The Republican War on Science

by Henry on August 30, 2005

A review of Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science available from Powells here, and Amazon (deprecated) here.

Books about the politics of science policy and other complicated policy areas have a hard time doing justice to the politics and the technical aspects both; they usually emphasize one and underplay the other. On the one hand, many journalistic accounts ham up the politics, and underplay the analysis, documenting the atrocities, one after another after another. Raw outrage supported by anecdotes gets partisans’ juices flowing, but it’s not likely to persuade the unpersuaded, or provide any good understanding of how to solve the problem (other than to kick the bums out, which is a start, but only a start). On the other, there are books that do an excellent job of discussing the underlying policy issues, but that lack political zing. Marion Nestle’s Food Politics is a good example; it provides a nuanced (and utterly damning) account of how the technical processes of food regulation have been corrupted by special interests, but it’s written by a policy wonk for policy wonks. There’s lots and lots of technical nitty gritty. The good news is that Chris Mooney’s book pulls off the difficult double act of talking about the politics in a fresh and immediate fashion while paying attention to the underlying issues of institutions and policies, and does it with considerable aplomb. The Republican War on Science is written with an eye for a good story, but it still has a real intellectual punch. There’s an underlying argument as to why the relationship between science and politics is in a parlous state. While I think that there’s an interesting piece missing from this argument (on which more below), it links the very different issues of science politics under the current administration (regulation, intelligent design, global warming, stem cell research) into a more-or-less coherent narrative.

One of the key moments in Mooney’s story – the tragedy of modern science policy – was the decision of the Gingrich Congress to get rid of Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which provided impartial assessments of scientific issues that had policy implications in the 1990s. As Mooney documents, there were a number of reasons for this. The Congress claimed to want to cut down on ‘government waste;’ getting rid of OTA was a cheap way to demonstrate their commitment to doing this. OTA sometimes took some time to deliver its reports (although it was widely lauded for doing an excellent job). But the key problem, in the eyes of Gingrich Republicans, was that its reports were often politically inconvenient. OTA had made a number of enemies during the Reagan era, by issuing reports which reflected the scientific consensus on the “Star Wars” program of missile defence – that it was unworkable, and stood a significant chance of “catastrophic failure.” That these claims were true did little to endear them to Star Wars’ defenders. The result was that some Republicans began to see OTA as an enemy stronghold. Mooney’s account makes it clear that this wasn’t an universal perception among Republicans – one moderate Republican congressman mounted a defence of OTA that might well have succeeded. Unfortunately, this last-ditch initiative failed.

Of course, the demise of OTA isn’t the only factor contributing to the corruption of science politics. However, it did play a quite significant role. OTA was the most important structure through which impartial science advice could enter the policy-making process, and commercial interests and religious fundamentalists have rushed to fill the vacuum that it left. While there were abuses of science under the Reagan administration, and indeed under previous Democratic administrations too, they weren’t systemic. As Mooney argues, they are now. To mention only some of the corruptions of the policy process that he discusses at length, the “Data Quality Act,” an Orwellian misnomer if ever there was one, tries to give business an effective veto power over scientific advice. Tobacco firms pioneered political attacks on “junk science” (i.e. science that suggested that smoking was bad for your health) and sought to magnify scientific uncertainty (in the words of a Brown and Williamson internal document, “doubt is our product”), writing a playbook that oil companies and others eagerly adopted. Senators like James Inhofe blatantly misrepresented and continue to misrepresent the scientific consensus on climate change so that they could claim that manmade global warming was a “hoax … perpetrated on the American people.” Bogus “sound science” arguments are used to attack the Endangered Species Act. George W. Bush makes patently incorrect claims about stem cell research in order to block federal funding. And so on.

A second, and even more troubling set of attacks go hand-in-hand with the corruption of the policy making process. It’s an attack on the basic norms of the scientific community – peer review, principled argument, and the reaching of (always tentative, always open to revision, but nonetheless real) consensus on issues where the science on a topic appears to be more or less settled. The “intelligent design” movement is a quite deliberate and conscious attempt to drive a wedge into this consensus (or the public perception of this consensus), to make it appear that there’s substantive scientific debate where there’s none. So too global warming contrarians, and, a couple of decades ago, people who denied the link between CFCs and ozone depletion. Websites like Steven Milloy’s junkscience.com exist in order to spread doubt, and to make non-debates appear to be real controversies.

