More on McCain and antiscience pandering

By Phil Plait | March 9, 2009 11:00 am
McCain tested scientifically

The post I made last week about McCain being antiscience has made quite a splash, more than I expected (and I expected quite a bit). As usual when I post on politics I have been lauded as a voice of reason, told I am a political moron, had my arguments backed up by others with evidence, and attacked with ad hominems (despite my commenting policy, which I even linked to in the post).

The closest I think any of the attacks on my reasoning came to being correct were ones that pointed out that McCain hates earmarks, not science. That may be true (although his choice of Palin for Vice President — who loves her some earmarks — makes that argument a bit weak), but it occurs to me he chooses science an awful lot for ridicule when lambasting earmarks. Three of his Top Ten choices on his Twitter feed about earmarks were science-based, for example (and lots more science research bashing can be found on that feed), and he used his awful planetarium comment three times in speeches, including a nationally-televised debate with Obama.

And given how far he pandered to his party’s base — going from first calling Jerry Falwell an "agent of intolerance", to then speaking at the graduation ceremony at Falwell’s Liberty University comes right to mind — I think it’s fair to wonder how much he panders on the issue of science as well.

But even if we ignore all that, the point is, he is ridiculing science research. It may be that he hates science earmarks as much as he hates any other kind, but the tone and content of what he is saying make his stance against science very clear. He said, specifically, "nothing says new jobs for average Americans like investing in astronomy." But, in fact, investing in science always pays off in the long run, as I have noted on this blog about 20 times in the past (here’s one on space exploration, for example). Even astronomy pays off. Basic research always does. That’s why it’s an investment, and not pork.

And the tone of that comment makes it clear he is deriding science. He could have said, "Investing in astronomy won’t help the common citizen put dinner on the table" which would have been no less inaccurate than what he said, but wouldn’t have been insulting. But then, it wouldn’t have been a zinger, either. Maybe he’s just trying to make snarky soundbites, but it doesn’t matter: the end product betrays a lack of understanding of science, a deliberate twisting of it, and a general tone of disregard for what that science does.

Julianne on Cosmic Variance has more to say on this "Us versus Them" mentality many on the far right have been shilling for years now, a conscious effort to mock those Americans with educations, including, and especially, scientists.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am elitist. I want the best for myself, my family, my country, my planet. And I damn well want it in my politicians.

One final note: yes, the far right lost a lot of ground in the last election, and yes more moderate people took control (more or less) of Congress. So why attack them now? Because the far right is not gone. Many people hailed McCain as a moderate when he first got in the presidential race, but by the end that was no longer true, as he sold off that moderate stance bit by bit to the party base. The far right still has a voice, still has influence, and in less than two years they may yet get their own elected to Congress in the midterms. Ignore them at your own peril.

Win or lose, the forces of antiscience will always be out there, and will always be one election away from spreading their nonsense again. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.


McCain image from Wikipedia, and beaker from exquisitur’s photostream on Flickr.

Comments (80)

  1. Phil,

    I’d ask when you’re running for the Senate, but you’re over qualified. Your brain functions.

    Seriously though; that’s one of the great shames of American politics. We don’t always elect the most qualified; just the loudest windbag. McCain is a really loud windbag.

  2. Cheyenne

    I personally think it’s a lot more important to hold the current president accountable for his pro or anti-science views than a guy like McCain (who very obviously is never running for President again).

    So that said I’ll be one of those watching to see if Obama continues to make the right steps in being pro-science. And on one issue in particular now (since stem cells, etc. he’s already dealt with) – climate change. The IPCC’s scientists recommend cuts much more substantial than what Obama wants and he’s still ignoring calls for Lisa Jackson’s EPA to regulate CO2 emissions.

    This is far more important than any non-binding speech that McCain would give on the Senate floor. Obama actually has the power to do something very substantial with a stroke of his pen. Something the majority of scientists are telling him he should do but he isn’t.

  3. Kirk

    Cheyenne — To that general point, I was glad that Obama took the time today as he reversed the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research to specifically address the role of the government in science:

    “Promoting science isn’t just about providing resources, it is also about protecting free and open inquiry,” Obama said. “It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient — especially when it’s inconvenient. It is about ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.”

  4. Quiet Desperation

    Obama said. “It is about letting scientists like those here today do their jobs, free from manipulation or coercion, and listening to what they tell us, even when it’s inconvenient

    With the exception of scientists working on cloning, it seems.

  5. Todd W.

    @QD

    With the exception of scientists working on cloning, it seems.

