The Real War On Science

Submitted by: jayme21 9 months ago in Science

Bet you thought this was going to be 5Cats, didn't you IAB :P

This article, written by John Tierney, focuses on what the Left has done to halt the progress of science. Can we for once try and engage with the points in the article, provide evidence to contradict Tierney's statements (if you disagree with them), and not just insult and recriminate each other?

Here's the first half of the article. Read the rest at the City Journal.

My liberal friends sometimes ask me why I don’t devote more of my science journalism to the sins of the Right. It’s fine to expose pseudoscience on the left, they say, but why aren’t you an equal-opportunity debunker? Why not write about conservatives’ threat to science?

My friends don’t like my answer: because there isn’t much to write about. Conservatives just don’t have that much impact on science. I know that sounds strange to Democrats who decry Republican creationists and call themselves the “party of science.” But I’ve done my homework. I’ve read the Left’s indictments, including Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science. I finished it with the same question about this war that I had at the outset: Where are the casualties?

Where are the scientists who lost their jobs or their funding? What vital research has been corrupted or suppressed? What scientific debate has been silenced? Yes, the book reveals that Republican creationists exist, but they don’t affect the biologists or anthropologists studying evolution. Yes, George W. Bush refused federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but that hardly put a stop to it (and not much changed after Barack Obama reversed the policy). Mooney rails at scientists and politicians who oppose government policies favored by progressives like himself, but if you’re looking for serious damage to the enterprise of science, he offers only three examples.

All three are in his first chapter, during Mooney’s brief acknowledgment that leftists “here and there” have been guilty of “science abuse.” First, there’s the Left’s opposition to genetically modified foods, which stifled research into what could have been a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Second, there’s the campaign by animal-rights activists against medical researchers, whose work has already been hampered and would be devastated if the activists succeeded in banning animal experimentation. Third, there’s the resistance in academia to studying the genetic underpinnings of human behavior, which has cut off many social scientists from the recent revolutions in genetics and neuroscience. Each of these abuses is far more significant than anything done by conservatives, and there are plenty of others. The only successful war on science is the one waged by the Left.

The danger from the Left does not arise from stupidity or dishonesty; those failings are bipartisan. Some surveys show that Republicans, particularly libertarians, are more scientifically literate than Democrats, but there’s plenty of ignorance all around. Both sides cherry-pick research and misrepresent evidence to support their agendas. Whoever’s in power, the White House plays politics in appointing advisory commissions and editing the executive summaries of their reports. Scientists of all ideologies exaggerate the importance of their own research and seek results that will bring them more attention and funding.

But two huge threats to science are peculiar to the Left—and they’re getting worse.
There are 51 comments:
Male 684
Interesting I've seen a few reasoned responses e.g normalfreak2  for instance but a lot of partisan crap not really ngaging with what was said but just who and where e.g markust1234. Well done IAB lived upto expectation
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Male 1,416
overnment funding of science is the big dog in the room.  Wrestling back science research funding from the moonbats, and handing it out only to quality peer reviewed researchers will go a long way to shut down the moonbat leftists conspiracy to hijack the field.  Scientific research SHOULD include controversial topics...and when those topics are systematically ridiculed and the researchers doing them treated like lepers...then science stops being righteous, and instead becomes a political arm of the leftists or rightists.  

It deperately needs a reset.  What if Einstein was ridiculed, pilloried, and ignored by the scientific community for his outlandish claims???
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Male 1,511
I just hate the business practices of companies producing GMOs rather than the GMOs themselves. 
We've been genetically altering plants for centuries through selective breeding, cross-breeding and other forms of manipulation. GMOs are just the next logical step.
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Male 40,772
squidbush That is... highly accurate and intelligent! 
Thx Squidbush, have a cookie!
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Male 7,942
GMO hatred isn't just a "leftwing thing".  I have entire tea party facebook groups that hate GMO as much as some liberals like Bill Maher.  But there are other "liberals" like Bill Nye that think GMO's are the right thing to do.  Animal rights activities aren't necessarily leftist but in general will be more left than right.  The author of the piece goes into  a ton about how climate science is false, mentioning low salt diets were the work of lefitsts I mean he's really stretching on some of these.   How do we get stem cell research resistance as a "left wing thing"?  