Mooney’s book delivers a damning indictment precisely because it shows that these various abuses aren’t unrelated; they’re all symptoms of the same problem, a deep-seated corruption of the policy process, linked to an attack on the basic principles of scientific integrity. Disinterested scientific advice is increasingly marginalized both in policy and in public debate. Just last week, a New York Times journalist gave near-equal hearing to biologists and Intelligent Design cranks, defending this with the claim that it’s the controversy that’s newsworthy. The problem is deep-rooted; Mooney argues that the solution isn’t simply to turf Republicans out of office. Indeed, he claims that “[e]ncouraging the electoral success of Republican moderates with good credentials on science could potentially have just as constructive an effect as backing Democrats.” More fundamental institutional reforms are needed, both to the policy process and to the ways in which journalists and others report public debates on scientific issues.

This is a terrific book – I strongly recommend it. There is however, one piece of the puzzle that’s missing; Mooney does an excellent job of describing the consequences of the Republican relationship with science, but misses out on some of its causes and intellectual justifications. There’s a complex ideological knot there that needs to be unentangled. The ‘anti-science’ agenda of the modern right wing often goes hand-in-hand with an infatuation with the power of technology. Newt Gingrich is the prime example (Mooney more or less admits that there’s something he doesn’t get about Gingrich) – on the one hand presiding over the gutting of the infrastructure of science policy advice, but on the other pushing for a major increase in NSF funding. What gives? I think there’s an ideological substrate to a certain flavour of Republicanism, which finds its purest form in a certain kind of science fiction (the “competent man” SF of the 1940’s and 1950’s) and extropian varieties of libertarianism. It’s an implicit belief that science doesn’t impose limits, but instead provides tools, and that there’s no problem that can’t be solved by a combination of engineering prowess and can-do spirit. This combines a dislike for science, when it suggests, say, that the environment can be seriously degraded by human activity, with a boundless optimism in technology’s ability to solve whatever problems we face, and an underlying faith in a universe of effectively limitless resources. Thus the dislike for scientific consensus, whenever it says that we face constraints on our freedom of action, e.g. the faith that Star Wars would work, despite the many good reasons for believing that it wouldn’t. Hence also the refusal to believe that global warming is a real problem. This set of beliefs clearly has a strong elective affinity with pro-market values and is doubtless often highly convenient for business interests (hence the continued funding for Flack Central Station). But it can’t simply be reduced to a cynical smoke screen for material interests – there’s a real set of social beliefs there. Indeed, it’s a set of beliefs which is sometimes justified in practice – we do often underestimate the ability of human ingenuity to solve problems. However, in the end of the day it’s based on faith (in the boundless powers of human creativity) rather than science; there are material limits to our powers, even if we may sometimes be mistaken about where those limits lie. This secular religion – which has far fewer followers than religious fundamentalism but rather more intellectual coherence – helps explain the ideological staying power of the anti-science tendency in the modern Republican movement.

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1

P ONeill 08.30.05 at 12:56 pm

Is much of the book devoted to social sciences as opposed to “hard science”? In one sense, the War on Science is easier to document for the latter, where there is a clearer division between generally accepted theories amongst experts versus cranks and charlatans and the special interests who hire them. But it’s in the social sciences, especially economics, where the Republicans have played on the “he said, he said” tendencies of the media for years. Opinions differ on self-financing tax cuts. Opinions differ on the mechanics of the Social Security system. Opinions differ on shape of earth. So anyway, interested to hear if Mooney gets into this.

2

Barry 08.30.05 at 12:56 pm

A lot of the conflict can be explained by the fact that technology and science are two different (albeit related) things. A government could, for example, reject a branch of physics due to its connection with a despised religious minority/anti-tradition implications, while funding rocket technology.

3

Steve LaBonne 08.30.05 at 1:00 pm

This secular religion – which has far fewer followers than religious fundamentalism but rather more intellectual coherence – helps explain the ideological staying power of the anti-science tendency in the modern Republican movement.

The unfortunate thing, of course, is that these two apparently strange bedfellows can cooperate very effectively with one another on an anti-science agenda, the fundies providing the foot soldiers as it were.

