Meta-analysis offers a strong alternative to traditional methods of reviewing research studies (Rosenthal & Rosnow, 1991). Used properly, it can enhance rational assessment of phenomena by removing or substantially reducing subjective bias based on values and emotion. With this in mind, two colleagues and I made use of meta-analysis in the late 1990s to rationally reevaluate claims made about the nature and consequences of child sexual abuse (CSA), a topic particularly vulnerable to value-and emotion-laden thinking (Jenkins, 1998). Our analyses, published in the summer of 1998 in Psychological Bulletin (Rind, Tromovitch, & Bauserman, 1998), disputed essential and strongly held assumptions about CSA. Despite the intensity and entrenchment of the assumptions we challenged, widely held in the helping professions, reaction to our publication seemed to be quiet. This appearance of calm was abruptly pierced the next spring, when an avalanche of attacks erupted. By the summer of 1999, exactly 1 year after publication, Congress condemned our study, the first time in the history of the United States that a peer-reviewed scientific study had been so treated. Our attempt to bring rational objectivity to a topic dominated by value-and emotion-based thinking in the end was overwhelmed by this very same thinking.
In this sense, our story fits in well with the history of philosophy and science, in which challenges to sacred cows of the day have met similar or worse fates more often than could possibly be summarized in this short chapter.