Thursday, July 10, 2008

Don't listen, because you might learn something!

I was intrigued by the way that Henci Goer attempted to "end" the disccusion of the Johnson and Daviss statistics. Of course her comments included no scientific evidence and of course they were filled with insults directed at me, but I was suprised by how honest she was about her true motivation in suppressing discussion.
...Maria's confusion illustrates the serious problems someone like Tuteur causes for people who want to understand an issue outside of their sphere of expertise. They fall into the trap of thinking they are hearing a legitimate difference of opinion by experts of similar standing when they are not. You know this is so in Amy's case because of her continuing to repeat the same accusation after her basic error was pointed out to her--more than once, I should add. However, the result of her tactics is that those wanting to understand the issue may end up throwing up their hands in frustration, thinking neither side has the right of it or it's just too complicated for the nonexpert to understand. That's a win for the Tuteurs of this world.

Her mud slinging also serves a purpose. Even if you try to ignore it or understand that it applies to her, it plants the pernicious idea that you can't trust anybody: everyone in the debate has an agenda and will cherry pick or distort data to support their position. Ernst's post suggests this. That's another win for the Tuteurs of this world...(my emphasis)
This diatribe is startling in its unwitting honesty.

Simply put, she makes two points:

If you listen to Amy Tuteur, you might end up thinking that the issue is complicated and requires expert analysis.

If you listen to Amy Tuteur, you might end up thinking that homebirth advocates like Goer have an agenda and will cherry pick and distort data to support their position.

Well, at least she understands what I am trying to do. Yes, I am trying to show that the issue is complicated and requires expert analysis. Yes, I am trying to show that Goer, and Johnson and Daviss have an agenda and repeatedly and deliberately cherry pick and distort the data to support their position.

Homebirth advocates rely on well known principles of human psychology to limit the knowledge and understanding of women. It is known that when people are provided with one side of an argument, even when they KNOW that they have been provided with only one side of an argument, they cannot accurately assess how their understanding would change when provided with all relevant information. Moreover, and this is especially relevant to the discussion of homebirth safety, the less information people have, the more confident they are in the rightness of their decisions, particlarly when those decisions are wrong.

An experiment described by Kahneman and Tversky, writing in Preference, Belief, and Similarity (pg. 730) illustrates this point:
Participants were presented with factual information about several court cases. In each case, the information was divided into three parts: background data, the plaintiff's argument, and the defendant's argument. Four groups of subjects participated in this study. One group received only the background data. Two other groups received the background data and the arguments for one of the two sides ... The arguments ... contained no new evidence: they merely elaborated the facts ... A fourth group was given all the information presented to the jury. The subjects were all asked to predict the percentage of people in the jury who would vote for the plaintiff. The responses of the people who received one-sided evidence were strongly biased in the direction of the information they had received. Although the partaicipants knew that their evidence was one-sided, they were not able to make the proper adjustment. In most cases, those who received all the evidence were more accurate in predicting the jury vote than those who received only one side. However, the subjects in the one-sided condition were generally more confident in their prediction than those who received borth sides. Thus, subjects predicted the jury's decision with greater confidence when they had only one-half, rather than all, of the evidence presented to it.
Henci Goer and other homebirth advocates apparently feel that they MUST suppress information, delete relevant information, remove any evidence that professional agreement exists, in order to maintain their hold on women. The less you know, the more likely you are to believe them.

This, more than anything else, if the fundamental difference between Henci Goer and me. She is afraid that knowledge and information will "confuse" women, about both the honesty of her arguments and her motivations for selectively presenting data. In contrast, I am sure that more information is better. I believe that women should have the EXACT SAME information that I have; nothing should be hidden for fear of "confusing" women. I have complete confidence that the more women know, the better equipped they will be to make decisions for themselves and their families. The bottom line:

I trust women; Goer does not.

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