Rule Five CDC Lies By Omission Friday

Familiar with the concept of lying by omission?  Here’s a definition:

Lying by omission, otherwise known as exclusionary detailing, is lying by either omitting certain facts or by failing to correct a misconception. In the case of the former, an example of this would be a car salesman claiming a car to have amazing fuel economy while neglecting to mention that it has no engine and is completely immobile. In the case of the latter, it could be a situation in which a misconception exists that the claimant is aware of but fails to correct, such as a person who wanders around a hospital dressed as a doctor, offering treatment while failing to mention that she is in fact just getting a kick out of pretending to be a doctor.

Turns out that the CDC has been doing this for a good long while now.  Surprised?  Excerpt:

You wouldn’t know it, but the CDC actually collected data on defensive gun use for three years (in 1996, 1997, and 1998) in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys. This data collection was not discovered until Kleck came across it looking for data on another topic. He is analyzing that data and comparing it to his own, but…something is amiss.

For 20 years, this data went unnoticed. Like some buried treasure, (Criminologist Gary) Kleck stumbled across this data. He wasn’t looking for it because, like the rest of the world outside of the CDC offices, he had no idea it existed. It was not discovered until 20 years after the fact.  Given how often questions about defensive gun usage come up and the wide range of estimates (from around 116,000 per year to millions, depending on the source) as well as the CDC’s clear interest on the topic, one may wonder why this data was never acknowledged.

Perhaps it was simply forgotten, by however many people worked on the BRFSS over the span of three years writing the survey, collecting the data, formatting the data, analyzing the data, and presumably presenting it to someone at CDC. Maybe it was misplaced. Maybe it was lost in a flood.

Maybe. Or perhaps the CDC didn’t report the data because the findings weren’t convenient.  It is hard to advocate banning firearms when the evidence shows a sizeable number of Americans using firearms to defend themselves every year in the United States. Is that more or less likely than a team of researchers forgetting they collected data on a hot-button topic?

It’s hard to come up with an innocent explanation for this, other than the obvious one:  The CDC’s results didn’t fit the agenda, so the results were ignored.

That’s not how science is done, True Believers; that’s how politics is done.  The CDC is supposed to be doing science.  And when the CDC does research on a hot-button issue of the day like this, and when they do it with taxpayer dollars, then the taxpayers damn well have a right to know what the findings were, agenda or no.

They are spending our money, after all.

It’s easy to assume that the CDC was attempting to duplicate the deeply flawed Kellerman study.  But the CDC’s portfolio is supposed to be science – and in science, actual science using recognized scientific method, you make a hypothesis and then gather data and/or do experiments to verify that hypothesis – and if your data contradicts your hypothesis, you change your hypothesis.  CDC did not do this; they just ignored and, worse, hid the inconvenient findings.

This is inexcusable behavior for people supposedly doing research on the public’s dime.