Home > Environment > Science and magic

Science and magic

June 27th, 2003

Jason Soon links to this piece by Nicholas Thompson making the point the Republicans are losing the support of scientists, essentially because they ignore expert scientific opinion whenever it doesn’t give them the answers they want (Jack Strocchi also alerted me to this). This blog is running a few months ahead of the Zeitgeist on this one. Back in March, I observed

it’s striking that there is now almost no academic discipline whose conclusions can be considered acceptable to orthodox Republicans. The other social sciences (sociology, anthropology, political science) are even more suspect than economics. The natural sciences are all implicated in support for evolution against creationism, and for their conclusions about global warming, CFCs and other environmental threats. Even the physicists have mostly been sceptical about Star Wars and its offspring. And of course the humanities are beyond the pale.

Of course the same is true in Australia, most notably with respect to the global warming ‘sceptics’ (more accurately described as credulous believers in the handful of scientific Pollyannas who tell them wha they want to hear) of the Lavoisier Group. And even creationism is now finding a home among the Quadrant group, though people like McGuinness would no doubt take some sort of Straussian line on this that it’s good for ordinary folk to believe in the literal truth of the Bible, even though sophisticates like Paddy are above such nonsense.

Categories: Environment Tags:
  1. June 28th, 2003 at 01:18 | #1

    Not all the irratioanlism is on the Right. The Cultural Left believe in the grossly irrational relativist/subjectivist doctrines of post-modernism. Many Ecological Leftists subcribe to superstitions about Gaia and harbour anti-nuclear prejudice.

    In general, the Economic Left tends to be rationlist, although a little archaic, in both Culture and Economics.

    The Cultural Right has a strong rationalist core, given the Republican tendencies of most engineers, at least in the US. Economists, the best social scientists, tend to be mildly sympathetic to the mainstream Economic Right (which puts them in the Democratic Leadership Council spectrum of ideology).

  2. June 28th, 2003 at 11:06 | #2

    Actually, Pr Q, you have channelled the bloggeist with eerie prescience.
    Here is the dogged Calpundit’stake on this process.
    He links to this article on the Bush admins politicised tampering with the results of the EPA’s GLobal Warming surveys.

    I think that the Republican’s science problem is not due to theology ie religious doctrine, but to ideology ie political doctrine.
    The basic principles of which are the Rovian Mayberry-Machivellian ones. Ex-Official DiIulio is quoted as telling Esquire:

    There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus…What you’ve got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.

    They are not anti-truth, they are pro-power.

  3. June 28th, 2003 at 17:09 | #3

    >>The Cultural Right has a strong rationalist core, given the Republican tendencies of most engineers, at least in the US

    These engineers are probably Eisenhower type Republicans i.e. they identify with the Republicans because they like lower taxes and balanced budgets. I wouldn’t call them the ‘Cultural Right’ unless all you mean is people who believe that Western civilisation is better than anything else that we’ve come up with – but I wouldn’t identify that as a Right position.

  4. homer Paxton
    June 28th, 2003 at 21:56 | #4

    It is not ordinary people who believe in the inerracy of the bible but the weak, the base and the foolish as Paul wrote.

  5. Factory
    June 28th, 2003 at 23:56 | #5

    “The Cultural Right has a strong rationalist core, given the Republican tendencies of most engineers, at least in the US.”
    Hmm well I offer up Slashdot as counter evidence, but maybe software engineers are the exception to the rule.

  6. Jon H
    June 29th, 2003 at 11:21 | #6

    “The Cultural Right has a strong rationalist core, given the Republican tendencies of most engineers, at least in the US.”

    There’s a usenet axiom that creationists are often engineers. I forget the name (it has a name, like Godwin’s Law does).

  7. John
    June 29th, 2003 at 16:40 | #7

    To clarify, Homer, I’m not asserting that ordinary folk actually believe in biblical inerrancy, but this is the kind of belief encouraged by Straussians following Machiavelli and a host of theorists of ‘politic religion’.

  8. Steve Edwards
    June 30th, 2003 at 03:53 | #8

    “I wouldn’t call them the ‘Cultural Right’ unless all you mean is people who believe that Western civilisation is better than anything else that we’ve come up with – but I wouldn’t identify that as a Right position.”

    It shouldn’t be a “Right” position only, but the way things are going in our unversities it will be by default.

  9. June 30th, 2003 at 15:25 | #9

    Machiavelli was himslelf a humanist in practice and an atheist in temperament.
    He supported religion only for utilitarian reasons – it reduced security and surveillance costs for the public law & order-enforcing central administration.

  10. a different chris
    July 1st, 2003 at 02:02 | #10

    We should back off from the attempt to extrapolate stereotypes (he’s conservative because he thinks this and she’s liberal because she thinks that) and look at the general plight of scientists and even engineers in the USA.

    On the cultural front, I could make the cheap observation that if your dad is a washed up incoherent rock star he’s more likely to meet the President than if Dad’s a dean of whatever at a major college. But celebrity-worship really isn’t limited to America or even the West, so that’s not so big a deal. There is a harder-to-pin down but I’m convinced very real disrespect of the technical career path. It’s a lot of work, and you wind up with a job that you never see George Clooney play on TV. The best proof I have so far is that inconcievable dropoff of US college graduates in Comp Sci and EE. People should have started flooding those majors in the late 80′s, but they didn’t and now we basically import the majority of our students in those fields.

    But the economic trends are giving the pocket-protector crowd a rough going, too. The neo-lib wave of corporate management just isn’t conducive to real scientific work. Ten years ago I myself thought, as the mega-corporations swallowed up all before them, that it wouldn’t be too bad as we would return to the huge labs of the first half of the 20th century, where GE, IBM, Bell and Westinghouse funded brilliant pure research labs without a second thought.

    But the combination of stockholder-mania and the cult of the CEO has just blown that hope to bits. Not only do the stockholders have a very low tolerance for the long-term coddling a top lab needs, but a lot of the money that could have gone for research went right into the CEO’s pocket.

    And it just got worse: the cut on dividends taxes will be like blood in the water to sharks. Fights over distribution of profits will be brutally ugly. Microsoft is sitting on 50 billion dollars cash- imagine if Bill Gates fell over dead tomorrow?? Everybody’s going to want a chunk of that nearly tax-free cash.

    Lesser CEO’s won’t have to die to see their future ripped out of their hands.

    So scientists and engineers are going to be forced to take a long, hard look at a more socialistic form of government or risk losing the careers they love.

Comments are closed.