We always want to be careful about jumping to conclusions based on anecdotal evidence. A handful of personal stories might not be representative of the bigger picture and have the potential to mislead when not all the facts about these stories are known.
But when trends and patters begin to develop, that tells us there may be something to be learned. When large numbers of the same type of cause and effect start to surface, we would be remiss not to give this evidence serious consideration.
In reality, as evidence mounts, a de facto threshold of credibility begins to form that demands a pretty rigorous and detailed examination of alternate causes before the obvious conclusion can be rejected out of hand.
Commenter Diane at Voices Carry points out that Dr. Brenda Major, the lead author on the APA report, has violated APA standards by not sharing her research data. If we don’t know how she reached her conclusions and have no opportunity to review the data for either veracity or errors, there is no way to confirm the veracity of the overall conclusions.
Last year, when anti-death penalty researcher H. Naci Mocan found that his conclusions supported the contention that capital punishment has a deterrent effect, he did the intellectually honest thing and reported his findings anyway.
Does Dr. Major lack the same level of integrity as this anti-death penalty researcher?
The Socratic principle to “follow the argument where ever it leads” is tough to follow with our human tendency toward protecting our self interest, but it is one that remains our goal if we genuinely want to know the truth.
I used to support abortion. I thought it was perfectly moral and a useful method of retroactive birth control. I was a pretty adamant supporter of abortion rights.
That is, until a friend prompted me to look beyond the sound bytes on the nightly news and the shallow reporting in the newspapers. In other words, he prompted me to quit relying on the dominant propaganda, do some research for myself…and then follow the truth where ever it led.
I found when I looked in the Bible, it led to a conclusion that unborn children were human life, created in the image of God, that God recognized and valued. Hmmmm. But what about science?
I found that science pointed strongly to the humanity of the unborn child. I had always thought that a “late term” baby shouldn’t be aborted, but avoided the question of when to draw that line. Obviously if the late-term baby “looked like a ‘real baby,'” then abortion probably wasn’t a good idea. But I had thought little about the development of the unborn child at earlier stages. When I actually took the time to look into it, I found that the heart and circulatory system are already forming before the unborn child is a month along; that the child has a heartbeat by Week 5, and arms and legs are starting to form; by Week 6 the brain is growing and the eyes are forming; by Week 7 the fingers, ears, nose and teeth are developing; by Week 8 when most abortions occur in South Dakota, cartilage and bones are growing, the tongue is developing, and fingers and toes have appeared. DNA evidence also tells us that the unborn child has human DNA, and that DNA is separate and distinct from the mother’s DNA–making it a separate and unique human being, not a part of the mother’s body.
When I sat down and considered this Biblical and scientific evidence, I reached an uncomfortable conclusion: I had been wrong for supporting abortion. It wasn’t a morally neutral practice. It wasn’t simply a form of retroactive birth control. It wasn’t simply a part of the mother’s body with which she could do as she pleased. It wasn’t simply a choice. It was ending the life of an individual and distinct human being.
To be honest, I got pretty sick at my stomach when I finally realized the truth of what I’d been defending. I trembled when I realized that in years past I had been promiscuous and had relied on abortion as my “escape hatch” if something “went wrong;” thankfully I never had to use it, but I had been fully prepared to kill my own child for my own convenience. I had known women who had considered abortion–and some who actually went through with abortions–and I had said nothing to dissuade them, and in some cases had been supportive of their having an abortion.
When my understanding of the issue went beyond the anecdotal and shallow propaganda sold by the “mainstream” media, I had a decision to make: I could ignore the evidence, refuse to admit I had been wrong and continue as I had been…or I could accept the truth, admit I had been wrong, and start working to dispel the public cloud of ignorance I had been misled by.
I chose the latter.
When thousands of women submit their testimony to the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion that abortion caused them untold mental and emotional grief, and Operation Outcry has compiled thousand of testimonies to the same effect, this is obviously more than an anecdotal blip.
Follow the argument where ever it leads? Follow the truth where ever it goes? Follow the facts where ever they lead?
That’s not easy for any of us to do. Admitting you’ve been wrong isn’t easy for any human being, especially if there is guilt on our hands.
But it is a responsibility each and every one of us has–to ourselves, to others, and to the truth itself.
A commitment to the truth–where ever it leads–is something we should be able to expect from leaders in the medical, scientific and governmental community.
And it’s a commitment which has been sadly lacking for several decades.