The author could have simply said 

To preserve their integrity, scientists should avoid politics and embrace the skeptical rigor that their profession requires. They need to start welcoming conservatives and others who will spot their biases and violate their taboos. 

Then left it at that and I would have agreed.   But then he had to go play let's stretch as many unconnected lines as possible and relate them to the valid things that "leftists" do abuse science with.


The Author asks what casualties has Conservatives done to science?  He hasn't been paying attention if he has to ask that question.  Just like liberals would be blind if they didn't see the harm of anti vaccines/GMO's groups pose within their ranks.  I think richanddead says it best.  This is a bi-partisan issue that can be corrupted by the influence of money.
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Male 1,249
Can I get a tl;dr? This thing reads like a nose bleed.
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Male 4,950
lalapancakes I'll try. It's a lengthy response to a lengthy book, so there's no way this can be done in a sentence or two. Here goes:

American conservatives have their noses out of joint about Chris Mooney's excellent book The Republican War on Science (2005). In response, John Tierney argues that conservatives aren't waging war on science anywhere near the degree that liberals are, which is a 180-degree turn from the book's thesis. To make his case, he cites several issues that he associates with liberals: anti-GMO stances; campaigns against medical and product testing on animals; and an aversion to race-based investigations into intelligence and other personality traits. He also throws in China's one-child policy into the mix and blames that on liberals, too. He also talks at length about confirmation bias and groupthink, arguing that they're more of a problem with the Left since liberal scientists outnumber conservative scientists.

Many of the ideas presented in this essay are actually covered in Mooney's book, which is a lot more even-handed than Tierney's review.
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Male 4,950
squrlz4ever OK, so LaLa won't read my TLDR, apparently because it's too long. Can someone write a TLDR for my TLDR? Thanks.
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Male 1,249
squrlz4ever I read it. Thanks! So he's a perfect spokesman for the style of corporation that makes out well off of genocide and war. Sounds original. 
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Male 4,950
lalapancakes Sorry. I think I was getting cranky because someone hasn't been checking her email. :)
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Female 4,440
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Male 51
DDT ban- poor people suffering and dying every day   hello
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Male 4,950
boreddaddy DDT was banned worldwide for agricultural uses in 2001. It is still permitted and used in countries where malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses are a problem. In short, DDT's serious environmental risks and human benefits were weighed and a reasonable compromise was arrived at.
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Male 1,317
squrlz4ever DDT is an incredibly effective insecticide.  But like so many other things that are incredibly effective at what they do (PCBs, Freon, Agent Orange) they are also very good at killing their creators and the environment.
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Male 4,950
Woodyville06 Well said.  :)
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Male 2,637
'Only those liberal hippies oppose things like GMO's, animal testing, etc.

Conservatives have done little to harm science. So what if they also do little to help it?' :P
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Male 4,950
This is a conservative reaction to an excellent and eye-opening book, Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science (2005). If you haven't read Mooney's book, you'd be far better off investing your time there than in this derivative response. Other books worthy of consideration would be Thomas Kuhn's landmark work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962)--incredibly, Tierney never makes mention of it here--and Michael Mann's The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (2012).
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Female 8,058
From the perspective of the UK it is the encroaching idea that universities should be self funding- they sell themselves for money and sadly the funding is only to be had if it is for commercial gain- neo-liberal economics, which infests both side of the divide- Blair pushed the Labour party into it, corbyn wants out but for obvious reasons gets such bad press he's fighting an uphill battle. Research MUST be funded freely from taxes- of it only proves what the hig bidders wish it to prove.
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86
madduck As someone in the UK myself I think that Unis aren't the solution. I think that further education and our educational path doesn't serve the creatives among us as best it should.

I have a high school eduction, I didn't finish college and never could go to university because I just couldn't deal with it. I - hated - it. 

But the software I wrote controls CCTV cameras on petrol station forecourts for people like BP.

