On Research Bias: God Loves The Bell Curve

In the academy, research is not always a collaborative experience, but rather, competitive, more like a World Series or Super Bowl championship game.  All season long, even the players on the same team compete amongst each other for a chance to start and be noticed.  This makes for a very interesting tension.  I call this “collaborative competition.” We assume that each research practitioner is working in concert with others in a quest to uncover scientific truths, challenging assumptions, validate and confirm, thus, adding to the field of inquiry something new and important, a revelation or paradigm shift. Truth is, this rarely ever happens.  Yes, as many of you have pointed out in prior blog posts, some researchers do provide insights that help validate existing studies but others focus only the the results that merely reflect their bias. And… here is the rub, researchers don’t play well together. Unlike professional team sports, researchers are biased and prefer to play only with those that agree with their findings and perspectives, (Kuhn, 1962). 

Indeed, philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1991) captures this interesting dynamic in his classic book, The Structure of Scientific Paradigms. Research bias is the seeds of group think and functional fixedness. How can we break away from this academic echo chamber?  How and where can one find the truth? Unbiased researchers will challenge assumptions and carefully and precisely reconstruct an experiment or study to see if the results hold up over multiple trials? This is called construct validity. It rarely ever does. 

The challenge is to seek the Spirit of Truth without wavering or pandering to a particular group’s perspective or bias.  So, researchers, everyone really, tend to fall into one of two camps, group think (everyone thinks alike) or, seekers of the Truth. The later group respects the First Amendment, diverse opinions, different perspectives and actively engaging in inspired conversations. The prior group shuts down thought and free speech. To illustrate this dynamic, think of a normal distribution bell curve. After all, God loves the bell curve. Everything in God’s creation fits into the normal distribution. Take all the leaves on any tree as example. You will have a small percentage of very large leaves and a small percentage of very small even tiny leaves. Overall, the vast majority of leaves will fall into the middle of the bell curve, thus, normal distribution. But, group thinkers, want to draw a skewed curve, over representing a very small sample of the population. I’ll say it again, God loves the bell curve. Think about that profound statement. Sadly, many academics, those teaching in higher education institutions today cluster together around group think and the functional fixedness of their own biases. They kick out anyone that does not agree with their opinions and perspectives. This is perhaps why there is so much division between alternative perspectives on research or anything for that matter.  Remember, God loves a bell curve. What does this mean? It means that the normal distribution represents the vast majority which fall in-between either/or thinking. This is what some call the “moral majority” or, “independent”. From a biblical perspective, we might recognize this as more integral. It is indeed ironic that progressives, those that hold a more radical group think perspective, fit more neatly in the extreme pinch points (ends) of the bell curve. Yet, they will argue for “inclusion” which represents the average or, normal distribution. Another example would be advocating for radical changes in the Constitution–a “living document” perspective–while at the same time arguing for “impeachment” based on the original framers intent of the document. You can’t have it both ways unless, of course, you are a liberal progressive. Unfortunately, the constructivist’s narrative seems to gain more traction than the truth.  But, I believe people are smart and can see through this cruel ruse. Only through authentic, honest and open (AHO) inspired conversations can we have the opportunity to break free from the bondage of liberal progressive social-constructivism. We represent the next generation of research practitioners that are committed to seeking the truth.  What is your perspective?

The Platform for Children’s Books

Today, our children think they are not enough and they let society decide who they are (Westenberg, 2019). The current educational zeitgeist[1]sows seeds of moral, ethical and  emotional confusion.  This is worrisome because if your Truth is not biblical you will not be sustained and you will always be let down. Education at the youngest level, through reading, can help empower those that listen and encourage those who read. I am passionate about this because it is a platform so rarely used to empower young ones to know who they are. I work in a school setting and I am able to see the lies, nomenclature, social constructivism, moral relativism, post-modern, progressive perspectives teens believe and I feel that if they were spoken truth to at a younger age they would have a better foundation of who they are. Knowing who you are, your confidence, your self-esteem is important because it heavily influences people’s choices and decisions. It serves a motivational function by making it more or less likely that people will take care of themselves and explore their full potential (Oswalt, 2019).

And that my friends is why I am writing a children’s book to address youth suicide. As simple as a children’s book may be it provides a platform for parents to check in and ask tough questions like suicide. 

My goal with this book (book series) is to take complex issues and an ethically confused world and influencing social change and public opinion through an intergenerational children’s book series that aims to empower listeners and lead readers through the spirit of the truths of the Lord. 

From ages zero to five children learn the basic virtue of hope, will, and purpose” (McLeod, 2018).

In my opinion, children’s books have long shelf-life and legacy and are less likely to go out of style. This provides a platform to speak truth’s into the lives of generations to come and provide words the readers that guides conversation. Mixed methodology will allow me to use meta-data analysis to inform my etic (deductive) analysis and community praxis (action learning) to inform the emic (inductive) analysis and the narrative will be the written book narrative that expresses both the etic and emic. My books are intended to bridge the gap between believes and truths and formulate a discussion on epistemology. I plan on diving into a disciplined inquiry of children and trends from ages 5-15 and frameworks and systems that are flawed. This field is so tempted by the false and socially constructed narratives that my goal is to educate around tough subjects with biblical Truths. “That is the paradox of the epidemic: that in order to create one contagious movement, you often have to create many small movements first” (Gladwell, 2002). 

“A majority of the general population reads five books or less every year (67%). Broken down a little more, one-quarter of all adults don’t read any books at all (25%), while two out of five read anywhere between one and five books a year (42%). One-third of adults read five or more books a year (34%). Among the generations, Elders are the true bookworms—with about one-quarter reading more than 15 books a year (23%) (Kinnaman, 2015). 

