One of the difficult moments in a research career comes when you’ve made an unjustified attack on work you only partly understand (and desperately want not to understand) and get your hand slapped by the people you accused of being “accomplices” to a con job.
When you’ve demonstrably mis-stated the question, gotten the intellectual history completely wrong, missed most of the policy history, ignored almost all of the empirical evidence, and misquoted key implementation details of the idea you’re attacking, prudence generally counsels backing off.
Alas, as Talleyrand said of the restored Bourbons, some researchers learn nothing (about the world) and forget nothing (about their prejudices).
Of course, those are merely general remarks. As an interested party, it would be out of place for me to comment on the rejoinder (pp. 75ff)Â to the (admirably restrained critique) (pp. 71ff) to an attack (pp. 57ff) on the idea of swift-certain-fair sanctioning systems (mislabeled “HOPE”) from advocates of the competing assess-and-treat paradigm, incorporating the Risk-Needs-Responsivity assessment process. So I will outsource the commentary to the colleague who alerted me that Â the journal Federal Probation had finally published all three items. He summarizes the rejoinder:
The HOPE research is OK so far as it goes (we canâ€™t find any fault with the conduct of the Hawaii Randomized Controlled Trial [RCT]), but it has limited external validity, and there is other research suggesting that threats have limited capacity to influence behavior. And here is a long list of bad things that will probably happen if HOPE is widely adopted.
Meanwhile, we know that RNR works, because we know that it works.
RCTs? We ainâ€™t got no RCTs. Â We donâ€™t need no RCTs. We donâ€™t have to show you any stinkinâ€™ RCTs.
I will note, as a mere matter of objectively checkable fact, that the rejoinder addresses none of the substantive points in the critique; rather than either acknowledging or challenging the evidence and analysis that make nonsense of the claims in the original article, the rejoinder merely restates those claims at a higher pitch. Â And it ignores the suggestion in the critique tht Â the difference of opinion might be adjudicated by doing an experiment, with one group of offenders assigned to RNR and the other to SCF. Â That might suggest – to someone with a suspicious mind – that the authors share my view about how that experiment would come out.
As Upton Sinclair remarked, it is remarkably hard to get someone to understand a point when his (or her) paycheck (or academic reputation) depends on not understanding it.