I proved myself by doing what I said I could do. Not by learning things I already knew and writing fifty pages of bullshit on something no-one will ever read.

Standardised education as a view to creating a better future through our children is a fallacy. 

I think - correct me if I am wrong - if I see someone who has an aptitude for something they should do that.  Forever.  Because it's obvious that is what they are good at. 

This whole "create a generation of standardised clones" is a step back in my opinion. 
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Male 684
johnbuchanan As someone with a Law degree but in an entirely different field. The problem with University education is you now have the "uni experience" and too many doing it. Society is being expected to fund teens to go find themselves have fun and grow before entering the adult world.  I looked at the chances I'm a lower socio-economic background with an above average law degree and no connections. I didn't stand much chance of a well paid law career. I either needed to be especially stellar or have the connections. When everyone has a degree no one does. Too many degrees are covering people with genuine talent who then need to go further masters etc. My experience in work is jobs that could be done with secondary education are now done with degree and it's a shame a lot of debt but you now need it to get a job a lot of the time. 

That and society still looks down on people who do practical work and we have an appalling record on apprenticeships etc.
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Male 4,950
john-buchanan I don't know where you went to school, but the schools I attended bent over backward to inculcate critical thinking. If anything, my undergrad school may have erred on the side of encouraging nonconformity (but we had some amazing Halloween parties). I agree that any college or university that's training young people to become, first and foremost, good employees who don't think for themselves is failing in its most important mission.
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Male 287
Squrlz4Ever 

"Critical thinking" in my country was basically taught like this: Look at the people behind the source.

For them, there was nothing else. In their view being critical was essentially accepting anything by established media and dismissing anything by alternative media. In fact they were teaching the complete opposite of critical thinking, because they tell us to look at the messenger rather than the message.

You see this blindness among people who comment here (like Markust123). Rather than actually reading the whole thing and refuting whatever arguments might exist, they insist on bringing up the background of a person the first thing they do.

People are brainwashed tools.
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Male 4,950
Fojos My undergraduate college, in its marketing, used to give an example of the critical thinking it tried to instill. I forget the exact wording, but the gist was "Our professors teach you not only to critique the information in a news story, but also to analyze why it's being publilshed now and by whom it's being presented--to address the unspoken issues behind the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How."

Rather than encourage a dismissal of views outside the mainstream, which is what you seem to have experienced, my school did a pretty good job.

Here's an anecdote for you. In a History of Astronomy class I took in my sophomore year, I had an exam with a bonus question. Unfortunately, I had not read the text that the professor based the bonus question on. In my hubris, I decided to attempt an answer anyway, figuring if it was a bonus question, there was nothing to lose, but some possible points to gain. So I wrote an answer full of platitudes, generalities, and clichéd thinking.

When I got the exam back, I received a good grade for the main portion of the test. But that was eclipsed by the professor's two-page typewritten response to my bonus question essay. The professor's critique was longer than my essay itself and it was a no-holds-barred takedown. He said my head was filled with complacency and assumptions--and that there was precious little time for me to wake up, open my mind, and not become a smug, prattling Babbitt.

Ow. I can still remember the sting of those comments. I wanted to explain to the prof that I was simply trying for extra points (as if that would excuse the sloppy, incorrect assumptions in my answer; it didn't), but never mustered the courage. It was a seminal moment in my undergrad education and the experience, as painful as it was, probably did me a lot of good.

I'm tempted to reveal the school, but won't for anonymity's sake. It's a fine school that I was lucky to attend and I appreciate that more and more as the years go by.
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Male 4,099
After reading both the whole and the presented article I would have to agree with his sentiment that politics does invade science, although I would also say that it doesn't invaded only those aspects which involve politics yet any sphere which holds money is vulnerable to partisanship. 
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Male 5,027
An anti-left article printed in a conservative think tank's journal. Shocking.