4

Matt Daws 08.30.05 at 1:20 pm

To me, your last paragraph sums up something which has been bothering me for a while, in an excellent way. Arguing about climate change with many right-wingers in the UK, they often eventually concede that climate change is happening, and that it’s caused by humans. However, they then take an incredibly agressive “anti-Kyoto” position, claiming instead that we simply need to carry on exactly as we are doing, and that technology will come up with e.g. future sources of energy, ways to mitigate climate change etc. etc. It’s exactly as you say: a real distrust of science when it opposes views one has, but also a real faith that we *will*, say, be able to get a hydrogen economy going, despite all the evidence being that it’ll be incredibly hard to do.

Does Mooney address the ultimate consequences of this sort of policy towards science? That is, will we end up with the US acting in Lysenko-like way: in some ways, maybe such a catastrophic failure of policy would wake people up to the problem.

5

Glenn Bridgman 08.30.05 at 1:29 pm

You can trace it back even further than that, back to the essential conflict between the Enlightenment liberal ethos and positivism. The “competent man” ideology is the manifestation of this conflict in Whiggery(to crib from Hartz, since I reading him at the moment). It has a twin brother in the liberal democrat tradition as attacks on science when it threatens certain preconceptions of equality(cf Larry Summers). They both go back to the tension between positivism and liberalism.

6

rollo 08.30.05 at 2:10 pm

“What gives?”
It’s amazing that people who are convinced of the validity of evolution will insist that there’s some final redemption in factual argument.
Evolution don’t need to show you no steenkin’ truth.
What wins wins.
A psychotic with superior weaponry will carry the day against the most valorous and clear-headed heroes in town.
A butterfly that tastes bad enough won’t get eaten.
The right’s embrace of the absurdities of anti-Darwinian mumbo-jumbo, and its petulant refusal to admit the actuality of anthropogenic climate forcing, are of a piece.
It’s about survival. Of them.
Those distortions and falsehoods are crowd unifiers, cohesion tools, ways of keeping a team, an army, a congregation on the field.
Morality serves that same purpose; and the truth; and when the truth stops serving it – out goes the truth.
There’s a nucleus to all that jive, underneath the specious claims and outright lies, that will be marginalized by scientific truth. Transformed beyond its current iteration. When social cohesion is maintained by illusions, dis-illusioning society will be a threat, no?
It’s the resistance to mutation, as well.
What it’s not is a competition of ideas – it’s the same old competition of genes we’ve always been doing.
While it’s admirable to speak to these things coherently, and a rational mind is a wonderful and effective tool, in the long run it will be about who’s left standing – and that won’t be determined by classroom etiquette or debate points awarded, or grading on the curve.
Wrong answers in school are failure. Wrong answers out here, when they work, are success.
This isn’t a war of ideas, it’s a war of biology dressed as one.
You can redefine working, or winning, until it meets your personal goals, which is what the right has done so effectively. It’s the auto-metric morality, selfishness as the valence of right and wrong. In the long-run that won’t work, it will lead to pathologies that weaken and eliminate.
The problem is that without winning in the short-run – or at the very least getting through, which those of us at the bottom of the pile recognize as a kind of winning – the long-run things aren’t available either.

7

otto 08.30.05 at 2:22 pm

There’s nothing special about science. It’s just interest groups and public opinion trying to silence dissent. In fact academic scientists have much more impact on US science policy than academics studying the Middle East have on US foreign policy. In another world, Juan Cole would be in the National Security Council not a blogger.

8

abb1 08.30.05 at 3:23 pm

Isn’t science a slightly less ambiguous field than foreign policy, though. I can see how reasonable people may have different opinions on the foreign policy, but not on ‘evolution vs. creationism’ controversy.

9

Praedor Atrebates 08.30.05 at 3:37 pm

Isn’t science a slightly less ambiguous field than foreign policy, though. I can see how reasonable people may have different opinions on the foreign policy, but not on ‘evolution vs. creationism’ controversy.

