Objectivity or balance?

Journalists, academics, and educators in the United States are constantly hounded by right-to-lifers, evangelicals, and creationists demanding that their opinions on scientific topics be given the same weight as those of mainstream researchers. The latest example of this is the right-to-life claim that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer.

In 2003 LA Times journalist Scott Gold reported on a new Texas law that required doctors "to warn women that abortion might lead to breast cancer – a correlation that does not exist, according to the American Cancer Society and federal researchers." According to the Columbia Journalism Review "Gold’s piece was hard-hitting but accurate."

Gold’s editor was not so supportive. In a memo posted on LA Observed Times editor John Carroll wrote:

I’m concerned about the perception – and the occasional reality – that the Times is a liberal, "politically correct" newspaper. Generally speaking, this is an inaccurate view, but occasionally we prove our critics right. We did so today with the front-page story on the bill in Texas that would require abortion doctors to counsel patients that they may be risking breast cancer.

The apparent bias of the writer and/or the desk reveals itself in the third paragraph, which characterizes such bills in Texas and elsewhere as requiring "so-called counseling of patients." I don’t think people on the anti-abortion side would consider it "so-called," a phrase that is loaded with derision.

The story makes a strong case that the link between abortion and breast cancer is widely discounted among researchers, but I wondered as I read it whether somewhere there might exist some credible scientist who believes in it.

As it turns out, there is at least one scientist who argues for the link – Joel Brind of Baruch College at the City University of New York. Brind makes no bones about his motivation. In Physician Magazine he writes:

I became a Christian in 1985. Having been raised a secular Jew, I found far more meaning in the Old Testament with a Methodist minister than I had ever gleaned from a rabbi. With a new belief in a meaningful universe, I felt compelled to use science for its noblest, life-saving purpose.

By 1991, I realized that my understanding of life was incompatible with a pro-abortion point of view. After all, using science to save human life had always been my dream, and thousands of lives were literally being thrown away each day in abortion clinics and hospitals across the country. My professional work in cancer research, while intellectually fulfilling and of some importance, seemed too far removed from the real job of saving lives.

After much research and debate, the consensus opinion in the research community is that there is no evidence of a link between abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer. According to the BBC a study published in The Lancet dismissed claims of a link:

Professor Sir Richard Peto, from the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit in Oxford, said: "Some previous reviews on abortion and breast cancer have reached mistaken conclusions because they mixed together data from reliable and unreliable types of study.

"This is the first time that so much information has been brought together and the findings are more reliable than ever before."

In the United States, experts at the National Cancer Institute reached the same conclusion. The Institute convened a workshop on Early Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Workshop in February 2003. In a summary of findings they reported that, "Induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk."

In the political arena there is less consensus on the issue. According to a report by ABC, "Women seeking abortions in Mississippi must first sign a form indicating they’ve been told abortion can increase their risk of breast cancer" and that "information suggesting a cancer link is given to women considering abortion in Texas, Louisiana and Kansas, and legislation to require such notification has been introduced in 14 other states."

You might think that it was a journalist’s job to expose the lack of evidence for the claims these states are basing their laws on. And it seems odd that the editor of a major metropolitan newspaper would disagree. Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review (the major source for this post) Chris Mooney argues that:

The basic notion that journalists should go beyond mere “balance” in search of the actual truth hardly represents a novel insight. This magazine, along with its political Web site, Campaign Desk, has been part of a rising chorus against a prevalent but lazy form of journalism that makes no attempt to dig beneath competing claims.

How long will it be before anti-abortion activists in Australia try to bully editors into presenting unsupported assertions as if they were reputable scientific claims?

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Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Just testing to see if “most recently commented” comes back.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

It didn’t, but it probably will eventually. It’s been disappearing reappearing repeatedly over the last day or so. I suspect it’s a symptom of an archaic Movable Type database under stress.

yobbo
2022 years ago

“How long will it be before anti-abortion activists in Australia try to bully editors into presenting unsupported assertions as if they were reputable scientific claims?”

You need to bully editors to get them to do that? I was under the impression that it’s standard journalistic practice.

