Thursday, August 02, 2007

Politicized science

Politicized science is not limited to global climate. James Taranto highlights the findings of a professor of political science:
Seek and Ye Shall Find
Newsweek carries an interview with David Jacobs, a professor of sociology and political science at Ohio State University, who has conducted a new study on race and the death penalty.

Jacobs tells the newsmagazine he found that "holding a whole bunch of stuff constant, including several political variables, we found that if a black person killed a white person they [sic] were more likely to get executed" than either black or white killers with nonwhite victims. In his mind, this proves "that the postsentencing capital-punishment process continues to place greater value on white lives."

But the second page of the interview reveals that the study had a fundamental methodological flaw:

[Did the disparities reflect] the nature of the crime? Or was it simply race?

We don't have much data on the nature of the crime.

From the abstract of his paper, it appears that he made no effect at all to control for the type and nature of the crime that led to the death penalty although he did statistically analyze for the presence of Republicans in the jurisdiction. The professor seems to have formed his conclusions before he performed the study.

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