Opinions are not Science

Below is a letter I sent to the Christian Science Monitor:

Citing an op-ed in the LA Times, you claim that science is not on the side of the NRA in the gun debate (Where does Science Fall on the Gun Control Debate?).  This may or may not be true, but the facts you lay out in your article do not support this conclusion.  For example, you cite “Of the 150 scientists who responded, most were confident that a gun in the home increases the chance that a woman living there will be murdered (72 percent agreed, 11 percent disagreed), that strict gun control laws reduce homicide (71 percent versus 12 percent), that more permissive gun laws have not reduced crime rates (62 percent versus 9 percent), that guns are used more often in crimes that in self-defense (73 percent versus 8 percent), and that a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be (64 percent versus 5 percent).”  None of this is scientific evidence.  It is the opinions of the respondents.

To be fair, these things may very well be true.  They may be based on scientific evidence.  It may be that strict gun control laws reduce homicide (although my own research and the statistics you cite in your article [specifically ” gun homicide rate has plunged by 49 percent since its peak in 1993″] run counter to this claim).  It may be that guns are more often used in crimes than in self defense.  These things may be true, but by presenting opinions as fact without any supporting evidence, you do a great disservice to your article and overstate the usefulness of the findings.

Interestingly, in an article on science, you demonstrate very unscientific thinking.

Best wishes,

Jon Murphy

Concord, NH

One thought on “Opinions are not Science

  1. Well done. Too often people think that science is what scientists say, opine, theorize or what’s spit out of their models. As opposed to the product of the properly executed scientific method. As I believe you know, climate science is rife with this nonsense, as is diet/nutrition (among other areas, I’m regretfully quite sure).

    And scientists have by and large done very little to help dispel this fundamental misunderstanding of science among the general public. No doubt because it serves their purposes and empowers them.

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