Irant
2022 years ago

Thanks Don. I read Mooney’s piece the other day and it was a disturbing read.

What I think people forget is that science is not a democracy. It is decided on the wieght of evidence and not by political debate. It will be interesting in context of Australian pollies using the States as a guide whether creationism/intelligent design stupidity will raise its ugly head in the Senate.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Relevant here also is Ken’s point on the other thread – the moral absolutists try to mask their arguments in secular discourse – eg talking about the “rights” of a foetus or arguing that queer people are seeking “special rights”. I’ve done a fair bit of research on the anti-gay initiatives in the States and it’s interesting to compare the sort of language and arguments that this mob uses in publications designed for public debate as opposed to their internal discussions. More “noble lies”, I guess…

Something similar is behind the argument about “balance” and “objectivity”. It’s also very close to the trend in journalism more generally to accept pure ideological assertion as “balance” and to give up on reporting fact rather than unsupported opinion.

Janice
Janice
2022 years ago

So you’re suggesting that Joel Brind’s opinion can be dismissed because he is a Christian? Christians, fearing God as they do, can be expected to … what? Lie for God? Do sloppy work for God? Lose their rationality for God? Perhaps you have Christianity confused with some other religion.

Leaving that aside, readers of these pages might be interested in a critique of Mooney’s article in the October 29, 2004 newsletter of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer. They might also be interested in reading abstracts of several papers written by scientists other than Brind that also demonstrate an association between abortion and breast cancer. You know … for the sake of objectivity and balance and all that.

My own view is that the link probably is real even if it doesn’t account for all breast cancers. The proposed physiological mechanism makes sense and it would help to explain why what is chiefly a disease of aging is now affecting more and more young women. You do know, I presume, that they start screening in the US at about 35 versus 45 here.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Janice, I can only speak for myself but I certainly don’t claim that all Christians are liars – that would be nonsense. However, I do believe that the sort of extreme fundamentalist Christians who are now attempting to reshape the US and Australia politically and culturally employ strategies in the public domain which are disingenuous to say the least.

Don
Don
2022 years ago

Janice,

I don’t think that Joel Brind’s opinion can be dismissed just because he is a Christian. Here’s what I do think.

From what I’ve read most of the experts in this field are satisfied that Brind’s 1996 meta-analysis was flawed (honestly flawed).

More recent work has failed to find a link.

None of this means that a link doesn’t exist. All it means is that there is currently no good evidence of one (which is why it’s so irresponsible to pass laws like the one in Texas).

On the issue of Brind’s religious faith – I don’t think it matters what motivates a researcher to come up with a hypothesis and try to test it. As long as they use accepted research methods and don’t try to spin or falsify the data then their faith (or lack of it) is a non-issue.

The issue of motivation arises when a non-expert like me (or a journalist) is trying to understand why one researcher disagrees so strongly with the majority of those in the field.

While it’s possible that most of the other experts are mistaken a more likely explanation is that Brind’s faith is interfering with his professional judgement.

I think some opponents of abortion are deliberately selective about what research they use. They know what they’re doing – they publicize anything which helps stop women having abortions and pick apart anything which disagrees with their position. People on all sides of the debate do this.

I don’t think journalists should let advocates get away with this kind of abuse of the research literature.

Janice
Janice
2022 years ago

Mark,

How do you distinguish, “extreme fundamentalist Christians,” from other, presumably run-of-the-mill, Christians? Do you think that the former are more likely to be liars (whether by commission or omission) than the latter?

It’s just that I’m not entirely sure what sort of Christian is generally considered to fit the definition of an “extreme fundamentalist Christian”. I’ve heard of some very distinctive Christian groups or sects (e.g., the Amish, snake handlers, those who require their women to cover their hair) and despite their odd habits I can’t discover anywhere that they approve of not telling the truth (i.e., being disingenuous) let alone of lying.

Janice
Janice
2022 years ago

Don,

From what I’ve read most of the experts in this field are satisfied that Brind’s 1996 meta-analysis was flawed (honestly flawed). … I think some opponents of abortion are deliberately selective about what research they use. … People on all sides of the debate do this.

