First they came for the scientists….

Conservatives And Science.

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11 Responses to First they came for the scientists….

  1. Steven Litvintchouk says:

    It is unconscionable that politicians should make an arbitrary political decision about a scientific *theory*, and then proceed to implement national policy on that basis.

    History records examples of science being perverted in just this way by governments to rationalize horrible acts: The pseudo-science of Nazi “scientists” rationalized the Holocaust and brutal treatment of the enslaved peoples of Eastern Europe by the German Nazis. In the USSR, Lysenkoism not only helped wreck Soviet agriculture, but it also led to the purging of most pre-eminent Soviet geneticists, who ended up in the Gulag.

    Now in America, we see science being perverted to political ends too.

    Many conservatives have made an arbitrary decision that anthropogenic global warming must be a “hoax,” and therefore nothing need be done to combat it. In support of this, they cherry-pick a few comments by a very few scientists who remain skeptical of global warming, while ignoring the vast majority of the world’s climatologists who are convinced anthropogenic global warming is a real and worrisome phenomenon.

    Everything is wrong about this: It’s a classic example of the rhetorical fallacy of reasoning from adverse consequences; it’s being politically arbitrary about scientific theories as I discussed earlier; and what’s more, it’s paranoid. To claim it’s a “hoax” is to suggest that all those hundreds of climatologists around the world are deliberately trying to hoodwink all the world’s nations–to what end?

    It may come as a surprise to many that with most scientific theories, once they are published and seemingly proven, there usually remains a small cadre of scientists who remain skeptical of the theory. In science, skepticism is healthy; it acts as a sanity check against new and radical theories. But eventually, if the theory holds up, the skeptics give up.

    When Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity, there still remained a few physicists who refused to accept it. These included such luminaries as Albert Michelson (whose own measurements of the speed of light were used by Einstein to develop his theory), Hendrik Lorentz (who continued to cling to the older notion of a “luminiferous aether” for at least a decade more), and Edward Morley (who continued to do research on this nonexistent “aether” for decades afterward). But what we never saw in America before the 1970s, were political activists arbitrarily deciding that Einstein or some other scientist must be wrong about their *science*, and cherry-picking the tiny minority of skeptics to help validate their case.

    I actually think that anthropogenic global warming represents a bigger ethical problem for the conservative movement than creationism, because creationism doesn’t seem to involve national policy. At worst, it involves how local school boards should deal with the teaching of biological science in their schools. And when advocates for teaching evolution and not creationism have gone to court, they have won every time. So creationists, for all their visibility and vociferousness, have failed to change much in America.

    But when a Republican candidate is running for the Presidency, he had better have a position on what to do about global warming. Because like clean air and water, or safe medications, the Federal Government will have to set policy on what to do about it.

    And that Republican candidate had better have a position that is consistent with the best that the vast majority of the world’s scientists can offer. At the very least, he shouldn’t act paranoid and imply base motives to scientists, just because their scientific theories imply difficult issues of national policy we would rather not deal with if we could.

  2. Trustin says:

    It seems to me that if one believed in “climate change”, and science and technology, one wouldn’t be all that worried. If C02 emissions are the problem, shouldn’t we have confidence that science and technology will find a way to deal with it?

    The conservative position of “climate change” should be this:

    1. The real science of “climate change” is agnostic. No one knows for sure what is going on. The “consensus opinion” is not science and neither are “models” that forecast all kinds of scenarios. The “consenus” might be right. It might be totally wrong.

    2. Even if “climate change” exists, it is a 50 to 100 year problem.

    3. Does anyone who has faith in science and technology not believe that in 50 to 100 years, mankind will not have a fix? What were the technologies of 100 years ago?

    4. Nuclear power exists and is carbon neutral. Oil used for transportion is going to drop dramatically.

    5. Be happy, don’t worry, at least not so much as to put the world into a panic and waste 30% of the world’s GNP on politically correct solutions that doom future generations to poverty.

  3. A-Bax says:

    Anyone else notice that Benedict seems to have backtracked from JPII vis a vis the acceptance of evolution? Under JPII, the Vatican “accepted” evolution. He, or his spokesman, regarded it as “more than just a theory”. While Benedict has not, to my knowledge, formally rejected evolution, he’s made sympathetic noises towards ID (if memory serves). Didn’t Benedict say something along the lines of the need for science to acknowledge an “intellegence” or “intelligent creator” underpinning the natural realm? And that this viewpoint should be WITHIN the scientific method/pedagogy, not just an outside/phiolsophical evaluation of the content of scientific results?