Sorry to be a stickler, but there is absolutely no “evolution vs creationism controversy”…at least amongst scientists. It is an absolutely settled issue. Evolution IS. It is merely the details of HOW that is being worked out.
Or perhaps you meant the political controversy about evolution vs creationism/ID? That exists because there have always been people who do not and will not understand the hows and ways of science. There will always be people who choose not to think critically, preferring to be TOLD what to think by religious authorities. It makes things so much easier and cleaner if you can take a universe that is nothing but infinite shades of color and infinite shades of gray and convert it all into low bit black-and-white. It takes up so much less space in the mind if it is black-and-white.

10

jet 08.30.05 at 3:46 pm

Disinterested scientific advice is increasingly marginalized both in policy and in public debate.

Like the Stockholm Convention?

Nothing like taking away one of the best tools for fighting malaria from the poorest of the world. If UNEP or the Stockholm Convention would have had their way, how many lives would have been lost?

What’s that they say about throwing stones while living in a glass house?

11

jet 08.30.05 at 4:01 pm

…the link between CFCs and ozone depletion.

Speaking of twisting science for policital means. $100 to the person who can point me at the “science” that proves this causation. Just because it seems really likely doesn’t make it true. I even agree that man made CFC’s probably effect the ozone layer. But I believe that knowing there is nor hard proof.

The “who whores out science worse for their cause” flame-wars will never end ;)

Oh and didn’t the space shuttle foam that used CFC’s have a much lower incidence of coming off during launch?

12

soubzriquet 08.30.05 at 4:22 pm

jet: I’m sure you know that science cannot `prove’ anything, so you are either teasing or being disengenuous…

But that is besides the point. The point being that, science can answer the question of what is our best understanding of something, and with what confidence we hold that understanding (which might be miniscule). Any scientifically informed policy decisions will take this understanding as input. This may not render a result that makes scientists happy, of course.

This is a wildly different idea from having a policy already, then going looking for (possibly scientific, or pseudo-scientific) documents to attempt to support it… or conversely attacking documents that call your policy into question.

13

William Connolley 08.30.05 at 5:09 pm

Jet (and anyone else interested…): the best ref for ozone is probably still the superb ozone FAQ: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/ozone-depletion/. All your questions answered, and more. The wiki page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_depletion is OK too.

14

dipnut 08.30.05 at 5:14 pm

As a subscriber to the secular faith you describe, I may be able to shed a little light.

“Intelligent design” and opposition to stem-cell research are expressions of Christian religious faith and desire, and as such belong in a separate category from what you might call “global warming skepticism”.

As for the latter, there are many categories within it. Some doubt the globe is warming. Some agree the globe is warming, but doubt human activity has anything to do with it. I find it believable that the globe is warming, and that human activity is at least partly to blame; but regard e.g. the Kyoto protocol as exactly the opposite of what needs to be done to solve the problem.

Slash-and-burn agriculture releases quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, even as it depletes the green biomass needed to remove that carbon. It results in eroded wastelands incapable of supporting plant life. Who perpetrates this atrocity? Poor people, cut off from markets that might give them more sustainable options. What would keep them poor? Kyoto. I may be wrong about this, but I can say it without attacking any scientific consensus.

There is no such thing as scientific policy. All policy proposals express some faith or other, appealing for support to (selected) facts. I incline to “boundless optimism”; others do not. Science cannot say which is correct, because the experiment is civilization itself, and the results aren’t in yet.

15

Matt Daws 08.30.05 at 5:20 pm

Praedor Atrebates, I think you mis-interpret abb1′s point: abb1 was surely saying that there is no “controvesy” over evolution; whereas, in foreign affairs, there does seem to be more room for debate and sensible differings of opinion. The worrying thing about science is, surely, that it *is* so crystal clear to scientists, and yet even this doesn’t stop politicians and special interest groups from spinning away.

16

dipnut 08.30.05 at 5:57 pm

The worrying thing about science is, surely, that it is so crystal clear to scientists, and yet even this doesn’t stop politicians and special interest groups from spinning away.

Hypotheses, tests, and conclusions are crystal clear, at least some of the time. The difference between ID and science is crystal clear to anyone who understands what science is.

But the implications of all this are subject to any amount of spin, and rightly so. Science does not tell us what to do.

17

Slocum 08.30.05 at 6:09 pm

Let’s be honest here, it is not a simple case of politically and ideologically neutral scientists whose only interest is truth vs politically motivated Republican hacks.

