Title: Maxim... fascinating and ridiculous! Credit: Scott Stevens Comment Thursday 25th November 2004 - 12:00pm1101337200 Article: 499 Rights
Maxim is great! Really! I'm being perfectly honest about this. What other organisation in New Zealand could possibly make allusions between the return of the Unknown Warrior to the current Civil Union debate and the threat to the family? Only Maxim surely, or perhaps the society for the prevention of film festivals (SPCS). That aside it's obvious to all that the soldier died to hold up the ideals of natural law and good quality normative research. I am sure that if I had been in the Battle of the Somme, I would be thinking that exact same thing rather than trying to stay alive. There is nothing nobler than to die for ones country in the name of God and the family - despite Patton's view that "No one ever won a war by dying for his country. You win a war by making the other poor dumb son of a bitch die for his country". Anyway, I digress. The issue I want to discuss in this little monologue is why I give Maxim such a hard time on their discussion boards, in emails, and on here. If we take a look at Maxims staff we see a PhD, several MA's, and a host of Bachelors degrees and diplomas. An OBE and a CBE back up this impressive array of academic talent. Given this seemingly vast pool of education, it comes as little surprise that Maxim calls itself a think tank. But there is a problem, is highlighted in a series of audio files sent to me by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. The content was quite interesting, and consisted of a conversation between Mary in Maxims Auckland office, and Bruce Logan based in Christchurch. The anonymous caller asked Maxim two very simple questions. Firstly, why does Maxim have disclaimers on their web accessible research, and secondly what does the organisation define 'Natural Law' as? The answers were both fascinating and absolutely ridiculous at the same time. We'll touch on natural law first and keep it brief seeing as I devoted an article to it a few weeks ago. As a quick recap, natural law is that set of morals and values imparted to us by God (as we were created in his image). It seems, that according to Bruce Logan I was right on the money... the following is Mr. Logan's response to the question of “What is natural law?” Logan: If you really want to find out about natural law there are a number of sources you can look up. Caller: Ok Logan: Its a very old idea and it goes back to the Greeks really, it passes through Christian thought particularly through Aquinas but there is some debate about its nature Caller: Ok Logan: Ah, as to weather it is um natural in the sense that it simply grows out of the of being a human being without any kind divine order or whether it finds it roots in divine order. And its a looong standing debate but as a framework for understanding human order and nature it really is essential. Aquinas, as mentioned in an article by Craig Young is a mainstay of Christian thought on the subject of Natural Law. Now, the interesting thing is not only was I correct with the definition of Natural Law, but also Bruce Logan views it as essential for understanding the human condition. Perhaps this is why Maxim doesn't have any trained psychologists or sociologists on staff. Why would you when you have a grasp of Natural Law? Religious dogma it seems counts for far more in Maxims research than does scientific research. Yet, here is an organization placing itself at the forefront of legitimate social policy thought in this country. In a scientific sense, we cannot use God or theological dogma as a basis for an argument or a theory. To do so is to introduce what is essentially the 'God of the Gaps Argument'. You take something for which you don't know or understand the cause of, and assign that unknown to God. Maxim doesn't understand the psychology or the possible biological precursors of sexuality because it represents an anathema to them - therefore its easier to assign a moral argument based on biblical teachings to support their position rather than a scientific, psychological or sociological one. You have to love that stealth religion don't you? Obviously then given the Natural Law argument Maxim have to be careful with their research. Particularly with contributors such as Samuel Gregg who base their arguments on much the same premise. Which brings us to the disclaimer. First up, we have Mary, Maxim's contact person listed on the website: Caller: I'm looking at the information on there and its making sense to me I'm just wondering though at the bottom of your website, I'm just wondering if you can explain it, it strates there that Maxim Institute does not guarantee its correctness nor accept legal responsibility. I just wondering specifically what is meant by that, because I was when I read through your information it does actually state there that this is factual information that you've got so I'm just wondering why you've got a disclaimer like that at the bottom. Mary: (Pause) Caller: Just trying to understand... Mary: Well, (pause) I... (pause) I... (pause) am probably not the best person to talk to about that. I... I just guess it's because we've got a lot of information on their... umm comes from a whole lot of sources not necessarily written by us... Caller: Ok Mary: we can't always guarantee the accuracy of the research that is behind... what's there. Caller: Ok, yup, sure, well I can understand that. Where to begin on that one. Its ironic that Maxim is not even sure about the content they have on not only on their own site, but this is also the research that they are interpreting and passing off to the community as legitimate. Remember, this is from a group that portrays itself as a think tank. It does tend to smack of a lack of standards, particularly from an organization that prides itself on trying to introduce a brave new world in New Zealand's education system. Fascinating I thought. Although I did try to shy away from the term Intellectual Bankruptcy, it does seem frighteningly apt for the situation. Perhaps it was just Mary that was a little vague on the issue of their disclaimer. My intrepid anonymous caller, not to be deterred managed to get in touch with none other than Bruce Logan, whose answer to the same question was slightly different Caller: Oh right. Ok, no that's good. As I said I'm finding a lot of the information on there quite helpful. I was just wondering as well, on your website on the bottom there's a disclaimer which mentions that the institute does not guarantee its correctness or accept any legal responsibility. I'm just wondering specifically why its there? Logan: Well that's normative. I've... I... I couldn't answer that, but that's a normative practice you'll find quite often. Caller: A "normative practice?" Logan: Yes Normative practice refers to expressing values judgments rather than stating facts. So now what do we think? Fact or Fiction? Maxim has stated time and time again that they deal in fact and research, but here we have Bruce Logan saying that it is a normative practice. So perhaps Maxim don't deal in fact after all. Hardly a surprise if you accept that Maxim is simply a right wing religious organization. Very surprising if you assume that Maxim is a legitimate social policy research group. After all Maxim's managing director himself not only referred to disclaiming as a normative process, but also said it was quite common. Yet, why don't legitimate journals use the same strategy. After all, 'Nature', perhaps the oldest and most respected journal on earth doesn't appear to follow the common “normative” process that Maxim does, nor does the American Psychological Association. Maybe Bruce Logan knows something the collective scientific community doesn't. Fabrication without critical examination perhaps. Given that Maxim also cite works by Bruce Logan as definitive references for their own publications it does tend to suggest that Maxims work leans slightly more towards the realm of fiction rather than fact. Of course, given the large body of 'normative' research on Maxim's site and in their publications, I am sure that anyone reading this can make their own judgments based on the quality of the work and the caliber of the personnel employed at the institute. So, why do I hold Maxim in such low esteem? Because they make an absolute mockery of higher education. Their research is claimed to be based on fact, yet their managing director refutes this by saying that disclaiming is a normative process. Perhaps Mr. Logan was unsure on the use of the term and erred in his application of it, however it is doubtful. They have no one qualified on their staff to undertake the psychological and sociological research they perform because it is only natural law that is essential for understanding human nature. It is ironic that an organization devoted to research, and 'thinking' seems to be incapable of doing either. Perhaps it can be summarised by Scotts second law: Never assign to malice that which can be equally assigned to stupidity. Scott Stevens - 25th November 2004    
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