Scholars versus Activists
Scholars seek the truth, activists already know the truth. Activists don’t like questioning, debate or independent research. Consider how Dennis Durbin and Flaura Winston, two activists at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who have published research on child car seats, react to Steve Levitt’s work:
Their [Levitt and Dubner] conclusions stand in stark contrast to the existing body of
scientific data that support current child restraint recommendations,
and are, in our opinion, irresponsible and dangerous….We hope that this misleading article does not cost a child his life.
This is not science this is a threat – anyone who questions us or our research is putting children in danger. Back off or we will tar you as monsters.
Contrast this approach with that of a scholar interested in truth:
What is more puzzling to me is why my results and Heaton’s both suggest
very little injury benefit of car seats, but the medical literature
often finds 70% (!!) reductions of injuries with car seats relative to
seat belts. We find reductions that are an order of magnitude smaller.
They use very different methods — surveying people in the weeks after
crashes for instance — but still it is really a puzzle. Which is why,
when you read my paper, I am extremely cautious in interpreting the
I hope that the medical researchers, Heaton,
and I can all work together to try to make some sense of the
conflicting results being generated by these different methodologies to
resolve this important question.
Of course Steve doesn’t need my help, as always the data is his best defense.