Indeed, it seems they do.
Cohort studies or case-control studies nested in prospective databases which do not report a positive association [between abortion and breast cancer], are seriously flawed by massive misclassification (Melbye, et al., 1997; Goldacre et al., 2001) and/or the use of inappropriate comparison groups (Lindefors Harris et al., 1989; Melbye et al., 1997).

I do regret that this is a link to an organisation that I believe is uncompromisingly anti-abortion. I can’t find any others that are interested in reporting the anti-abortion side of the argument. I wonder why that is. Then again, no I don’t. And no. I’m not Catholic. What I am is convinced that each side in this issue has its own motivations and the motivations of both sides must be taken into consideration before judging who’s likely to be acting disingenuously and who’s not.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Janice, I’m a Catholic myself. There’s a sense in which most people who join in the game of politics also fudge the truth – and the sort of groups that I would define as “extreme fundamentalist Christians” are self-identified as fundamentalist and reject the liberal values which underlie a secular democracy. Therefore, to disguise their actual agenda and argue in liberal terms is disingenuous. As I noted above, one can document – through the public record – the extreme dissonance between internal statements and public interventions by some groups of this nature in the United States, and a number of bloggers also drew attention to the disjunction between the private material circulated in the Assemblies of God churches and the public statements of Family First during our recent election campaign.

As to motivations for doing research – I agree with Don. All researchers are to some degree driven by questions that interest them. However, ethical and scientific researchers recognise the importance of value-freedom when it comes to scientific work. If a study is conducted according to the normal canons and methods of science, it ought to come to the same conclusion regardless of the ideology or motivations of the researcher. This is why replication studies are recognised as being key to validity in the biological and physical sciences, and measures of reliability and validity in social-scientific research.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Sorry, I should explain what I mean by “replication studies” – this simply means that the experiment or study could be conducted by another researcher and produce identical results. Thus any degree of subjectivity on the part of the researcher is excluded. Replication studies are less common in social science than in the natural sciences, but there are a number of other statistical and logical techniques used to ensure that quantitative and qualitative studies respectively have reliability and validity.

This goes to the point I take Don to be making – science answers to scientific criteria – not ideological or political ones – and we are all in deep trouble if the culture of respect for science is eroded. The irony of course is that the same people who are happy to claim that their views are deserving of equal credence (ie – “Evolution is just a theory” – which makes a nonsense of the scientific meaning of theory) are usually those who attack “postmodern relativism” etc etc…

Both Don and John Quiggin have been performing a very useful service in the blogosphere of pointing to the potential dangers of discarding the canons of evidence and objectivity in scientific work and in its evaluation.

For an egregious recent example of how ludicrous the “equal time” attack on science can get, you might like to consider the new George W. Bush concept of “faith-based” National Parks.

Irant
2022 years ago

Creationists tell lies for God all the time. They have to. Evolution is a fact. To deny it goes against quite a considerable body of science of well documented and testable evidence. The fact that creationists do so without any science on their side is a don quixote effort.

My experience is once christians enter the political field they will lie just as much as any other pollie.

jafa
2022 years ago

Regarding objectivety, John Carroll is still recovering from the absolute demolition job done on him by Jill Stewart. This was over the LA Time’s disgraceful ‘smear Arnie’ campaign when he ran for Governor. Ever since, anything I hear from the Times, with Carroll as head, makes me laugh.

Alex
Alex
2022 years ago

Epidemiology is somewhat different from other scientific areas of study in that it depends on interpretation of large scale bodies of data, usually encompassing numerous studies with different methodologies, different populations etc, and drawing statistical inferences from the data. There is much more room for differences of opinion than in the “hard” sciences. The issue of replication studies is not really relevant. That said, I think it reasonable to infer that Brind’s faith *may* be interfering with his judgement.
On the broader issue of the culture of respect for science, scientists themselves are in part to blame for its erosion. For a useful summary of the recent history of inappropriate behaviour by scientists, see this article http://www.physicstoday.org/vol-57/iss-11/p48.html
I agree this is a very serious problem. The scientific community (if there still is such a thing – I suspect it has now broken into many smaller communities) has a lot to do to restore public faith in their impartiality and honesty. They can hardly go pointing the finger at creationists and claiming they lack integrity until they get their own house in order.

dk.dk
dk.dk
2022 years ago

This is a typical discussion in contemporary sociology of science terms (my current area of research).

