PseudoScience: Obama Directs CDC to Research Gun Violence, Video Games

PseudoScience: Obama Directs CDC to Research Gun Violence, Video Games

Politicians regularly employ “science” or “research” to promote their policy agendas. A “study” that finds a result consistent with a politician’s bias is a time-honored way to push legislation. The tactic can even make strange-bedfellows. Last month conservative GOP Rep. Frank Wolf, convened a hearing on video game violence, featuring a researcher who also found that biblical stories make people more aggressive. President Obama, following this playbook recently directed $10 million to CDC to study gun violence and video games. 

On January 16, President Obama signed an Executive Order demanding “Public Health Research on the Causes and Prevention of Gun Violence.”  The Executive Order ordered The Secretary of Health and Human Services (Secretary), through the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other scientific agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services, shall conduct or sponsor research into the causes of gun violence and the ways to prevent it.  The Secretary shall begin by identifying the most pressing research questions with the greatest potential public health impact, and by assessing existing public health interventions being implemented across the Nation to prevent gun violence.”

In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proposed research “to improve knowledge of the causes of gun violence, the interventions that prevent gun violence, and strategies to minimize the public health burden of gun violence including:

*   Characteristics of gun violence

*   Interventions and strategies to prevent or reduce gun-related injuries

*   Technologies that may reduce gun-related violence

*   Impact of violence in video games, the media, and social media on real-life violence

*   Potential risk and protective factors

This begs a number of questions including:  Do Taxpayers have to fund even more studies in these areas on top of the dozens of studies already funded? Is there little doubt that the CDC will avoid producing results that are politically embarrassing to the President and his agenda?

Scientific research intended to produce politically correct results are problematic. Any criticism of these studies is quickly swatted back and the results are repeated often so as to make them true. And then of course the “truths” revealed in these studies are used to pass liberty-abridging policies.  Global warming Climate change is the epitome of politically correct science.

Congress recently encountered an example of the politicization of taxpayer-funded studies when Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee demanded that the National Science Foundation (NSF) — a government agency that he oversees — conduct a study over the link between video games and violence.  It’s no surprise the NSF commissioned Dr. Brad Bushman to conduct the review. 

The end result of the Bushman study was never in doubt.  The Ohio State University Communications professor has made a career of linking images and words to violence — including the bible.  His research published in Psychological Science found that scriptural violence sanctioned by God could increase aggression, especially in believers.  If the bible can be found to increase violent behavior, why wouldn’t “Halo,” “Call of Duty” or “Gears of War?”

There are, of course, dozens of studies going back dozens of years that come to different conclusions. In 2005, a study by Williams & Skoric, found that players who played “Asheron’s Call 2,” an average of 56 hours over the course of a month were not statistically different from the non-playing control group in their beliefs on aggression. The researchers also reported that game play was not a predictor of aggressive behaviors.

The same logic holds true for the President’s demand for gun control.  Does anyone think that the government won’t come back with some study demanding congressional action of some sorts despite hundreds of privately funded studies by scholars like John Lott that demonstrate that guns reduce crime?

Taxpayers are caught in the middle of a game — shelling out hard-earned dollars so politicians have a new round of talking points in their push for more government.  It’s a bad place to be.   

Congress is supposed to consider at $10 million appropriation for this study. They should decline to participate in policy by pseudo science shell game. 


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