Take global warming for example. The amount of doubt remaining about whether manmade global warming seems to have diminished greatly, but there is still a great deal of doubt as to whether or not the warming will fall at the high or low end of projections. And there is even more doubt about the effectiveness of Kyoto — which involves complex scientific, political, and economic uncertainties.

And yet scientists who question the effectiveness of Kyoto risk being…well…excommunicated seems to be about the right word. The scientific establishment is capable of intensely political reactions (recall, for example, the extreme political reaction to ‘Sociobiology’) which may have the effect of intimidating into silence those who might propose politically unacceptable ideas in public. Young scholars must fear losing out on tenure and established ones, the loss of research funding.

This set of beliefs clearly has a strong elective affinity with pro-market values and is doubtless often highly convenient for business interests (hence the continued funding for Flack Central Station). But it can’t simply be reduced to a cynical smoke screen for material interests – there’s a real set of social beliefs there.

Indeed there is a set of social beliefs there, but there is also a countervailing set of social beliefs (common among left-leaning academics, including many scientists), that the restrictions on captialism and economic growth that Kyoto would impose are desireable in and of themselves — that it is a good thing that Kyoto would impose limits on the ‘excesses’ of western and especially U.S. capitalisism and materialism, etc). Do we seriously think these social beliefs have no effect on the research and writing of such academics?

18

albert 08.30.05 at 6:14 pm

Jet @ 10-

I could swear we’ve had the Stockholm/malaria conversation here before… it’s not like there’s great preponderance of evidence on one side or the other. CFCs and the ozone hole however… and yet you continue to stake out these positions. It’s absolutely impossible to believe that your inconsistency isn’t in some way related to a filtering of information you undertake because of a deeper dislike of environmentalism. You’ll dispute this and make arguments about evidence, but you’re fooling nobody.

19

Steve Reuland 08.30.05 at 6:29 pm

Slash-and-burn agriculture releases quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, even as it depletes the green biomass needed to remove that carbon. It results in eroded wastelands incapable of supporting plant life. Who perpetrates this atrocity? Poor people, cut off from markets that might give them more sustainable options. What would keep them poor? Kyoto.

CO2 increases caused by land use change are minor compared to fossil fuel combustion. Slash and burn agriculture can only resease carbon into the atmosphere that came out of the atmosphere a short time ago, so the net change is zero. Any permanent damage done to the land is, of course, a different story, but most forms of agriculture will decrease primary productivity (i.e. total photosynthesis).

What I find slighly more hard to swallow is the notion that slash and burn agriculture is being caused by the Kyoto treaty. How exactly did a treaty that went into effect a year or two ago, which gives developing countries (where slash and burn agriculture occurs) a great deal of leeway, somehow cause an agricutrural practice that’s been in use for centuries? I suppose if someone could show that Kyoto is preventing them from abandoning that practice (feel free to provide some evidence, if there is any, which I strongly doubt), then that would be a score against Kyoto, but that would leave unanswered why the practice wasn’t abandoned in the multi-century period before Kyoto was passed.

20

jet 08.30.05 at 8:04 pm

Albert,
I didn’t think I needed to keep it a secret that I strongly dislike the environmentalism movement while agreeing with many of their goals. The IPCC’s downplaying of alternative views of global warming (Cosmic Radiation) back in 1999 when so much was still unknown, the constant brow beating of worst case scenarios that never even come close to happening (benzine), etc etc.

The environmental left is just a “evile” as the religious right when it comes to whoring science for their cause. The only difference is that tons of unnecessary regulation was passed by the greenies costing the world GDP growth which equates to how much loss of quality of life? The “greenies” may have sound scientist on board, but they are also the movement that cries “Frankenfood” and bans GM foods causing hundreds of thousands to starve and who knows how many millions to grow up diseased from malnourishment. Or spend millions campaigning to ban DDT because they are afraid the DDT boogeyman is waiting outside their window at night, never giving a shit that some family 5 thousand miles away finally got ahold of some DDT treated nets and maybe this year their little girl won’t get malaria, unlike her older sisters buried out back.

So if I (and many like me) despise the “environmental” movement and have to cross check everything they say 50 times before believing it, the environmental movement earned it.

