For Immediate Release
Contact: Paul Fidalgo
Phone: (207) 358-9785
April 01, 2008
Publishers of ‘Skeptical Inquirer’ Magazine, with Coalition of Scientists, Scholars, and Institutions, Defend Exclusion of Putative ‘Experts’
Amherst, New York (March 31, 2008)— The think tank Center for Inquiry filed a joint amicus brief in Iowa Supreme Court defending the exclusion of “expert” opinions by conservative religionists and others claiming to have scientific, technical, or specialized knowledge about alleged dangers of same-sex marriage.
CFI offered its friend-of-the-court brief to assist the Iowa Supreme Court's review of Varnum v. Brien , an Iowa District Court ruling that the state’s bar on same-sex marriage violates the Iowa Constitution. Among other aspects of the Varnum ruling, the state is challenging the district court’s decision to exclude five purported “expert” opinions that same-sex marriages would harm children, families, and society. The district court found that the state’s proffered “experts” lacked the appropriate experience or training in the relevant fields of social science, child development, psychology, or psychiatry to support their opinions. During the case, the state was assisted by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund, an anti-gay Religious Right organization based in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“A vast body of scientific evidence demonstrates that children raised by same-sex parents are as emotionally healthy as those raised by heterosexual couples,” said CFI founder and chairman Dr. Paul Kurtz. “Opponents of same-sex marriage have now turned to pseudoscience to deny equal rights.” The Center for Inquiry, publisher of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, is a leading critic of junk science’s influence in society and on public policy.
Among the state’s five purported “experts” were two religious studies scholars—one an expert in Hinduism, the other who described his methodology as “simply observ[ing] what people do and say about religion.” A third “expert” with a degree in European history was the president of a conservative religious advocacy group. He had taken no courses in any field of social science research. Another “expert” with degrees in government and economics described his research as doing “big synthetic stuff and wander[ing] into other people's territories.” The fifth “expert” with a degree in comparative law described herself as an “ethicist with expertise in ethical aspects of new technoscience.” She explained that she was “not an expert in research methods,” and admitted to relying on “moral intuition” and “examined emotions” to reach her conclusions. The purported experts sought to opine on a range of scientific and technical issues, including the alleged harm of same-sex marriage to child psychological and social development.
“These so-called experts offered opinions that ventured well beyond their own limited areas of training,” Kurtz said. “Their conclusions are grounded in religious ideology and personal opinion rather than empirical research, and contradict settled scientific findings. The district court properly refused to consider their opinions.”
Kurtz sees the Iowa case as an example of increasing attempts to introduce pseudoscience into the courtroom. “We cannot allow hucksters to disguise personal and religious opinions as science,” Kurtz said. “Even opponents of same-sex marriage have a high stake in protecting our courts from those who would inject junk science into the judicial process.”
The Center for Inquiry is a nonprofit educational organization comprising the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH), the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), and the Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH). Headquartered in Amherst, New York, CFI strives to promote rational thinking in all aspects of life. More information may be found at www.centerforinquiry.net.