Bruce Rind Study: Scientific Publications Condemned and Repressed by US Congress and Senate

One of the most prestigious peer reviewed research journals of the American Psychological Association published a meta-research (an overview of lots of other research papers) with disturbing findings.  Result: the US Senate and US congress condemned the Research.  After all, the preconceived notions behind our criminalization of Teenage Sexuality must not be disturbed.

Disclaimer: The issue here is repression of research and denial of the truth. One still may defend the laws as they are, but should not repress free research that could challenge one’s personal political opinions.

Another clash between highly charged political rhetoric and scholarly discourse concerned Associate Professor of Psychology Scott Lilienfeld. It began with a 1998 paper in Psychological Bulletin, a journal of the American Psychological Association (APA). Temple University’s Bruce Rind and two colleagues had conducted a review of quantitative literature, finding a weak link between childhood sexual abuse and later psychopathology. Radio talk show host Laura Schlessinger blasted the article as an effort to normalize pedophilia. Both houses of Congress passed resolutions condemning it, and finally, the chief executive of the APA wrote that the findings “should have caused us to evaluate the article based on its potential for misinforming the public policy process. This is something we failed to do, but will do in the future.”

Lilienfeld submitted an article to another APA-sponsored journal, American Psychologist, criticizing the apa’s capitulation to political pressure. The protests and their impact, he argued, detract from scientists’ ability to report their findings without undue interference, undermining all research on controversial topics.

Lilienfeld’s article, titled “When Worlds Collide,” was reviewed and accepted for publication following revisions to “tone it down.” It was slated to appear in the June 2001 issue. On May 10, however, Lilienfeld received a letter from the journal’s editor. “My article had now been unaccepted for publication,” Lilienfeld says. “He asked me to write an entirely new article removing all material dealing with the Rind et al. article and its aftermath, which amounts to about 60 percent of my article.”

Facing strong protests from the psychology community and some negative press, American Psychologist agreed to publish the article in a special section, along with several commentaries, in the December 2001 issue, at the earliest. “The APA never acknowledged that something was seriously amiss, even though it was clear that this action was politically motivated,” Lilienfeld says.

See also the excellent article by Wikipedia on Bruce Rind controversy

The authors’ stated goal was “…to address the question: In the population of persons with a history of CSA [child sexual abuse], does this experience cause intense psychological harm on a widespread basis for both genders?” Some of the authors’ more controversial conclusions were that child sexual abuse does not necessarily cause intense, pervasive harm to the child;[3] that the reason the current view of child sexual abuse was not substantiated by their empirical scrutiny was because the construct of CSA was questionably valid; and that the psychological damage caused by the abusive encounters depends on whether the encounter was consensual or not.[1]

Rind et al. concluded with a statement that even though CSA may not result in harm, this does not mean it is not wrong or morally repugnant behavior and denied that their findings implied current moral and legal prohibitions against CSA should be changed.[1] Numerous pro-pedophile advocacy organizations have quoted the paper in support of their efforts to lower or rescind age of consent laws, and defense attorneys have used the study to argue for minimizing harm in child sexual abuse cases.[4][5] Wikipedia on Bruce Rind

19 thoughts on “Bruce Rind Study: Scientific Publications Condemned and Repressed by US Congress and Senate”

  1. It’s censorship under the guise of religion that is really undermining research. The thing is it actually getting worse. Anything that goes against the Koran or Bible (or any other holy book) is often instantly dismissed however much scientific proof there is.

  2. @ Daniel:
    “Academics need to band together to demand laws enshrining their ability to research, publish and teach what they like without interference, and to PROHIBIT government interference.”
    There was a time that government interference was not a problem. Some of the best programs where govornment funded.

  3. I am an academic and although I’m not in the USA, it’s situations like this that gives me grave concern for academic freedom. For those that might not be aware, academics are supposed to have freedom to research, publish and teach what we like, regardless of popular opinion, political utility, or even taboo. The nature of our work and scientific progress requires that we are free to do this and to advance unpopular opinions/ideas, without fear for our jobs, our freedom or our lives. If politicians get involved in determining what can and can’t be done, the whole system begins to fail.

    We should be terrified of events like this. Academics need to band together to demand laws enshrining their ability to research, publish and teach what they like without interference, and to PROHIBIT government interference. Nevertheless, as big governments like the US government tend to do, they find ways around laws – like attaching conditions to research funding which effectively says “you can research what you like, but we’ll only fund research if we agree with it and it fits our agenda” – terrifying.


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