21

Wolfgang 08.30.05 at 8:18 pm

I just read an article which claims that a majority of science papers is incorrect. (Click on my name to get to the links on my blog.) We dont need the Republican war on science …

22

Matt McIrvin 08.30.05 at 8:34 pm

It’s an implicit belief that science doesn’t impose limits, but instead provides tools, and that there’s no problem that can’t be solved by a combination of engineering prowess and can-do spirit. This combines a dislike for science, when it suggests, say, that the environment can be seriously degraded by human activity, with a boundless optimism in technology’s ability to solve whatever problems we face, and an underlying faith in a universe of effectively limitless resources.

I think that this particular take on the world is what drives a lot of the anti-relativity cranks that you see infesting physics forums. They see relativity as a theory that imposes an onerous limit (the speed of light), so there’s got to be something wrong with it. Many of the more coherent ones are people with engineering backgrounds, such as the late Petr Beckmann, who was also a conservative anti-environmentalist.

(Of course, the more inventive people bothered by this particular limit try to figure out whether there’s some way around it through exotic solutions to general relativity, which is a far more theoretically interesting question, if not terribly practical in present-day engineering terms.)

I’ve long been fascinated by this extreme engineering can-do attitude, in part because it’s seductive to me and, as you say, common in a part of the science-fiction community. In some ways it’s just a pathologically extreme expression of the kernel of faith that a technologist needs to have in order to get anything done. I personally have a tendency to err in the opposite direction and become anxious that whatever problem I’m working on is inherently unsolvable. That can actually be equally damaging. Used properly, good science can help make finer distinctions.

23

sara 08.30.05 at 8:41 pm

The thread was derailed.

Pertinent to the initial post

I think there’s an ideological substrate to a certain flavour of Republicanism, which finds its purest form in a certain kind of science fiction (the “competent man” SF of the 1940’s and 1950’s) and extropian varieties of libertarianism. It’s an implicit belief that science doesn’t impose limits, but instead provides tools, and that there’s no problem that can’t be solved by a combination of engineering prowess and can-do spirit. This combines a dislike for science, when it suggests, say, that the environment can be seriously degraded by human activity, with a boundless optimism in technology’s ability to solve whatever problems we face, and an underlying faith in a universe of effectively limitless resources.

One thinks of the money-wasting projects at the DoD that promise SDI or genetically engineered soldiers with super-human powers, who do not need sleep and who can stop bleeding by thinking about it. Or supposedly “nonlethal” weapons that, when they are put into practice, usually turn out a little more lethal than anticipated.

24

fifi 08.30.05 at 10:16 pm

Even the purest science is guided by social needs and assumptions. Even without Republican politicians meddling with the work of “liberal” scientists, science in this country would still be a laboratory to make new capital. It is easy for me to sympathize with the story Mooney’s telling because I’m a lefty but I wonder if he would have written “The Leftist war on Science” back when Lewontin was drawing attention to the vested financial interests of molecular biologists and their “dream” of the Human Genome Project.

25

rollo 08.31.05 at 12:59 am

“It takes up so much less space in the mind if it is black-and-white.”
Well yeah. So viewing the anti-Darwinists as merely stubborn wrong-headed imbeciles is…black?
And thinking there may be more to their seeming absurdity than that would be…gray?
It’s obvious there’s more going on than simple obstinacy versus plain truth.
Something closer to an actual…Darwinian! struggle.
People who’ve spent 18+ years in academia, or in academically-informed environments, have this thing where the wrong answer is contemptible and automatically disqualifying.
Real life is not so black-and-white.

26

bad Jim 08.31.05 at 3:22 am

It’s generally agreed that the planet’s supply of free oxygen was produced entirely by photosynthesis. Since the oxygen produced by an organism is consumed by its decomposition, the atmosphere’s oxygen surplus can only be the result of millions of years of carbon sequestration.

For the last two hundred years or so humans have been consuming that sequestered carbon as rapidly as possible. We can honestly disagree about how long we can continue to do so, but it’s clear that we can’t keep it up indefinitely. Opinions differ as to how much remains of the most easily exploited forms of sequestered carbon, gaseous and liquid, but most estimates predict that their production will peak in this century.

While most climate scientists agree that the carbon dioxide we’ve added to the atmosphere is the most likely cause of the increase in its temperature, even those who don’t must admit that adding CO2 will raise its temperature and that its temperature is, in fact, rising. In other words, even the skeptics have to agree that our current course is unsustainable.