Figure 1. Pie chart of statistics of why each demographic reads 2015. Adapted from ‘). The state of books and reading in a digital world’ (Kinnaman, 2015).

Figure 2. Bar graph of statistics of number of books each demographic reads per year in 2015. Adapted from ‘). The state of books and reading in a digital world’ (Kinnaman, 2015).

Thus the idea that children are soaking up their environment and are a byproduct of their society stems from the same concept organizational theorists.  As example, organizational theorists relate non-profit organizations as a direct reflection of the pressures and constraints presented by their environments. Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development states, “children constructs a mental model of the world. He disagreed with the idea that intelligence was a fixed trait, and regarded cognitive development as a process which occurs due to biological maturation and interaction with the environment (McLeod, 2018). Researcher Lev Vygotsky’s social development theory states that social interaction precedes development; consciousness and cognition are the end product of socialization and social behavior (Vygotsky, 1980). Erik Erikson’s stage theory articulates the importance of the formidable mind at a young age. “Erickson maintained that personality develops in a predetermined order through eight stages of psychosocial development, from infancy to adulthood.

We must be purposeful with words, actions, and truths we let our children hear at a young age. “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook” (Proverbs 18:4). Their behavior reflects their resource dependency, and risk of goal displacement and loss of autonomy if they are too dependent on one item (Worth, 2017, p. 68). 

This is my second masters and fourth degree from CCU and I am most excited to see where this thesis goes. I am currently working with a book editor and in the process of choosing an illustrator. My book, You are You, is expected to hit shelves and be available online in 2020.

Cheers,

Cassidy Burke


[1]spirit of time


 

References

Gladwell, M. (2002). The tipping point: how little things can make a big difference.Back Bay Books, 

Kinnaman, D. (2015). The state of books and reading in a digital world.Barna. Retrieved from https://www.barna.com/research/the-state-of-books-and-reading-in-a-digital-world/

McLeod, S. (2018). Erik Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development.  Simply Psychology. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html

Oswalt, A. (2019). Why self-esteem is important and its dimensions. Mental Help. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/why-self-esteem-is-important-and-its-dimensions/

Westenberg, K. (2019). Identity crisis: how to help your children know their worth. I Choose Brave. Retrieved from http://www.ichoosebrave.com/identity-crisis-how-to-help-your-children-know-their-worth/

Worth, M.  (2017).  Nonprofit Management:  Principles and Practices.  Los Angeles, California: Sage.  

Vygotsky, L. S. (1980). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Harvard University Press.

The Secular Sacred Divide

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” Karl Marx

I am a Christian and a fiscal conservative, independent thinker.  However, in these tumultuous times, I find it increasingly challenging to express my worldview openly to some of my friends and associates without being shamed or ridiculed by some for my personal perspective.  It’s gotten worse recently, I started experiencing disdainful scorn and self-righteous indignation.  As a Christian, I am mocked for being foolish and stupid. As a conservative educator, I am chastise and rebuked for my views on limited government, free market economics, poverty theory and social policy.  Have you noticed that thinking critically and having an honest alternative perspective is considered “offensive” and not tolerated by some people?  Forget about tolerance, that’s an oxymoron.  I don’t want to be merely tolerated.  I want to be understood and respected.  Have you too felt shunned either in face-to-face encounters or on social media?   I believe that we are missing an opportunity to experience community and the goodness that comes from developing intellectually and growing emotionally and spiritually through listening to each other and not talking over one another. Understanding alternative perspectives is the foundation for research methods and learning.  To achieve this, we need to become truth seekers.  Yet, some of my friends and colleagues have drunk the kool aid of moral relativism where there is no truth.  Ironically, they cannot tolerate diverse worldviews nor respect alternative perspectives. They choose to live in the echo chamber of their own group think.  This is not only boring, it’s dangerous.

How did we get here?

The deconstruction of everything sacred began with secularizing education a little over a hundred years ago. Thus, we see the beginnings of the secular/sacred divide and normalization of secular humanism. Accordingly, progressive postmodern dualism was ushered in shortly after the founding of scientific labs in Leipzig Germany around 1879, when Thomas H. Huxley organized a small group of German and American scientists, [primarily Gestalt psychologists] who sought to overthrow the cultural dominance of Christianity—particularly the intellectual / theological dominance of the Anglican Church, (Huxley’s grandson penned A Brave New World).  Their goal was to secularize society, replacing the Judeo-Christian worldview regarding the laws of nature and nature’s God, with a secular-humanist worldview that recognizes the existence of science alone, as observed in scientific labs. This biased perspective denies the apodictic (absolute) and self-evident Truths of the natural order of things and the Bible endowed by our Creator. Thus, public education today essentially advances a social constructivist agenda. Students are taught that they can rewrite history and socially construct their own realities. This is a lie! But, as I have stated earlier, they have drunk this kool aid and believe it.  Nevertheless, as secular humanists, Huxley and his advocates understood they were merely replacing one religion with another, for they described their goal as the establishment of the “church scientific.”  A search of the American Humanist Association reveals it is a tax exempt 501(c) (3) religious organization (americanhuminist.org retrieved on 3/14/2012). This has since been changed but the original intent hasn’t.  An example of the deconstruction of the spirit of truth and social construction of myth is illustrated in the hyperlink below. At the University of Colorado Boulder, for instance, in place of American Civics, students learn “the people’s history of the United States.”  http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html.

It is indeed ironic that is was Karl Marx who first said, “…religion is the opiate of the masses” but, it turns out liberal extremism / secular humanism and social constructivism appear to be the opiate of the masses.  What are your thoughts?  Please opine.