In one corner, the old guard: Don Arthur, Mark et al with a noble air of faith in the Enlightenment project. (Mark’s notion of ‘replication’ almost paraphrases Popper’s notion of objectivity)
In the other corner, the new guard: Janice standing up for an awareness of the stakes of the battle, filling in any conjectural gaps with strong ethical overtones.

Now if this was a debate about good Science, old school Enlightenment style – which is how Don intends to frame it – there would be very little space for any further discussion for Janice: The Establishment has spoken. Consensus reached. Science emerges. (And Alex, I couldn’t disagree with you more – epidemology IS a hard science in the classical sense, a complex one at that)

So why is there space for discussion? In the view of society at least, science is NOT what it used to be. In the past few decades, it’s passed through the linguistic turn 60s and 70s(Kuhn’s decisive victory over Popper); been forced to shake off those pesky constructionists in what became the Science Wars of the 1990s (see Woolgar and Latour, and Sokal hoax) and now is now seemingly under attack from those ‘pre-modernists’ who were supposed to be blinded by the lights of the Enlightenment in the first place.

I’m obviously not disputing the outcomes of the research, but just pointing out: Contemporary science is a tricky subject, and you’d be wise to use words like OBJECTIVITY very carefully – it excludes a lot of voices.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

dk.dk, well that’s the first time I’ve ever been described as a supporter of Popper – must be getting old and all positivist! I take your point on objectivity – but I’m not sure that your invocation of Kuhn is totally germane – Kuhn was talking about debates internal to the scientific community, was he not? Debates driven by the accepted rules of the scientific game – paradigm shifts in his terms were driven by new studies which showed variance from predictable results from “normal science” and/or things inexplicable by “normal science” – not by religious/culture warriors seeking to undermine science from the outside…

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

dk.dk, I’ve had another read of your comment and should clarify my position. I take it that you’re arguing that a process of dedifferentiation has led to a questioning of scientific norms and research from a position located outside the scientific field per se. There’s no question that’s happening, and to some degree it’s also manifested in an increased concern with the ethics and politics of science, which I support. But lest I lose any shreds of post-structuralist sociological cred I might still have, I’d also argue that there’s a strategic purpose in resisting definitions of ‘objectivity’ which are twisted to support a religious group’s favoured position. I don’t think you have to be a Popperian to make a distinction between what is objective (admittedly a very wide notion) and what is not.

dk.dk
dk.dk
2022 years ago

ah yes, but if we’re to take Popper seriously on the institutional framework of a liberal community of disinterested practitioners then that elusive objectivity should take care of itself – with or without ideology or religion. But clearly that argument was for ‘internal’ governance of Science which might have sufficed when he was theorising in Vienna and Post-WWII London, but it’s not then … and what is ‘internal’ and ‘external’ to science (or ‘society for that matter) is by no means clear anymore. The Enlightenment Model of Science governance is being eroded. For better or worse, those who claim Scientific Citizenship today are no longer ONLY the (disinterested) tenured researchers and professors – enter the think tanks and other industry/ideology/religously funded institutions…

Of course it may seem like I’m confounding two debates here – one about the role of Science in society and the future of Science as we know it, and another about the role of religion. But make no mistake: biotech and genetic research is rapidly redrawing old lines between nature and culture, (or as I like to think of it: human and non-human) and treading on some toes in the process…

dk.dk
dk.dk
2022 years ago

I should clarify that point on objectivity: I believe VERY firmly in a need to separate ideology and religion from public policy through the mechanism of good scientific methodology and accountability. I was merely trying to offer to interpretation of why that might be difficult without going into a long Habermasian rant about ‘ohhh the injustice of it all.’