Our present patterns of resource consumption closely resemble those of the past. Future patterns cannot.

27

shpx.ohfu 08.31.05 at 5:30 am

So viewing the anti-Darwinists as merely stubborn wrong-headed imbeciles is…black?

If by “anti-darwinists” you mean the “intelligent design” cabal and their cohort of fundie sheeple, then yes. The creationism they espouse is an absolute position. It’s either absolutely right, as a matter of religious belief maintained in the in the face of facts; or it isn’t. They are the ones staking out an absolutist position, not the “darwinists.”

Ask me a hard one.

Further to the point of the review, the social causes are clear. Anything that undercuts the fundie view is to be eliminated. So, HST, which presents troublesome data regarding the age and origin of the universe must go, while funding “faith based initiatives” gets the green light in Bush’s reign of error.

28

Tim Worstall 08.31.05 at 7:02 am

What’s always amused me about Kyoto is that we have climate scientists etc stating (probably correctly) that GW is happening and at least part of it is from fossil fuel use.
We then have politicians and such scientists pushing a series of economic measures to reduce this.
Yet a huge number of economists (think Copenhagen Consensus etc) think that the economic prescriptions are wrong headed.
Why not design the economic prescriptions so as to conform to the views of the experts in that field, the economists?
Or are economists not scientists?
(Yes, I do write for TCS, no, I don’t deny GW and have said so many times in articles there.)

29

Grand Moff Texan 08.31.05 at 2:16 pm

Another auxilliary in the Republican war on science gets fragged.

Nice.
.

30

jet 08.31.05 at 3:59 pm

Heh, keep bashing on Conservatives because Liberals are no better about abusing science to push their religion politics than conservatives. That is unless they would actually stoop to using the disaster in New Orleans to link hurricanes to Kyoto. Too bad I can’t link to Air America since they’ve been playing that angle also. I’m sure it will also be the rallying flag of Kyoto in the nearing months.

These things are so morally repugnant it is almost as if they are working for Rove.

31

rollo 08.31.05 at 5:49 pm

“Ask me a hard one”
Answer that one first and I will.
My point is the insistence on things not being black and white goes all inside out when you guys look at those guys and their “beliefs”.
But they’re not arguing intellectually, they’re arguing strategically.
It doesn’t matter about the substance of disagreement, what matters is cohesion of the sub-group and dominance of the elect. Regardless. Truth is irrelevant.
There’s been over a decade now of sneering scornful dismissal of the superstitions and absurdities of fundamentalist Christianity from the rational-positivist camp, and yet the fundamentalists have only continued to gain power and influence.
So obviously the sneering and scorn isn’t working too well; and neither is rational debate.
That’s my point.

32

Tim Lambert 08.31.05 at 9:43 pm

jet, you can read more about the Nature article that Kennedy is referring to here. How is this abusing science? What do you think is wrong with the research published in Nature?

33

eudoxis 08.31.05 at 10:52 pm

The Nature article explores a trend that suggests a causal link between global warming and an increase in storm intensities. Kennedy, on the other hand, is making a statement about a link between the Kyoto protocols and hurricane Katrina. There is absolutely no scientific support for this and surely Kennedy is abusing science albeit for a push in the right direction.

34

Robert P. 08.31.05 at 11:20 pm

I notice that “jet”, after offering $100 in comment number 11, has not responded to William Connelly’s reply in comment number 13.

35

Tim Lambert 09.01.05 at 12:49 am

Eudoxis, here is what Kennedy said about the science:

This month, a study published in the journal Nature by a renowned MIT climatologist linked the increasing prevalence of destructive hurricanes to human-induced global warming.

Nowhere did he say that failing to sign Kyoto cause Katerina.

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Nigel Sedgwick 09.01.05 at 7:33 am

Tim Lambert quoted “Kennedy about the scieince”:

This month, a study published in the journal Nature by a renowned MIT climatologist linked the increasing prevalence of destructive hurricanes to human-induced global warming.

How does the renowned MIT climatologist differentiate [increasing hurricanes] due to human-induced global warming from [increasing hurricanes] due to global warming from other causes?

Am I wrong to think this subtlety actually matters?

Best regards

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jet 09.01.05 at 8:58 am

Robert P.