When a Democratic president is in power, funding for science increases. When a Republic president is in power, funding for science decreases. That is the undeniable truth. Our current president goes so far in encouraging the growth of future scientists he holds a science fair at the White House.
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Male 8,560
markust123 It's not that cut and dried. It's more of WHAT science is funded under each.  Libs tend to fund research that feels god, but is usually crap (example: all that money wasted in green energy...).  The last time NASA's budget was increased was under Reagan and Bush I.  Obama cut NASA's budget.
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86
markust123 Why do you consider this an "anti-left" article? 

It's not really anti-left... It's anti-something else. 

I was chatting in another thread about this... Same exact thing. This isn't anti-left or right. It's anti-science. 

You don't have polarised views on this subject based on political leaning... Unless you're an idiot. 
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Male 5,027
john-buchanan Science itself isn't political but the funding, or lack there of, sure is. 
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Male 40,772
markust123 AGW is all politics. It is not actually science. And since ALL the funding goes to pro-AGW projects exclusively? I think we know which side supports science and which supports political goals...
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Male 4,950
5cats "ALL the funding goes to pro-AGW projects exclusively." I don't see NASA funding the work of the flat-Earthers nor do I see the FDA spending money on firms developing miracle-cure magnetic bracelets. You spend money for scientific research on reputable work; what you don't do is throw it down a rathole.

Those who claim that humans are not responsible for the run-up in global temperatures have had 30 years to identify their alternate cause. They've come up with nothing. Nada. Zero. Not for lack of trying: "It's the Sun! It's cosmic rays! It's the ozone! It's the wobbling of the Earth! It's the end of the Ice Age!" (No, no, no, no, and no.) Your team of ideologues and right-wing, oil-industy propagandists have failed to produce anything significant that's withstood peer review. You still don't seem to get this, unfortunately.
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Male 4,099
squrlz4ever: "failed to produce anything significant that's withstood peer review"

http://z4.invisionfree.com/Popular_Technology/ar/t3641_0.htm
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Male 40,772
squrlz4ever Your comment is made of pure bullshit Mr.Squrlz, not one iota of intelligent response required from you, eh? 
Change the subject, attack the strawman, make false accusations... anything except reply to the comment I made!
Good thing the climate never changed before Humans came along, eh? Nope, not once!
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Male 1,687
squrlz4ever How can you get pear review when if you appose the so called settled science you are brow bet in to submission, the earth has been getting warmer for 10,000 years fact, the sun was at a all time high 20 years ago fact. does the earth wobble yes again fact so are you telling me that all these things should just be thrown out as causes of a global increase in the temp. Or the fact that the global temp did not go up for 14 years or that all the computer modals that the were used to predict the temp increases were wrong usually so wrong to be funny, the temp should be 6 or 7 degrees higher according to these. When mount Pinatubo blew in injected more carbon dioxide than the entire man made ingress per year in three days. So in 40 years we have effected the earth so much that we have some how broken it I doubt it. Taking normal steps to decrees pollution is only good studentship of the earth but blaming all the heat rise on us is just bad science.  
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Male 4,950
casaledana Casa (or is it Dana? Not sure what I should call you; throw a squirrel a nut here), I've been over this ground so many times before on IAB that I'll hope you'll excuse me if I don't invest five or six hours in an extended debate. Over the years, I've spent probably more than 200 hours discussing and debating climate change on IAB, and I seriously doubt I've ever changed the mind of a single person who thinks AGW is nonsense or some kind of conspiracy.

My takeaway from the experience is this: All the scientific evidence in the world is meaningless when a person believes that AGW is somehow counter to his or her ideology.

All that said, I'll address your points (and then move on).

1. "The Earth has been getting warmer for 10,000 years." Wrong. The best data show that global temperatures were on a gradual decline before the dramatic and rapid rise of the past 100 years (see chart below). But there's a more important thing you need to understand. Global warming or global cooling, unless caused by an exogenous shock, takes place very, very slowly: On the timescale of tens of thousands of years. The warming the planet is experiencing now is dramatically faster: it's on the timescale of decades.



What are these exogenous shocks I'm talking about? A massive meteorite crashing into the surface of the Earth. A massive eruption by a supervolcano the size of Texas. Or the massive injection of 200 million years of sequestered carbon back into the atmosphere by man in just 100 years, the geological blink of an eye.

