I know I promised that my prior post would be my last on the thoroughly debunked “scientific” paper, “Race,law, and health: Examination of ‘Stand Your Ground’ and defendant convictions in Florida.”

The debunking took place in these posts:

But then, well, THIS happened:

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Yep, I found two of the paper’s authors in my Twitter timeline:  Melody S. Goodman and Cassandra Arroyo-Johnson, both of the Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery [!], Washington University School of Medicine.

Paper title

“Self,” I thought to myself, “this would be a great chance to communicate with the authors diectly, and make sure I’ve not merely misunderstood their methodology which I’ve been tearing to shreds these last several days.”

Rather than narrate the communications that followed, I’ll let the tweets between us speak for themselves, along with a few images of their paper to provide context.

Can you share

Of course, then I got hit with the “internet troll” label–always the best way to defend the quality of one’s “science”:

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I guess Ms. Arroyo-Johnson senses the water’s getting deep, so she tries to shuffle me off onto the poor journal that got taken in by her paper:

Dissenting commentary

At this point Ms. Goodman steps in to throw her flailing colleague a lifeline.  Unfortunately, they apparently don’t know the definition of lifeline, either. Pro-tip: It’s not spelled “anchor.”

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I have to confess, I LOL’d at that one, as the kids say these days.

Oddly, for a paper that is not actually studying SYG cases, but merely “cases related to SYG,” there’s a great deal written about the former and very little about the latter.  In the abstract, for example, the word “related” doesn’t appear even once:

Abstract highlighted

Of course, that’s just the abstract.  One can’t shove every word into the abstract, or you’d have the whole paper. Surely the phrase “related to SYG,” or words to that effect, must appear densely throughout a paper the authors claim was targeted at precisely that.

Fortunately, it’s easy enough to do a word search of a PDF document.

Unfortunately, in a paper spanning 8 pages the words “related” and “Stand Your Ground” appear in proximity only once, in the Methods section where the authors describe their data set:

Methods related to SYG

Everywhere else in the paper, including every conclusion and finding resulting from the authors’ analysis, specifically refers simply to SYG, and not laws or cases related to SYG.

Indeed, their key finding specifically cites “the SYG law in Florida,” rather than, say, “SYG-related laws in Florida”:

Key finding

Clearly, then, the authors studied something that looked like SYG (to their uninformed eye, at least), and from that drew conclusions about something that actually is SYG.

Am I the only person reminded of the parable of the blind men feeling the elephant?

In reality, of course, it’s much worse than that.  In my previous posts here, here, and here I’ve already shown how very few of the cases in the Tampa Bay Times bore any resemblance to any useful definition of Stand-Your-Ground, of either the correct “no-duty-to-retreat” or the incorrect “self-defense immunity” variety.

Really, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  After all, it’s not like the cases in the Tampa Bay Times were selected and validated by someone expert in Stand-Your-Ground law (mirror, mirror). Rather they were collected by the staff of a regional Florida newspaper.  When even many lawyers and judges and (gasp!) post-graduate students can’t seem to understand what Stand-Your-Ground is and is not, it hardly seems reasonable to expect greater discernment from a local journalist.  So that’s not surprising.

What is surprising is that the authors of this paper–who hold positions at Schools of Medicine and Schools of Public Health (and, it must be noted, a School of Social Justice)–did not themselves make any apparent effort to validate the data set on which they were basing their paper.

If they had, they would have discovered that fewer than half the cases in that dataset could possibly constitute Stand-Your-Ground in any form applied in court, those being the only forms that could affect conviction rates (the paper’s key finding).

(I suppose an alternative explanation would be that they did seek to validate the data, but were simply not smart enough to figure it out.  That, however, seems an uncharitable perspective.)

Instead, they chose to use the definition of the term central to their paper’s research subject and key findings–Stand-Your-Ground–as defined by a local journalist with no apparent expertise in either science or the law.  That’s science!

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Am I the only person that’s reminded of the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out”?

OK, that’s all the time I have for the “faux science” crowd today!

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

[Featured image is a screen capture from the 1974 Mel Brooks movie, “Young Frankenstein,” which remains remarkably watchable even today.]


Attorney Andrew Branca and his firm Law of Self Defense have been providing internationally-recognized expertise in American self-defense law for almost 20 years in the form of blogging, books, live seminars & online training (both accredited for CLE), public speaking engagements, and individualized legal consultation.
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