    I raise this because my own family, strictly and devoutly RC (to the point of seeking out churches that perform the newly-allowed Tridentine Mass), has taken a shine to ID and the Ben Stein wishful-thinking peice in particular. Funny, I always thought that Creationism was of a part with that specifically American form of Christian Fundamentalism you see in the Baptist or Pentecostalist faiths. The Roman Chuch, for a great while at least, thought of itself as more sophisticated than its Protestant friends here in the States. It’s almost as if this lean towards Creationism cloaked as ID is just another chapter in the Protestantization of American Catholicism.

    My father (a smart guy, has a degree in Physics and was a corporate banking lawyer for decades), doesn’t believe in evolution, has doubts about the veracity of the fossil record, etc. It’s very strange to see such a sharp, deductively skillful mind contort itslef into pretzels trying to maintain the link between bible-based morality and the Iron-age physical world-view that same book espouses.

    One wonders what further contortions would be necessary had the Church not given up on the “terrestrial” v. “celestial” mechanics it held onto so dearly for so long.

    FWIW – I’m an atheist-leaning agnostic (or agnostic-leaning atheist).

    Great looking site guys…I’ll visit often!!!

  4. Gerry Shuller says:

    Yeah, it’s those darn believers who have pushed man-made global warming (after decades of the New Ice Age), that men and women are the same, and that Pauly Shore is talented.

  5. Karl Lembke says:

    One of the things I point out at my blog is, bad theories kill people. If we grant “theory” status to the rivals to evolutionary theory, we have to look at which of the contenders yield more right answers.

    Dennis Prager likes to ask how evolutionary theory works to cure cancer. Kenneth Miller pointed out how it aids our search for animal models — we look at evolutionary near relatives (apes, mice, rats, pigs) rather than distant ones (sponges, goldfish, carrots, mushrooms). It occurs to me that people looking at how cellular reproduction and differentiation developed in our ancestors may be the ones to discover how these mechanisms go haywire, giving rise to cancer and any number of other diseases.

    Evolution posits a history of cell development — this came first, that followed, that other feature built on top of the first two, and so on. Other theories claim that cells were created as they currently exist, with no reason why any feature will or won’t exist.

    Using a bad theory is like losing a set of car keys in the alley, and looking for them under the street lamp because the light’s better. You may find it easier to work with, but you won’t get the right answer.

  6. TTT says:

    “Shouldn’t we have confidence that science and technology will find a way to deal with [climate change]?”


    And who cares what we “should have confidence in”? Are you suggesting that if evidence arose that climate change were so serious that our technological advancements COULDN’T cure it, then that evidence must be wrong?

    This is everything David Frum complained about in his initial piece. You, Trustin, want to steer the conversation into an argument-from-consequences. But we are not talking about consequences. We are not talking about values or beliefs. We are not talking about assumptions of timeframes or how much we don’t want to pay certain regulatory costs. We are talking about empirical data: atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration levels. Ideas we value, or policies we do not wish enacted, are totally irrelevant. Conservatives need to get past that disconnect: acknowledge the data and THEN work on policy, don’t use policy principles as erasers on the data blackboard.

  7. BobbDobbs says:

    Science is not policy. Science gives us numbers but policy comes from values — subjective values. Climate change is neither bad nor good as far as science is concerned. Values determine whether we want to increase or decrease global warming.

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  9. Michael says:

    I think the Repubs crossed a line and now see ignorance and pre-modern outlooks on the physical world as positive qualifications rather than a liability. Kathleen Parker is on target when she says that this is not appealing to very many people.

  10. “It is unconscionable that politicians should make an arbitrary political decision about a scientific *theory*, and then proceed to implement national policy on that basis.”

    “Theory” is as good as it gets in science. It doesn’t mean “guess,” and nothing is ever proved.

  11. Caledonian says:

    “Climate change is neither bad nor good as far as science is concerned. Values determine whether we want to increase or decrease global warming.”

    You may want to look up a branch of science called “Game Theory”.

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