2. "The Sun was at an all-time high 20 years ago." Wrong. Solar irradiance, which I have to presume is what you're talking about, has been more or less steady for the past 100 years; over the past 20 years it's been in decline (see chart below). But you're missing something fundamental here: The effect of these increases and decreases in solar irradiance on climate are miniscule. Over the long-term (and I'm talking billions of years--not decades), the Sun will increase its irradiance as it nears the end of its life. By the time that results in any noticeable warming on Earth, we'll all be extinct or will have moved on to some other solar system.



3. "Does the earth wobble? Yes, again. Fact!" What you are referring to (and what I was referring to in my original post) was precession, one of the three cycles famously identified as having an effect on Earth's climate by the Serbian scientist Milutin Milanković (the other two being axial tilt and orbital eccentricity). To attempt to blame a rapid run-up of global temperatures on the Milankovich Cycles, as the AGW skeptics have, is absurd. Per my response in #1 (above), these are cycles that take tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years to play out. Those scientists at NASA who know the Milankovich Cycles best say that they are currently having a slight cooling effect on the Earth, not a warming effect. So, no: It's not the wobbling of the Earth.

4. "Or the fact that the global temp did not go up for 14 years." Ah yes, this old chestnut. For 20 years now, AGW skeptics have been playing the cherry-picking game, exclaiming that AGW has been "busted" every time there's a year that wasn't hotter than some preceding year. (This has been more difficult lately, as the Earth has experienced three record-breaking years for global heat in a row: First 2014 was the hottest year on record; then 2015 smashed that record; now 2016 is likely to break 2015's record.) What the skeptics don't grasp (or willfully ignore) is that global warming isn't, to borrow a term from calculus, monotonic. Instead, it sawtooths up and down. Ergo, to understand long-term trends, you need to look at the full picture--not crop out a five- or ten-year portion of the whole. Take a look at the chart below and I'm confident you'll agree that global temperatures, despite the occasional ups-and-downs, are clearly rising from about 1910 onward.



5. "Or the fact that ... all the computer models that were used to predict the temp increases were wrong--usually so wrong to be funny. The temp should be 6 or 7 degrees higher according to these." Wrong again, Casa. (Readers: Are you detecting a pattern here?) The first thing to understand is that there are literally tens of thousand of global warming models out there. Some are run to determine most-likely scenarios; others are run to play out improbabilities. (As part of various citizen science efforts, I've actually run a few climate models on the very computer I'm typing this comment on now, by the way.) What the conservative skeptics invariably do is they seize on one of the highly improbable models that was run, note that it was wrong (no duh), and then publish mainstream press hit-pieces with headlines such as "The Ridiculous Climate Models: An Example of How Wrong AGW Science Is." That's a fundamentally dishonest approach.

What's an appropriate way to judge the worth of the climate models? Take a look at the models that were agreed upon by climate scientists as being most predictive. Those models were published in the five assessment reports of the IPCC: in 1990, 1995, 2001, 2007, and 2013. All five of the model projections in those reports have done a very good job of predicting temperature rise that followed. Below is the model-based prediction from 1990. The blue line is what the model predicted; the pink line is what NASA observed. The prediction made 25 years ago had us within one-tenth of a degree of where we actually are now. There is no laughable 6- or 7-degree disparity, your claim notwithstanding.



Casa, I could go on but I've already put in forty-five minutes correcting misinformation and I really want to watch an episode of "Mad Men" on Netflix.

If you wouldn't mind a suggestion, I'd encourage you to get your science from reputable sources and not from The Daily Mail, Breitbart, or any number of conservative anti-AGW blogs out there. The source that I most often recommend is NASA's own climate change website, located here: http://climate.nasa.gov/

Thanks.
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Female 172
squrlz4ever Damn, Squrlz that was awesome.  Kudos.
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Male 554
squrlz4ever Thanks Squrlz.  That was educational.  You should submit that as an OP, then maybe you could link back to it every time this comes up.
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Male 7,942
squrlz4ever Excellent overview.  I don't understand how anyone looks at that and goes "AGW doesn't exist". 
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Male 40,772
casaledana Shhh! Rabid squrlz are dangerous creatures! They attack your nutz if you threaten their delusional beliefs with things like facts and reality! Squrlz only believe in fiction and lies!

