It Really Is Faith Based


Blogger Mark Kleiman demolishes inflated claims about the efficacy of (tax funded) religious rehabilitation programs in a piece over at Slate. Turns out the program gave the appearance of lowering recidivism by "creaming" the most promising cons: it counted as "graduates" only those who secured a job upon release from prison, an independent predictor of lower recidivism. All told, InnerChange participants did worse than a control group.

Reason wunderkind Kerry Howley was on this a couple of weeks ago.

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  1. Don’t let science get in the way of ideology. 🙂

  2. Mark Kleiman is an idiot. He writes elsewhere suggesting that drunk drivers should be prevented from buying alcohol, and that all hard drug addicts should be involuntarily treated and tested presumably for the rest of their lives.

  3. Phill,

    And what the hell does that have to do with the InnerChange study?

  4. I guess it doesnt have much to do with the study, but regardless, I think that we need to emphasize what is a religion. Secular psychiatry is a religion, the religion of comte.

  5. Doesn’t surprise me a bit. The Bush administration’s interest in faith-based programs lies far more in subsidizing religious teachings than in actual results. I read a book by one of the major proponents of these programs that was cited by President Bush as a inspiration for the Charitable Choice reform and it laid it out clearly.

    The book, whose title is unfortunately forgotten, was interesting in its description of how excess government regulations often got in the way of funding successful faith-based and secular programs. Near the end of the book, however, two successful programs that have succeeded despite lack of government funding were discussed and the author made it clear that while both were good, the secular program was inferior because it failed to teach people about Jesus.

    Phil, calling psychiatry a religion should be the tactics of Scientologists and no one else. Prove a treatment is ineffective or superior and psychiatrists move on. Real proof that one religion is more correct than other doesn’t really come till it’s too late to tell anyone else the truth.

  6. I am an agnostic, and I dont like scientology more than anyone else. To paraphrase von Mises, the most powerful religions in the world are non-theistic religions, what qualifies them as religions is their desire to arrange earthly affairs to a doctrine whose validity cannot be demonstrated by reason. Whether drug treatment is effective or not, really isnt the issue. I dont want to see the coercive apparatus of drug treatment be applied to another undesirable human trait.

  7. “I guess it doesnt have much to do with the study, but regardless, I think that we need to emphasize what is a religion. Secular psychiatry is a religion, the religion of comte.”

    Let’s not forget the wicked Francis Bacon – no point in giving all the credit to the damned french. Why do partisans of religion always feel the need to appeal to epistemology when they see their favorite religious superstition being undermined ? Apparently, if their religious convictions can’t be right, then they will settle for science being one religion among many.

  8. Gee, drumming into people’s heads that they have no control over their lives seemed like such a good way to help them break bad habits.

  9. Faith based programs, schools and the religions that support them are going to regret taking money from the Feds.

  10. “Faith based programs… are going to regret taking money from the Feds.”

    Right; Fed control will be part of the bargain, if not now then later, but for sure. Also, what else is terrible about the idea is that in an environment of church state seperation the church acts as a countervailing force against the state. Giving faith based groups a direct interest in the state takes this beneficial dynamic away. (this might be a big part of the motivation for pushing them) The right should object to “faith based” programs at least as strongly as the left.

  11. They will attempt to assume the mantle of science because they know it will be the only way to argue with the skeptics. Deep down, I’m sure supporters of these programs believe in them on faith just like they believe in religion based on faith. After all, maybe the convicts aren’t any better off in this material life (still commiting crimes and going to jail) but some of them were changed on a spiritual level, which we all know is the most important area of your life if you actually take any of the world’s religions seriously. So, from a skeptic’s standpoint, I don’t think we’d be able conversely to convince supporters of these programs that they’re ineffective or worthless.

    BTW, if you are a religous person and are reading this, I assume you probably would feel some level of agreement with the argument regarding the ‘spiritual’ value of such programs. That is fine, but it isn’t a state interest to improve people’s spiritual life, nor is it constitutionally permissable even if it is believed to be a good thing. The government shouldn’t be wasting taxpayer money on stuff that demonstrably fails its material world goals. That’s the only justification I can see for the state to get involved in the first place.

  12. Just to be The Lord Of Darkness’s advocate for a moment, even if the Slate article does demonstrate that one particular program cooked the stats books and is not nearly as effective as claimed, the question still remains regarding whether some religiously associated programs should receive public funds if they DO pass the test of science. One could argue that all such programs should be off limits to public funds on 1st Amendment grounds, though I kinda think that’s a stretch. I think we can easily agree that our representatives shouldn’t be snowed by the glow of religion, but should they go to the opposite extreme and ignore all such programs, whatever their (genuine) results?

  13. My first instinct actually is to rule out such programs even if they are demonstrably far more effective thatn the best secular alternatives. But I suppose if you had a range of options of comparable rehabilitation programs, with none of them compulsory or associated with special privileges, and prisoners were given an option, it’d be hard to object.

  14. I think the origins of the ‘Faith based’ charity was the observation that many private charitable organizations that help the poor by running soup kitchens, helping poor families make ends meet, etc. are run by religious organizations. True, there are secular charities and even some run by explicity athiestic groups, but these latter tend to be small in number if only because most of the population subscribes to some kind of religion and most religions advocate charity towards the poor. So, to the extent that soup kitchens are feeding the poor food, the ‘faith based initiative’ would help fund the provision of food, not the provision or religion.

    It also, I think, is based on the observation that private charities tend to do a better job at preventing the ‘unworthy’ from showing up at the gravy train. However, the attempt by the government to get behind these things that work in the private world will end up undoing the very things that make these charities work.

    Since they are based on private, voluntary contributions (of money and/or labor form volunteers), the charity has to work hard to strike the balance required between lending a helping hand and just giving a handout, otherwise people will stop donating their time and/or money to said charity. Once the government starts paying a significant portion of the bills this incentive disappears. If history serves as an example, as private people pull out the charities themselves will use that as leverage to get more and more funding from the government. Additionally, the charities themselves will come under more political pressure from their government benefactors to accept a widening circle of those in need, including some types of people that certain religious groups may wish not to help enable in their lifestyle (one can imagine gay rights activists, for example, compelling religious charities into helping gay drug addict prostitutes living on the streets whose lifestyle choices are incompatible with their beliefs). It will eventually become privatized welfare, which may be marginally better than government run welfare, but still not as good as completely private charities.

    Whether the government ends up financing religous teachings or not, it’s probably a bad idea.

  15. The nerve of them, only counting as graduates those that completed the program. I guess under that theory, I currently have a Ph.D. in anything I want.

  16. Just like conservatives to never let science, facts or reality get in the way of their charging moral high-horse.

    And this past few years have seen new standards set by them for disingenuousness…can you really be surprised thatthere are serious flaws in the interpretation of results?

    As a Christian, a marketing analyst with actual scientific training AND a supporter of faith-based initiatives as another option, I am frequently let down by the lack of seriousness given to honest analysis of new approaches.

    Just means the Cons are absolutely no better, just as corrupt and equally cynical as the Libs they rail against…

  17. EMAIL:
    DATE: 02/27/2004 01:33:22
    Anyone can learn from pain.

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