God’s little helpers?

I am always intrigued when I see research into social behaviour – and particularly so when the university concerned has to balance academic freedom and its religious values.

So it was interesting to read a report in the Daily Mail on line (at a glance it does not appear to have made it into the newspaper) – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3004161/Music-TV-linked-rise-teenage-sex-videos-make-teens-believe-peers-sexually-active-are.html?ito=social-twitter_mailonline – which linked the watching of music TV videos to a rise in teenage sex. It also said the videos made teens believe their peers are more sexually active than they are.

The Mail article started: “Music videos are often criticised for being overtly sexual and now a study has now revealed the influence these images may be having on teenagers.”

The article then revealed that the study was led by Eline Frison, a PhD student at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

KU Leuven is, as it says, a Catholic university in Belgium and the Catholic Church is not always happy when its activities deviate from the official norm.

Last Match, Tom Heneghan reported in the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet, that “Belgium’s Catholic University of Leuven (KUL), which came under Vatican scrutiny for its stem cell research in 2007 and considered dropping “Catholic” from its name, has mended fences in Rome with a visit by its new chancellor, canon law scholar Rik Torfs, along with Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard and Antwerp Bishop Johan Bonny.

“When they visited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, its prefect Cardinal Gerhard Muller said universities sometimes claimed academic freedom to defend deviations from Vatican teaching. Professor Torfs replied: ‘We cherish our rich Catholic tradition. We do not want to break with it, though we also cherish our academic freedom.’” http://archive.thetablet.co.uk/article/15th-march-2014/32/ku-leuven-mends-fences-with-vatican

It is worth pointing out that Andre-Joseph Leonard, who I understand (but could not confirm) is Grand Chancellor of the university, is a controversial figure who stands well towards the conservative wing of the Catholic Church.

At least one senior member of the department in which Erison researches is focused heavily on the sexualisation of young people, which is a legitimate area of examination.

But, at the very least, one can say that her findings are the sorts of conclusions that might have Archbishop Leonard nodding in agreement.

The message from this and every other piece of research one reads in the papers is clear to me: whenever you see a piece of research, always check the commercial, political and religious values of the institution and the individual producing them. All too often the results of the research chime with the views of the individual and/or the institution.

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