Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On the other hand ...

The Blogging Tories' Dr. Roy:

Religion is a good basis to start life.

In the interests of fairness, there is the dissenting view, of course:

An 8-year-old boy is dead because of the "horrible abuse" inflicted on him by his parents, strict disciplinarians who followed severe religious doctrine, a prosecutor told a jury Tuesday.

Sonya and Joseph Smith were watching an online church service offered by the Remnant Fellowship Church on Oct. 8, 2003, but their 8-year-old son, Josef, was misbehaving, according to prosecutor Eleanor Dixon.

Josef wasn't being obedient and wasn't praying.

The Nashville, Tennessee-based church encourages parents to physically discipline their children and maintain strict dietary control.

Dixon said Josef's then-13-year-old brother told police that his parents decided to punish Josef by putting him in a small wicker box with the lid closed, then tying electrical cords around it to prevent him from escaping...

"The evidence will be there was no trip to the doctor and no trip to the counselor," Dixon said. "There was beating after beating after beating and then he died."

The prosecutor said Josef's brother will testify that his parents regularly beat the boy, using everything from a 12-inch glue stick used inside a glue gun to coat hangers to a wooden board they called "the butt-buster."

Over here in the reality-based community, Doc, we call that a "counter-example."


Anonymous said...

The saddest part: this kind of thing is far more widespread than any christian will admit. When I was growing up I heard it over and over in the fundie Protestant churches; spare the rod and spoil the child.

The catholic churches we attended before the folks converted did emphasize strict behavioral control (particularly regarding girls) but it was the fundies that pushed the concept of regularly beating the shit out of one's children.

Anonymous said...

Just looking at the original study, I can see several possible problems :

1. There's no blinding for the raters. That is, parents and teachers evaluate their own children/students. Self-delusion (of course Johnny is a good little boy, he goes to church!) is not a minor problem when dealing with the religious or parents, let alone religious parents. And teacher would usually know this info as well.

2. It was done in the US, where church attendance at some level is so high in some areas that not attending could make students naturally outcast and therefore more unhappy/misbehaved.

3. The author of the original notes himself that parents with troubled children may be avoiding religious ceremonies out of embarrassment. Selection bias

4. Noting that "both parents attend frequently" is a strong predictor implies several things that confound the results. First, it says that parents are together (no single parents here). Second, it captures "family take time to go to weekly social event together". Both of these would be excellent predictors of behaviour without involving religion. I see no attempt to measure comparable non-religious activities in the study, so really, the conclusions here are about the benefits of belonging to a social group, where some social groups have not been measured.

Finally, and this is an important thing lost on a lot of researchers (really, the study isn't so bad, but I do critique these things for a living), there is statistical significance, but does it actually mean anything? The sample size is huge here, meaning almost any difference will be picked up, and since they are measuring different groups, it's natural that some differences will occur. The differences in the 1-5 measures are on the order of 0.05-0.08. Does that mean anything? Anything at all? If kids were a 3.24 in one group and 3.29 in another, what does that tell you clinically?

OK, I'm done here...

Mike said...

Do ya think old Roy will reproduce all the studies showing the opposite? Or the ones that show that prayer doesn't work?