Don’t miss multiple posts by BoingBoing’s Maggie Koerth-Baker on the shoddy science behind a recent alarmist report. It’s all the more noteworthy because one of her BB colleagues was at first taken in by the report, requiring an awkward rowback that developed into a crusade of its own against bad activist science. Earlier on Prop 37 and the California political angle here, etc.
It’s almost entirely off-topic for this site, but some readers may be interested in my new piece for Huffington Post (my first in that venue) poking some additional holes in an already much-criticized study by Mark Regnerus finding bad life outcomes among young adults who report that a parent had a same-sex relationship. Sample:
The Witherspoon Institute, discussing the study’s findings, adds another clue: “48% of the respondents with a GF [gay father], and 43% of the respondents with an LM [lesbian mother] indicated that they were either black or Hispanic.” Those numbers sound awfully high, and they are. They far exceed the roughly 30-percent black-plus-Hispanic share of the U.S. population. Why would young adults with minority backgrounds and a high rate of economic distress report having far more than their share of gay parents? Are they somehow more likely to grow up in homes with actual gay parents? Or are their parents somehow being overclassified as gay?
Putting together that with other anomalies in the study data, I conclude that the study does not come even close to measuring what it claims to be measuring. See also: Amy Davidson, New Yorker, among a whole mini-literature of responses.
- “Massage Parlor Mistrial Declared After Masseuse Recognizes Defense Lawyer as Client” [ABA Journal]
- Paying opposing expert to leave country? “Drug company lawyer taped trying to foil lawsuit” [AP]
- What anti-business crusades have in common with the War on Drugs [David Henderson] Some of those “oil and gas subsidies” aren’t [Coyote]
- Nocera on NLRB v. Boeing [NYT] A contrary view [Hirsch]
- Science finds no link between WTC dust, cancer? Then science will just have to give [Jeff Stier, Reason; but see later study on firefighters at the scene]
- Per Maureen Orth at Vanity Fair, the widow of designer Oleg Cassini has been in at least 15 lawsuits. Guess who’s named in number 16? [AW]
- Stop competing with us! Lawyers claim online-legal-form provider LegalZoom is engaged in unauthorized practice of law [WSJ, Dan Fisher, ABA Journal]
A British Medical Journal editorial confirms that scientific misconduct by then-Dr. Andrew Wakefield was even worse than previously assumed. The resulting media-fueled panic led parents to refuse vaccination in large numbers, and childhood scourges such as measles soared as a result, with disability and even death resulting. Wakefield was being financed by lawyers hoping to sue the vaccine industry. [Respectful Insolence, CNN, AP, Adler]
Accurate science, or Science For Your Own Good? [Michael Siegel]
Years ago I promised myself that I’d stop wading into comments sections, but my breach of that promise today in a trial-lawyer blog attacking me for pointing out the truth about the bogus Toyota sudden acceleration claims might amuse some readers, and I might as well get a post out of it.
“Are not companies obligated to make the safest vehicle possible?”
The safest vehicle possible is a Sherman tank with a restrictor plate preventing it from exceeding 1 mph, so the answer to your question is “no”—though certainly trial lawyers have an interest in asking you to think manufacturers are doing something wrong when they don’t.
“Until Toyota can identify the exact cause of these accidents (besides the too-convenient driver error) anything and everything is in question and must be investigated.”
I look forward to you writing NHTSA and demanding they investigate if invisible vampires are causing elderly drivers to hit the wrong pedal. After all, anything and everything is in question, and you reject Occam’s Razor when it comes to an alleged electronic defect that simultaneously causes three separate systems to malfunction six times more often for elderly drivers than non-elderly drivers, so why not demand an investigation of the equally unlikely invisible-vampire problem as long as you’re rejecting science?
And in timely news, a specious $18M sudden acceleration verdict (see our August 2006 coverage) was unanimously reversed by the South Carolina Supreme Court after they threw out junk-science testimony theorizing that electromagnetic interference with the cruise control caused the sudden acceleration. Passengers in the crash that wore their seatbelts were uninjured, but the unbelted driver was paralyzed. The plaintiff has the option of a new trial. (Sonya Watson v. Ford Motor Company, h/t L Nettles comment).
It only took twelve years, but Lancet, which oft publishes politically motivated papers masquerading as medicine, has conceded that the 1998 paper criticizing MMR vaccines was simply “false.” [Lancet; BBC]
No telling how many children died in the meantime, all so trial lawyers could line their pockets attacking vaccine manufacturers.
- AT&T sued for $1 billion for allegedly misclassifying managers [Hyman, American Lawyer]
- Shaken-baby-syndrome angle deserved more attention in Baucus-girlfriend-for-U.S.-Attorney flap [Kos, Freeland, earlier]
- Awful: “Holocaust Denier Sues Survivor” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel via Faces of Lawsuit Abuse “worst lawsuits of 2009” poll which you can take here]
- Bizarre new twist in rogue Philly cop unit story [Balko, earlier here, here, etc.]
- More on the first “Bruno” lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
- False accusation as academic career booster: “The Rot at Duke” [Stuart Taylor, Jr., National Journal]
- Claim: Netflix recommendation algorithm contest exposed a subscriber’s privacy to her detriment [Singel, Wired]
- No “Continuing Duty to Investigate Accuracy” of Newspaper Article Posted on Web Site [Volokh on Jenzabar case, earlier here and here]
It’s a cover story entitled “CSI Myths: The Shaky Science Behind Forensics“:
Forensic science was not developed by scientists. It was mostly created by cops, who were guided by little more than common sense. And as hundreds of criminal cases begin to unravel, many established forensic practices are coming under fire. PM takes an in-depth look at the shaky science that has put innocent people behind bars.