Republican War on Science: Science Fights Back

Via discussions at Wikipedia, this editorial in the Chemical & Engineering News, weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, The editorial notes

There really is a right-wing effort in the U.S. to discredit widely accepted science, technology, and medical information.

prominently represented by Fox News “junk science” correspondent Steven Milloy,

the tireless antiscience polemicist who started out as an apologist for the tobacco industry and spends most of his time these days claiming that all climate-change research is, of course, junk science. It’s a catchy little phrase that Milloy applies to, well, anything that doesn’t match his right-wing concept of reality

as well as those of Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (responsible for the original Oregon petition much beloved of our local delusionists) and the Journal of American Physicians & Surgeons (JAPS), the source of the most recent version of the petition.

What’s striking about this is that, as scientists go, chemists are not exactly renowned as radical extremists, and not many members of ACS would be involved in climate research. Recognition that the political right is at war with science is spreading beyond those most directly affected (such as researchers in climate change, biology, and epidemiology) to the broader community of scientists (and even, more recently engineers).

In the short run, the political costs of a war on science aren’t that great. There just aren’t enough scientists to make up a big voting bloc. But science, while fallible, is the most reliable source of truth we have, and most people know this. A party at war with science is, in the end, at war with truth, and truth will out.

35 thoughts on “Republican War on Science: Science Fights Back

  1. Ian Gould Says: June 13th, 2008 at 12:52 am

    If you have to go back a minimum of 11 years to pad out your list of the “most recent� victims of political correctness it suggests that perhaps it’s not as big a problem as you are implying.

    So its safe assume that the treatment that Cultural Leftists meted out to Murray, Summers and Watson never really happened. No war on science to see hear folks, just keep movin’…

    The Cultural Left’s taboo on the anthropological basis of social stratification is a big enough problem for even Mooney, a fairly committed, but scientific, Leftist, to acknowledge it. This is not a small issue, it underlies the entire “rainbow coalition” identity politics ideology,.

    Mooney’s phrase “war on science” has simply been picked up by from the “science wars” which the Cultural Left waged from the late seventies through late nineties, until the Republican’s got in on the act. But I can see from your response that this stuff has not registered on your radar, so maybe it never happened or has just slipped down a memory hole..

    The [Republican Right] has always been at war with science. Since the beginning of your life, since the beginning of the Party, since the beginning of history, the war has continued without a break, always the same war. Do you remember that?

    Comrade O’Brien

  2. Marion Delgado Says: June 13th, 2008 at 5:29 am

    Steven Pinker was a poor choice for Mooney to cite. He’s a popularizer of radical sociobiology, not even a researcher or scholar. He’s one step up from being an anti-science right-wing crank himself…Pinker clearly sees science as being a political, lawyerly process, and has never bothered with evidence, research or even reason.

    Here is a biblio of Pinker’s articles (not books, which is his overwhelming priority). With titles like “Affectedness and Direct Objects: The role of Lexical Semantics in the Acquistion of Verb Arguement Structure” Cognition, 4, 153-195.(1991) and “Rules of Language” Science, 253, 530-535(1991) under his belt its easy to see how he has enjoyed a stellar career as an “anti-science right wing crank”.

    Marion Delgado Says:

    He disgraced himself in his polemical attacks on the late Stephen Jay Gould because, frankly,

    Gould, a seriously flawed genius, was no stranger to ideological hatchet jobs. His “mismeasure of man” was a particularly egregious and disgraceful attack on Jensen, at a time when that scholar regularly had to deal with death threats on account of his work. Pinker’s exchange with Gould was civil enough, by comparison.

    Marion Delgado Says:

    Surprisingly, he’s pushing an essentially police state approach now – that a strong state in terms of cops and soldiers is the only thing that allows people to live in peace – yet with unlimited and unregulated CORPORATE activity as a key ingredient. And he claims to find evidence for this fascist utopia being the human ideal in “human natureâ€? that only he and a few other radical ethologists can comprehend.

    I will not make specific comment on this spray, apart from noting that it is a diagnostic symptom of exactly the kind of ideological bullying that has given the Cultural Left the anti-scientific reputation it so richly deserves.

  3. Quite a few people in the thread above (Pinker, Gould, Wilson, Watson, Summers and, implicitly Herrnstein) share the following characteristics
    1. A well-deserved professional reputation for work in a narrowly-defined field relevant to debates about culture and evolution (language, snails, ants, DNA, macroeconomics)
    2. A willingness to make broad claims about these big questions on the basis of limited or non-existent evidence.
    There are of course a much larger number of people who display characteristic #2, but not #1 (Murray for example). This gave rise to plenty of heat but not much light in the second half of last century, and Jack S is still warming himself by the glowing embers.

    But none of this is remotely comparable to the lying-for-hire of Milloy, Seitz, Singer, and similar shills, or the outright lunacy of OISM.

  4. A tilo, but perhaps a useful one. Somewhere up there jack strocchi clamis that “the US constitution mandates “the pursuit of happinessâ€?.” It does not.

    This is a term from the Declaration of Independence, which claims as a matter of natural rights that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    and goes on to say that governments are established to secure these rights. We will postpone till later how a bunch of slaveholders could write that, but more to the lack of point (this is a tilo), when the current US government was established somewhat later, there is a preamble to the Constitution which sets forth WHY the government was being established

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    A fairly communitarian vision IEHO.

  5. A quick google on “rights” and “happiness”; it is not part of the US constitution but it does form part of various states legislature; along nwith the Bill of Rights it is used as part of a legal argument and has been included in judgements eg

    In my opinion, the statute, in its application to the case now presented, is an illegal interference with the liberty both of Mott and of Hooper, as well as an abridgement of the privileges, not of a foreign corporation, but of individual citizens of other states through whom the policy in question was obtained. ….Among the inalienable rights possessed by American citizens is, as Mr. Justice Field has said, ‘the right of men to pursue their happiness, by which is meant the right to pursue any lawful business or vocation in any manner not inconsistent with the equal rights of others, which may increase their prosperity or develop their faculties, so as to give to them their highest enjoyment.’ Butchers’ Union Slaughterhouse Co. v. Crescent City Live-Stock Landing Co.

  6. Re #29: Eli, I believe you’ll find that in the original it’s “bleffings.” 🙂

    Re #30: Perfect, Rog. That sort of reasoning is the first step toward the present commodification of happiness.

  7. I think much of this discussion misses the key point about the complexity of the climate debate. This is not just the truth versus the “Republican war on science”. There is an interesting article in the New York Review of Books by Freeman Dyson that is worth reading as are the two books reviewed.

    Warwick McKibbin

  8. Amusing that jack strocchi keeps talking about the “Cultural Left” without bothering to make clear what in the blazes he means by that phrase, and who are representative of this supposed “Cultural Left”.

    “More to the point, the US constitution mandates the ‘pursuit of happiness’. Sci-tech truth is the most efficacious means to promote material progress. So I dont see a party that retards sci-tech as going far in the US.”

    The erroneous claim aside… if anyone who thinks a few pieces of parchment are an indication of citizens’ voting preferences, then he’s obviously damaged up there.

    — bi, International Journal of Inactivism

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