Protect your nutz! Just tell the squrlz what he likes to hear :-p
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Male 4,950
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Male 40,772
Nice! 
And yes, all those "IAB Geniuses" who claim they can "Spot a 5Cats Post from a mile away" are strangely silent when they are wrong, eh? Lolz!
It isn't "right wing conservatives" calling for the government to JAIL those who disagree with them over science. That would be the AGW Zealots. And yes, there's thousands of them who honestly believe ANY Skeptic deserves to be not only silenced by force? But imprisoned.
Only one side claims "the science is settled" and only one side has been proven to actively engage in data manipulation, falsifying data entirely, and illegally conspiring to silence anyone who disagrees. At least in the AGW area, there's plenty of it.
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86
5Cats science is never settled. If you consider the science to be settled you've given up. 
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Male 40,772
john-buchanan Yes, I'm quoting hundreds of pro-AGW supporters dude, I'm mocking them. Just in case that wasn't clear, lolz!
The one side that supports "the science is settled" is the hard-left, pro-AGW dirt-bags. Their 'theory' is ALL politics and ZERO science. Since they have no facts? They make up fake data & etc. It's deplorable, really.
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Male 3,410
5cats fake data like the clintons preteen sex farms in the middle of the ocean, yeah deplorable. and humans dumping tons of shit into the ocean and atmosphere and there being no ramifications for such actions. oh no.. cause i heard from some guy who saw it on a blog ran by exxon mobil who heard from some coal ceo who says its hippie horseshit trying to take jobs away. 
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Male 40,772
rumham No, fuckwits, it was  FRIEND of the Clintons, for many years. He also ran a prostitution (massage parlors) ring in then USA featuring underage workers. He owned a private island where he brought underage girls, some by force, and the Johns to fuck them. Bill visited there 3x at least. These are all facts. He was tried and convicted, despite the (you guessed it!) FBI trying to quash all charges...
You really have no clue, do you... how pathetic. Want proof?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Epstein
That's a starting point, go look it up, and then go fuck yourself, troll.

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Male 3,410
5cats i was talking about the real science of climate change. the sex thing is how people like you devert from actual conversation about real issues about well anything. in this case its global warming cause whatever you feel you aligned with is the only one path. but you're foolish to think dumping toxic shit everywhere is great for the earth.
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Male 40,772
rumham NOTICE how he accuses US of "talking about sex" when HE is the one who brought it up!
We would NOT be talking about it, except that YOU ARE doing so! 
As he's fat fucking lying... just like every other time he opens his fuck-hole of a mouth...

POLUTION TOXINS AND AGW HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. What a tool! Total troll melt-down because he was proven to have lied... he HAS TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT like a 9 year old with hi hand stuck inside the cookie jar...
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Male 40,772
rumham HAHAHAHA! Fuck you little boy, now shut up, adults are trying to hold a conversation.
Caught with his lie? He.... changes the subject! And attacks some more. THIS IS TROLLING and it is all this fuck-tard ever does. So fuck off!
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Male 4,950
5cats Yeeeeah. ~rolls eyes~
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Male 40,772
squrlz4ever Them's fightin woids!


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Male 1,746
Umm, hasn't this been going on for centuries? What's new?
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86
Science is science.  If you aren't advocating for going snatching homeless people off the street then I don't see the harm. 

I will say though that diversification of our food via unreglauted (or "regualted honest mate") GMO is a bad idea. It is. 

If the science is there and long term effects are known and don't pose a threat then fine. But thrusting the GMO stuff ahead at the speed they have which, I suspect, is entirely down to huge monetary benefit for massive corps..? Not sold.

Might be good long term, might end up in a whole pile of shite because of it. Keep the natural stuff and run the test, fine, but going balls deep, unprotected so early on really does run the risk of getting crabs. 

Stem cells - won't get any argument there. DO IT. Do it now and push it... No brainer.
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