by Bill Nugent
It is not uncommon for secularists to attack the credibility of the Bible by citing social science studies that on the surface seem to contradict the Bible’s teachings. It’s a familiar refrain for a debater to exclaim “studies have shown thus and so!” In this article we shall see that social science is a very inexact science and every study is open to a wide degree of interpretation, data slicing and abuse of statistics. Furthermore I will show that rightly executed social science studies tend to confirm and not contradict the wisdom of the Bible.
One recent example of a study that could be used to undermine the authority of the Bible is a study by psychologist Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff who analyzed 88 studies involving corporal punishment. It was a study of studies. She concluded that corporal (physical) punishment encourages negative behaviors in children. Some could use this as a pretext to erroneously say that spanking is bad for children. The Bible, on the contrary, teaches that spanking is appropriate in child rearing. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15).
Walter L. Larimore, MD, in his article titled “Is Spanking Actually Harmful to Children?” analyzes Gershoff’s study and finds it scientifically flawed in several respects. For additional articles on spanking just go to Focus On the Family’s website,family.org and type “spanking” in the search box). Larimore points out that most of the studies Gershoff analyzed for her article lumped overly severe punishment (child abuse) in with spanking! The phrase “Corporal punishment” was used as a general term that included both spanking and physical child abuse.
Larimore also points out that in the same edition of the Bulletin of the American Psychological Association in which Gershoff’s article appeared was another article by three prominent researchers that contradicted her findings and supports mild spanking. This means that part of the academic community supports the biblical position on the issue of spanking. Dr. Larimore, in his article, indicates that rightly performed studies reveal the benefits of spanking as a disciplinary tool.
When young people go off to college they often encounter liberal college professors who use social science studies to contradict the Bible’s teachings on marriage, child rearing and other issues. What they often fail to point out however, is that since social science studies are so inexact, a person can take almost any bizarre, outlandish position on a social issue and then go and find a study somewhere that will back up the position. When you argue from social science studies you find that your opponent also cites studies that contradict you. An academic debate can quickly devolve into a “my studies can beat up your studies” kind of foolishness.
It is often the case that the people who conduct the studies are biased against the Bible and will consciously or unconsciously skew the study to fit their pre-ordained conclusion. Some academics claim that social science is not science at all because of its inexactness and subjectivity. These academics would limit the meaning of the word “science” to the hard sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology.
This is not to say that all studies are worthless. They do have value. I and many others maintain that rightly carried out studies confirm and support the Bible’s wisdom.
I recommend Focus on the Family’s website family.org as an excellent source of scholarly articles dealing with social issues.