Does Science Prove the Catholic Church is Right? Fact Check Part II: Lust and the Family
Jim Schroeder of the Foundation for Evangelization through the Media has declared boldly that “Science Is Proving the Church Is Right and the Culture’s Wrong.” Schroeder elaborates:
“Modern science – which so many assume is the antithesis or even enemy of Catholic teaching – actually bears out the truth and value and relevance of what the Church has taught for 2,000 years. Here are ten examples to illustrate my point.”
In a series of five posts, I’m examining each of Schroeder’s ten scientific proofs of Catholicism. Do they actually make scientific sense? Last week I started with Schroeder’s points on Narcissism (Example 1) and Gluttony (Example 2). Today, we’ll look at lust and the family.
Schroeder’s third example:
“3. The Church teaches that lust involves treating the human body as a physical commodity rather than as an aspect of the whole human person – an inseparable body, mind and soul – who is the masterpiece of God’s creation and who will live forever. Currently, profits from pornography in the United States exceed the combined revenues of CBS, ABC and NBC (Kimmel, 2008).”
What Schroeder writes is not a scientific proof of any kind. The first sentence is a declaration of a cultural value. The second sentence is a declaration of economic impact. Neither involves any scientific testing of a claim. Absolutely no sources are cited. This example fails to meet the standard of scientific evidence.
Schroeder’s fourth example:
“4. The Church teaches that a valid marriage is forever and indissoluble. Science tells us that growing up in an intact family with one’s biological parents who are married to eachother confers the greatest benefit to children and other arrangements result in varying degrees of social, psychological, emotional and academic harm.”
Schroeder’s example does not refer directly to any scientific publication, but rather to two more articles of “Evangelization through the Media” at the Aleteia website. Schroeder’s text implies that these articles have to do not only with marriage but also with living in a familiy containing biological parents. The evangelizing articles to which Schroeder links say absolutely nothing about any benefit of having biological parents in a family. The article from Schroeder’s second link does not, contrary to Schroeder’s contention, have to do with whether “other arrangements” in the plural are harmful — it only concerns one alternative arrangement, that of cohabitation. Jim Schroeder is bearing false witness here, and from what I’ve read the Bible has some issues with such behavior.
The proselytizing authors to whom Schroeder refers pick and choose their scientific studies selectively. Sociologist Paul Amato has repeatedly reviewed the scientific evidence in a wide range of studies on the effect of divorce on children, and although he concludes that overall children of divorce report a lower standard of well-being, the substantive difference is small. Furthermore, Amato found that children of parents who stayed in an unhappy marriage are worse off than children of divorced parents. In addition, Amato found that children of parents who divorced amicably do just as well as children of non-divorced parents. When it comes to the effect of cohabitation on children’s outcomes, Wendy Manning and Susan Brown’s publication in the Journal of Marriage and the Family suggests that the appearance of an effect is different for different cultural groups and that the bulk of the effect is due to differences in parental education. Julie Artis’ research in the same journal finds no difference when socioeconomic status is controlled for.
For these reasons, this example by Schroeder also fails to meet the standard of scientific evidence.
Later this week, we’ll move on to Schroeder’s fifth and sixth examples of scientific proofs of Catholicism. Coming up: birth control and anxiety.