I caught a link that a study over five decades has demonstrated that spanking kids is bad. I didn’t click it. My reaction was that I thought we’d known that for around three decades. Then it clicked that just a few days ago I quietly ignored a conversation where two people were saying they got spanked, growing up, and turned out fine. I always wonder what people think of as fine when they say that. Don’t people consider that they might have turned out better or gone through less struggle to get to fine if this treatment science has demonstrated is counterproductive to development hadn’t happened to them? They might just be protecting their parents who were not abusive or even unfair, who were just raising their kids as best they could in an age when scientific study about the negative effects of spanking weren’t available. But that’s not who they’re defending with what they say, they’re defending the practice of spanking after science has demonstrated that practice as both ineffective and harmful.
People have trouble recognizing that their own experience is anecdotal. People also have trouble accepting that something they long believed to be true or a useful practice is false or a waste of time or counterproductive. So science is vilified. Science is viewed as this oppressive decider of things, who should mind its own business. Science is arrogant. Actually science is a way of learning about the world that is so eager to get to the truth that it will never insist it’s right. Science only comes up with theories that explain the world…maybe. Maybe some next thing will come along to explain it better. Science is constantly trying to learn. That seems the opposite of arrogant.
I read in Quiet, a nonfiction book about introverts, by Susan Cain, that people commonly believe by making some show of anger, yelling or punching something or stomping a foot, they’re “releasing” their anger and that it helps the anger “escape,” but science has good evidence this isn’t true. It feels true because during the time we’re yelling the anger dissipates but anger dissipates due to time passing. Our understandable releases of frustration have actually kept us feeling angry longer. People hear this and often get angry because most of us, at least sometimes, react this way to getting angry and don’t like science coming along and telling us our reactions are counterproductive, but science isn’t telling us that. Science is simply supplying us with good information we can choose to use to improve our lives. The author then added that these studies about anger have been repeated over and over because the results continue to be questioned. This means that the response of science to people who respond to science with “shut up, that can’t be true,” isn’t to say, “you shut up, you can’t be true.” Science just responds with, Okay, maybe that study was flawed, let’s run it again.
That is maybe why a five-decades long study about spanking children was undertaken. People still don’t believe it’s ineffective/harmful, so let’s collect more evidence to get a clear answer because this is important. I found the same thing when researching how harmful caricatures of Native Americans as team mascots are to everyone. The sight of Chief Wahoo makes people less sensitive to all minority groups. People adamantly oppose this finding, because it’s uncomfortable to people who want to keep wearing their hats and jerseys and jackets. So science ran it again and again and again. They keep finding the same result and people keep refusing to believe it. Who’s arrogant?
Arrogance isn’t why people refuse change in instances like these. Arrogance is the shield they put up so they can refuse the change. The resistance to change comes from wanting to hold onto something they value. I was slow to come on board with the Chief Wahoo caricature as harmful for an understandable reason. My dad drew Chief Wahoo on a poster and took me to a game. I held the poster up and cheered. That’s a great memory I have of my dad and it’s tied in with my love, as a kid, for that baseball team, but I wouldn’t be honoring the memory of my dad by using that memory to override scientific study demonstrating the harmful effects of that caricature. My dad would want me to openly speak out against that team name and mascot. I actually think of my dad every time I do.