The notion of disgarding the subject/object distinction is no use at all if we’re going to violate key priorities of liberal society – and keeping power firmly within the hands of secular interests IS one of them.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Maybe so, dk.dk, and maybe you could draw out the point you make in your last para – if it’s a reference to Latour, I should say I find his position massively overstated. But it’d be interesting to hear your thoughts.

Just as I think the principles of liberal democracy and secularism worth defending even though they don’t represent my ideal polity or society but rather a way station, so too do I think we need desparately to hang on to objectivity as a normative principle for evaluating scientific work – it’s the bedrock if you like for ethical/political evaluation of science. If we give up that fight, then some very slippery slopes open up.

I am happy to identify myself with the principles of the Enlightenment but would also point out that these are not some essentialised tablets of stone floating down outside the world of cultural and political debate and struggle. Rather, the Enlightenment is a process – and the fight for secularism, the integrity of science, and liberal principles is one that must be fought moment by moment and day by day. At this particular moment, that necessity is more pressing than ever – that’s my own particular motivation explained.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

dk.dk, my last comment is a response to your penultimate one – your other one appeared after I’d finished typing. I’m glad to read that we’re not too far apart.

dk.dk
dk.dk
2022 years ago

mark, thanks for the civilised discussion – I’m glad you’re closer to Soros than the White House in this debate too. And apologies for the esoteric verstehenesque turn in the thread for everyone else (?)

So continuing the tract of what to do about it, I’m not sure Latour’s position is ‘massively’ overstated (and yes, it’s hard not to bring the guy into these debates). My professor described him as ‘crazy in that French way’ and I’d have to say I agree. He just tears through EVERYBODY in We’ve Never Been Modern, which of course plays into the hands of Post-Modernists somehow. But any massive overstatements were surely withdrawn after the Sokal incident, no?

But Actor-Network theory stuff is somewhat useful I think. What I haven’t come across is a better way of interpreting the intra-academic conjecture about cutting edge Science per se. There’s a lot at stake in this discussion and credibility and good publicity for the benefits of METHOD and OBJECTIVITY is priority No.1 … lest Soros’ Open Society Foundation need to take out full page ads in the Wall Street journal again in four years. Hopefully we’ll never see anything like that in Oz.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Thanks in turn, dk.dk – my doctoral supervisor is a big Latour fan so I’ve had some exposure to his work. I like the argument in We Have Never Been Modern, but I find the claims about non-humans less convincing – particularly after Aramis and generally I think that the argument about non-human actors is trite and overdrawn. ANT also strikes me as more descriptive as a method than explanatory. But I will agree he – and people influenced by him – have done some very interesting work.

I think I’ll leave it there!

harry
harry
2022 years ago

Janice, the people who force doctors to tell patients that abortion causes an increased risk of breast cancer are certainly guilty of lying by ommission.
Note that this stands whether the cancer link is true or not.

They are not required by law to inform the woman of the health problems caused by pregnancy and parturition eg increased rates of osteoporosis, incontinence, faecal incontinence, prolapsed uterus, stress, back problems, associated problems with being unable to lose weight put on during preganancy, post natal depression etc.

A blatant hypocracy – certainly if your interest is in the health of the woman (which is how this false cancer link is being sold).

So, is the reasoning behind getting doctors to inform patients of a cancer link to abortion political or non-political?
It’s political.
So they are being disingenious at best or, realistically, downright dishonest.

mark
2022 years ago

One wonders why, in a country as modern as Australia, we are so often plagued by the “bunyip hypocracy”.

Scot Mcphee
2022 years ago

Anyone who claims that creationism is science is either ignorant, a liar or deluded. Let us not mince words and dance around the subject. Evolution is a widely observed fact, the theory of evolution is a theory that explains the observed facts, and explains them rather well.

Creationism does not explain the observed facts, it derives from a very narrow theological position, which is not open to debate, and can only be gained by the holder as an article of mystical revelation. Hence it is not science, never has and never will be. That’s it, games over, creationists go home and teach your mythology in religious studies class, but that’s alright because I demand my children receive equal time for Greek, Hindu, Welsh, Norse, Animist and Taoist mythology as well as your own peculiar version of the sacrificed Oak God.

