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No Trace Of Truth | Disguising Superstition As Science

No Trace Of Truth | Disguising Superstition As Science

Photo credit: Sipa via AP Images

In this column, A1F Daily trains its watchdog eye on The Trace, Michael Bloomberg’s new anti-“gun news” site. 

One night long ago, when there were only 3½ channels on the TV, my father and I were watching a documentary about the discovery of a tribe of people who had never had any contact with the outside world. The team of anthropologists took great pains not to disturb their culture but, of course, the effects of their appearance were both inevitable and unpredictable. During their interaction, the tribe was exposed to a modern miracle—refrigeration. Tribe members were in awe of the power to keep food fresh for long periods of time. 

Months later, the team made a return trip to check on the tribe and made a very curious discovery: Tribal members had found cardboard boxes and decorated them with refrigerator-like markings. Tribal medicine men had performed rituals to bless them with cooling powers, and the tribe’s members had stored food in them. When the food spoiled, they decorated, blessed and filled another box. When the researchers returned, they found a long row of these failed cardboard totems, filled with rotting fruits.(CDC) bureaucrats were caught using tax dollars, earmarked for disease prevention, to actively promote gun control, and covering their activities with a veneer of CDC legitimacy.

On Dec. 2, The Trace published “The CDC Just Released a ‘Gun Violence’ Study,” a confusing and barely-disguised plea to reestablish taxpayer-funded gun-control research by the government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At issue was a 14-page report prepared by the CDC in response to a request by the city council of Wilmington, Del. Wilmington is currently experiencing an alarming spike in crime: The CDC report states that in 2013, the city “experienced 127 shooting incidents resulting in 154 victims. This represented nearly a 45-percent increase in the number of shootings over the preceding two years.” 

The CDC’s summary states, “The majority of individuals involved in urban firearm violence are young men with substantial violence involvement preceding the more serious offense of a firearm crime.” It recommends a collaboration and data-sharing among social service agencies to identify and intercede with these individuals before they commit crimes with guns. 

The Trace finds that appalling: “If the CDC wasn’t going to consider the role of firearms in Wilmington’s gun crimes, why do the study at all?” The Trace complains that the study “does not address how the perpetrators acquired their weapons, or if attempts to limit access to firearms might lead to a dip in crime.” 

The Trace blames the National Rifle Association and Congress for the CDC’s failure to blame firearms for Wilmington’s rising crime problem. They lament the fact that Congress cut off CDC funding for research into “gun violence” 20 years ago. 

However, one of the physicians who testified at Congressional committee hearings reminds us why Congress reined in the CDC—agency bureaucrats were caught using tax dollars, earmarked for disease prevention, to actively promote gun control, and covering their activities with a veneer of CDC legitimacy. 

Dr. Timothy Wheeler, MD, was one of three medical doctors who testified before the House’s Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee on March 6, 1966. In a Nov. 30 article for The Hill, Dr. Wheeler documents CDC-supported gun-control abuses that were going on at the time: 

  • A CDC-funded “study” by Dr. Arthur Kellerman, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, twisted epidemiological tactics intended to investigate the effects and causes of disease to reach the now-infamous conclusion that a gun in the home is three times more likely to kill the residents: “The CDC funded a flawed study of crime-prone inner city residents. The authors then tried to equate this wildly unrepresentative group with typical American gun owners. The committee was not amused.” 

  • Dr. P.W. O’Carroll, the CDC’s acting section head of the Division of Injury Control, told the Journal of American Medicine, “We’re going to systematically build a case that owning firearms causes deaths. We’re going to do the most we can do, given the political realities.”
  • His successor, Dr. Mark Rosenberg, told the Washington Post that he wanted the CDC to create a public perception of firearms as “dirty, deadly—and banned.” 
  • The CDC funded a newsletter from The Trauma Foundation, a San Francisco gun-control group: “The newsletter advised advocates to ‘organize a picket at gun manufacturing sites’ and to ‘work for campaign finance reform to weaken the gun lobby’s political clout.’”

The full report from the committee effectively cut off funding for gun control and advised the CDC to knock it off. 

Why did the Wilmington city council ask a federal agency, tasked with preventing disease, for help in solving a crime problem? In The Trace’s worldview, the presence of a gun naturally means that you’ll be infected with bullets by the end of the week.

Why does The Trace so fervently believe that same agency’s proper role is to advocate gun control? 

The answer is that both of them suffer from a kind of superstition about guns, evidence of which is buried in The Trace’s rambling account of disappointment and blame: 

“In a proper epidemiological study, guns themselves would be treated as a risk factor for many types of violence or injury—just as mosquitoes would be treated as a risk factor for contracting malaria, for example.” 

In The Trace’s worldview, the presence of a gun naturally means that you’ll be infected with bullets by the end of the week. 

Only you won’t. Reasonable, educated citizens know that the mechanics of malarial infection bear no resemblance to those of gun crime. Believing otherwise is tantamount to superstition: It requires a willful denial of centuries of human learning, and reduces one to investing guns with magical powers beyond our understanding and not confirmed by empirical evidence.

In our world view, journalists, doctors and elected officials should behave like educated, logical, thoughtful individuals. When we catch them painting talismans on inanimate objects and reciting thoughtless incantations meant to convince us they have magical powers, we’re deservedly skeptical. 

Reasonable people know that you can’t invest a firearm with magical powers by decorating it. Any junior high science student studying the scientific method would laugh The Trace out of class.

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