Richard Dawkins sidekick, Lawrence Krauss, has been repeating Dawkins crackpot notions about child abuse and religion, this time with a twist:
Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss recently doubled down on his claim that teaching creationism to children was a form of child abuse during an appearance on the “The Weekly,” an Australian satirical TV news show.
During the show, host Charlie Pickering recalled that Krauss had described telling children that evolution was a lie as child abuse in a 2013 video. “That’s a fairly brutal way of putting it,” he noted.
“Yeah, exactly, but it got some attention,” Krauss replied, “cus if I hadn’t [used that description] you wouldn’t have read the line.”
“But it’s true. I mean, there are different levels of child abuse,” Krauss added. “It’s like not allowing your children to have medicine, not allowing you children to be vaccinated, for example, is child abuse, because you are doing them harm.”
“In some sense, if you withhold information from your children because you would rather them not know what reality is really like, for fear that it is going to affect their beliefs, then you are doing them harm.”
Like his mentor, Krauss attempts to support his crackpot ideas by abandoning science and replacing it with armchair philosophy.
Below the fold, I will teach the theoretical physicist how to do science.
Krauss is making an empirical claim about reality that can be tested – teaching creationism to children is child abuse. How do we test it? Child abuse has serious negative effects on the development of the human nervous system and these effects can be detected even long after the victimization is over. In fact, there is a large body of scientific literature that has studied the effects of child abuse yet Krauss, who receives money and fame for posturing as a Defender of Science, is oblivious to it. For example, consider the abstract of just this one review:
Since Browne and Finkelhor’s (1986) seminal review of the impact of child sexual abuse, there has been a dramatic increase in the child sexual abuse literature. Because of this tremendous growth in the literature, a more current review is warranted.
Why has Krauss ignored this body of literature? Is it because his empirical claims are rooted in intellectual laziness? Or it is because they are rooted in intellectual dishonesty? Let’s see what the research has shown:
The focus of this paper is a review of the long-term correlates of child sexual abuse published since 1987. Sexually abused subjects report higher levels of general psychological distress and higher rates of both major psychological disorders and personality disorders than nonabused subjects. In addition, child sexual abuse survivors report higher rates of substance abuse, binge eating, somatization, and suicidal behaviors than nonabused subjects. Adult survivors of child sexual abuse report poorer social and interpersonal relationship functioning, greater sexual dissatisfaction, dysfunction and maladjustment including high-risk sexual behavior, and a greater tendency toward revictimization through adult sexual assault and physical partner violence.
Okay, instead of pontificating and moralizing from the comfy seat of his armchair, don’t you think the man who makes money off selling himself as The Scientist ought to lift a tiny pinky and try to back up his empirical claims by doing something called……science?
Let’s do Krauss’s work for him and formulate his scientific hypothesis:
people who have been taught creationism as a child should demonstrate
a. higher levels of general psychological distress and higher rates of both major psychological disorders and personality disorders than nonabused subjects.
b. higher rates of substance abuse, binge eating, somatization, and suicidal behaviors than nonabused subjects.
c. poorer social and interpersonal relationship functioning, greater sexual dissatisfaction, dysfunction and maladjustment including high-risk sexual behavior, and a greater tendency toward revictimization through adult sexual assault and physical partner violence than nonabused subjects.
Krauss, the scientist, should now design an experiment that gathers information to determine if his hypothesis is supported by data or not. He’ll need two sample populations – those taught creationism and those who were not taught creationism. And he’ll need to control for as many variables as possible to ensure the only difference between the groups is their exposure to creationism. He can consult the previous research to see how the dependent variables were measured.
Look, Krauss is a “theoretical physicist.” This basic sociological research should be easy for him. So why doesn’t he do it? If a man who postures as an Ambassador of Science accuses another a group of people of being child abusers, he should not be doing this from a position of bigotry and prejudice, but from a position of acquired, scientific knowledge.
Krauss, undoubtedly, would be nervous about having his views subjected to scientific scrutiny and would retreat into the comfort of his personal philosophy, arguing ” there are different levels of child abuse.” But Krauss is only a theoretical physicist and has no knowledge or training that require us to take him seriously when postulates the ” different levels of child abuse.” In this case, Krauss would need to clearly propose and define the “different levels of child abuse” and then scientifically establish they exist outside of Lawrence Krauss’s head.
As I see it, Krauss has only three options:
1. Retract his unsupported claim.
2. Do the science and support his claim.
3. Acknowledge that science has nothing to offer here and admit his views are personal and philosophical.
Yet, I think we all know he will follow in the footsteps of his mentor, Richard Dawkins, and choose option 4.
4. Keep repeating the claim because it serves his personal and socio-political agenda (“but it got some attention”).
At that point, it should become clear that, like Dawkins, Krauss’s supposed love for science is a media illusion. How can anyone take Krauss seriously when it becomes clear he is so willing to completely abandon science just to score points against people he doesn’t like?