I made clear that I believed CFC’s damage the ozone layer. My point was that saying “Look there are a bunch of chemicals that destroy ozone in an area where ozone is disappearing.” is not proof. There could still be other causes, it is just that we haven’t found any explanation even remotely as likely as human CFC’s. At this point politics often gets injected into the debate. Just as there are laboratory results that CFC’s destroy Ozone there are laboratory results that Cosmic Radiation effects cloud cover. Yet politics strongly effected the conclusions draw by each of these lab results. In 1999 the IPCC admitted it had zero understanding of the real world effects of GCR’s and cloud cover and that they could potentially have tremendous influence on Global Warming, then for political reasons discounted them entirely in the final “We need Kyoto NOW” conclusion.

My point was that politics takes over when science can go no further (and unfortunately politics takes over well before science can go no further all too often).

Tim Lambert,
We both no I have no problem with Science and how many times do I have to say I agree before you understand that I do, indeed, agree?

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eudoxis 09.01.05 at 9:58 am

Re 35:

Emanuel in Nature:

My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in tropical cyclone destructive potential, and—taking into account an increasing coastal population—a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the twenty-first century.

Kennedy is overstating the report, but that’s not what is meant by his “abuse of science”.

Kennedy faults the Mississipi governor Barbour of being instrumental in preventing CO2 caps by the Bush administration, notes the powerful hurricane Katrina that hit the coast of Mississippi, uses the Emanuel study to “link” the two and concludes that Barbour has much to answer for.

That’s a clear abuse of science.

1) It’s a common fallacy to use statistical trends to say something meaningful about a particular event. The projection of future storm intensities implies absolutely nothing about hurricane Katrina.

2) Even if Bush had enacted stringent CO2 caps his first year in office, the best hoped for result would be a reduction in the rate of increase of global warming. If storms intenstities are predicted to increase, they will continue to do so.

Kennedy is not alone here. There have been numerous publications, spawned by hurricane Katrina, citing the Nature letter in the same way. A reduction in CO2 emissions is a laudable goal for myriad reasons, but this post is about means, not about laudable ends, is it not?

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eudoxis 09.01.05 at 10:03 am

Jet, the causal link between CFCs and damage to the ozone layer is very clearly established. Even to the point where a manipulation in CFC levels (a mandated reduction) had the desired result in the reversal of damage.

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Jackietheblade 09.01.05 at 2:10 pm

You see, the problem here is that “Darwinians” are being “sheep” and following right along with whatever they hear, just like you claim Creationists are. If you started digging for some HARD facts, you might find yourself in a different camp. I am a Conservative and I strongly believe in Science. I have been studying Relativity for years and I believe Einstein’s theories, as well as when he says “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” AND “I am convinced that He (God) does not play dice”. I understand how important our environment is and that many Conservatives aren’t doing enough to protect it. I also understand that science has tried and tried to prove Evolution for decades, but there is no proof to be found. I have heard MANY stories of Athiests setting out to prove that God does not exist and end up convinced that the opposite is true. There are just too many instances where science actually disproves Evolution. I’ll close with a quote I recently heard…”believing in evolution is like believing you can throw a pile of metal into a junkyard and it will become a 747″. Once you start searching for yourself, you’ll begin to realize just how silly Evolution really is.

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Nigel Sedgwick 09.02.05 at 3:53 am

Jackietheblade wrote, presumably believing this is a valid argument:

I’ll close with a quote I recently heard…”believing in evolution is like believing you can throw a pile of metal into a junkyard and it will become a 747”.

This is not a valid argument.

747s were designed and were/are built by human beings. If human beings evolved, then evolution has contributed to turning raw materials into 747s. If human beings arose through Intelligent Design, then the existance of 747s is a consequence of Intelligent Design. If human beings arose though a combination of both, or through totally different causes, the existance of 747s owes itself (at least partially) to that combined/different cause.

Whether or not life forms evolved, there is no good reason to think (from the totality of experience) that complex non-life forms (such as 747s) evolve. That would be faulty inductive reasoning.

Best regards

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Nigel Sedgwick 09.02.05 at 3:55 am

Apologies for missing a bit out. Add, for completeness:

The lack of evolution of complex non-life forms contributes nothing to whether or not life-forms evolve.

Best regards

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