers for Disease Control, produced a report on firearms violence that has been ignored by the mainstream media. The upshot: defensive use of firearms occurs much more frequently than is recognized, “can be an important crime deterrent,” and unauthorized possession (read: by someone other than the lawful owner) of a firearm is a crucial driver of firearms violence.

That report went away for political reasons. Translation. Nobody wanted to talk about it because it raised more questions than it answered.

They didn’t get the answer they wanted, so they suppressed it. Is that science? Is that really doing a service to the world?

But even more key is the fundamental assumption:

My public health approach to the problem of gun violence starts with the assumption that every gun owner is not a raving, irresponsible nut, but in fact a person of some seriousness who has a legal right to choose to own a firearm.

What assumptions do you start with? Have you stepped back and honestly examined your own assumptions? Have you questioned and determined where your assumptions came from? What is their founding? Is it based upon biased news reporting (which we should all come to expect is the unfortunate norm of today’s “news” reporting)? Is it based upon Hollywood? Is it based upon a couple interactions you’ve had, and you’ve extrapolated a couple exceptions to apply to everyone?

Or even worse:

As for the claim that gun rights proponents oppose the conduct of legitimate research, consider this. Many years ago, I asked a very powerful anti-gun academic the following questions: What proportion of gun crimes are committed by the lawful owner of a legally purchased firearm, and what percentage of lawful gun owners use their firearm in commission of a crime?  He said that he did not know, and that he would oppose conduct of the research to answer both questions.

If we’re going to have honest discussion towards finding real solutions to our problems, we must step back and examine our assumptions. We must be intellectually honest and not cherry picking what suits us or furthers our own blind agenda.

2 thoughts on “Intellectual Honesty

  1. The big problem I see here is that enough scientists have quit trying to come to conclusions determined by where the evidences leads. Instead, they search for evidence that supports their belief or bias. There’s no longer even any pretense of objectivity. The same has occurred in journalism. This destroys the public trust in them and their institutions. Trust, once destroyed, is not easily built back up.

    This is not just a science problem. It’s a people problem. Our society in particular has become just one big polarized camp. Belief rules all and evidence be damned. It can be manipulated to suit our views.

    I think I’d even go so far as to say that only in the freest of societies do you see attempted objectivity (we aren’t every really fully objective but with enough voices in the chorus we can come close). I believe that time has passed for us here in America. I don’t know if we’ll regain it, or if some other society will some day. Not that what we achieved was perfect by any means but hey, we gave it a good shot and the world was far better off for it.

    You have to wonder what it would be like today if means of communication like the internet were not available. Stories like this would be the stuff of conspiracy theorists and underground newspapers. Probably wouldn’t see the light of day most times.

    Good stuff. Keep it up!

    • You hit it on the head. We just want to be right, Truth be damned.

      But I think some young people are starting to get it. I mean, the growth of Libertarianism gives me hope.

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