Harry
Harry
2022 years ago

Mark, by “bunyip hypocracy” you mean the idea that I’ve heard lots of stories but not enough direct evidence of their existance, hence I conclude bunyips don’t exist versus those who think bunyips exist?
Have I got that right?

Harry
Harry
2022 years ago

Mark, by “bunyip hypocracy” you mean the idea that I’ve heard lots of stories but not enough direct evidence of their existance, hence I conclude bunyips don’t exist versus those who think bunyips exist?
Have I got that right?

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Harry – confused – how does the Min Min Light fit in with this?????

harry
harry
2022 years ago

Now I’m confused.
I was wondering on the exact meaning of Mark Gallagher’s term “bunyip hypocrisy”. I did some google searching and came up with nothing. I took a hesitant stab at what he meant – assuming he was being merely matephorical, hence the quotaton marks.

(Personally I lean towards the idea that the bunyip is Aboriginal folklore for an now-extinct animal – I don’t have the reference to hand.
An archeological friend saw Min Min Lights out at Kinchiga (sp?) which is apparently well known for them. I’ll get my arse out there and check it out some time.)

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Joke, Harry! A couple of interesting links on the Min Min light though here and here.

I think the origin of the phrase “bunyip aristocracy” was as a term of derision when William Charles Wentworth proposed turning the NSW Legislative Council into a hereditary House of Lords complete with titles in the 1840s.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Incidentally, Harry, some friends of mine and I thought we might have seen a Min Min light around Marburg on the Darling Downs on a night drive in 95, but as the legend suggests, they’re damn tricky things to follow – even in a Datsun!

harry
harry
2022 years ago

Aha! So “Bunyip hypocrisy” is some sort of lame homegrown intellectual bumbling, masquerading as hypocracy, that isn’t up to world standards?!

Our hypocrisy is top notch! No matter how it’s spelt. We have some of the best hypocrisy in the world and I won’t hear a word against it.
Oh, all right, I will.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Yep, harry, we do hypocrisy well – as we do irony well!

harry
harry
2022 years ago

Checked out your Min Min links. Damned scientists taking all the romance out of life.

You’ll like this: I read a BBC article 3 years ago saying that there was an inverse correlation between the dramatic surge in numbers of mobile phones and the extreme slide in reported ghost sightings. They quoted some guy who ran a sightings website who said he was closing it down becuase in nine months he’d only had three new sightings as opposed to the 160 he was expecting.

Umm. I think this thread has got rather random.

Mark Bahnisch
Mark Bahnisch
2022 years ago

And a bit spectral!

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Mark, can I suggest as gently as possible that you and your friends may have been a bit confused when you thought you saw Min Min lights near “Marburg on the Darling Downs”. Marburg is the hilly bit before the Lockyer Valley (around Gatton). The Darling Downs starts at Toowoomba further west.

Not to worry, though. What you saw was probably just a UFO!

(I tried to post a link to a map, but it wouldn’t work. Strange!)

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Brian (and others)

I think Scott has disabled the hyperlink html tag in comment boxes, to try to frustrate the spammers (they apparently hit this domain with 400 separate spam messages last night). I assume you will still be able to insert the URL of a page (including one containing a map), but not as a functioning, clickable hyperlink (i.e. the comment facility will no longer recorgnise a tag containing a href= etc). People instead will need to copy any URL (as text) from your comment and paste it in the address bar of their browser. Hopefully it’s just a minor inconvenience, and worth it if we can vanquish the spammers. Moreover, last night’s ones were particularly odious porn links that I don’t want on this blog under any circumstances.

Brian Bahnisch
Brian Bahnisch
2022 years ago

Thanks, Ken. FWIW the map was at http://mirror.bom.gov.au/products/IDR503.shtml the local weather warning map which happens to be centred on Marburg.

Don
Don
2022 years ago

Gosh…! The aliens have moved Marburg and altered our memories.

trackback
2022 years ago

The balance of creation

It wasn’t long ago that Don Arthur pointed out thateducators in the United States are constantly hounded by right-to-lifers, evangelicals, and creationists demanding that their opinions on scientific topics be given the same weight as those of mainstr…