    One must draw the line somewhere. I mean, we all saw what happened in Star Wars. The clones became the tool of an oppressive dictatorship. We can’t have that, now, can we?

  6. Frank Ch. Eigler

    “Even astronomy pays off. Basic research always does.”

    Well, no, it doesn’t. If it always paid off in the economic sense, it would not need taxpayer subsidies. Basic research is risky, and the benefits of any particular project are uncertain. This is another reason why not every project some PhD dreams up is funded.

  7. PG

    One thing I notice about criticizers of science is that they always quote the price of a mission/experiment, especially when it fails. Like the recent loss of the OCO. But the thing you have to remember when a $250M mission fails is that it’s not like we launched $250M into space. Most of that money pays all the people involved with building the mission, the rockets, the scientists, the construction workers, and yes, the plumbers. It paid people’s salaries. It put food on their tables. The end result was a lost mission, but the money went to real people.

  8. Quiet Desperation

    One thing I notice about criticizers of science is that they always quote the price of a mission/experiment, especially when it fails.

    It’s practically part of whatever playbook the news media uses. Saw it on the news recently with the Kepler launch for the “$600 million mission” to find Earth-like planets.

    I have yet to hear “today, the $608 billion Social Security system, the single biggest part of the federal budget…”

    That’s 2008 numbers for SS, BTW.

    One must draw the line somewhere.

    I know you’re joking with the Star Wars stuff, but most “scientific ethics” issues are utter chimeras.

    The IPCC’s scientists recommend cuts much more substantial than what Obama wants and he’s still ignoring calls for Lisa Jackson’s EPA to regulate CO2 emissions.

    Yeah, that’ll kick start the economy. Some day you folks will learn that the most important key to “saving the Earth” is a healthy economy where lots of money goes into R&D (in both the public and private sectors) to create cleaner tech.

  9. JtC

    Phil,

    It’s funny you complain of Ad Hominen attacks when your previous articles had some pre-emptive ad hominen attacks itself.

    “That’s pretty amazing for a guy who doesn’t understand computers or even use email…”
    “…Amateur exorcist and creationist Bobby Jindal…”

    The reasoning here is “These people are idiots; therefore, their views on science are not valid.” The continued Jindal/Exercism attacks by Dems befuddles me. It was an impromptu thing that happened when he was 20. Is that really that much worse than snorting cocaine in your 20s?

    It’s a shame, because you could have had a great post on why science funding should be part of the stimulus, but instead you resorted to the “Us vs. Them” mentality that really is becoming a harmful trend nowadays. That might be par for the course for the neanderthal Republicans, but you’re an elitist. You should know better.

    It’s your blog. I ‘m not trying to tell you what you should or shouldn’t write, but more posts like these 2 will certainly alienate some readers such as myself who majored in Chemistry, enjoys your blog, but *gasp* still votes Republican.

  10. Austin L

    Frank, I think the key to your argument is “paid off in the economic sense”. I’m not qualified to debate that, as I’m not an economist (although I wouldn’t necessarily think they were someone to debate it either). Phil’s original assertion that science always pays off is mostly true. I can’t say how he originally intended it, but I would say that it always pays off in some way to the country as a whole.

    Nevermind the material things we get (velcro, GPS systems, Tang). I think the respect we get from the global community, the benefit to education, and (speaking personally as a scientist) the better understanding of the universe and our place in it are sufficient payoffs.

  11. Charles Boyer

    @Frank Ch. Eigler — you make a good point, and it is true that sometimes basic science (what I call ‘pure’ science) leads to dead ends.

    Nothing is guaranteed in science. Not every discovery will be the next Great Big Thing. But it does lay out foundations that eventually help to fill in the big picture.

    There are also derivatives that are unforeseen at the time. CERN, the atomic physics folks in Europe, needed a global collaboration platform for their huge data streams produced in their laboratories. A fellow named Tim Berners-Lee filled that need when he invented something called the World Wide Web, that you are using right now. As an add-on to that, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications invented something called Mosaic which was the first popular graphically based browser for that new WWW protocol.

    All of that was an unforeseen yet paradigm shifting byproduct of basic research. That said, it is reasonable to expect further investment in other basic research to provide dividends. Batting 1.000 is never going to happen, but that by no means means the money is wasted.

  12. Lauren

    I’m going to Chicago in August and I have put the Adler Planetarium on my to-do list, if only as an in-your-face to John McCain. I did the same when we were in New Hampshire last October. Any time I get a chance to go to a planetarium, I do, because science is important and funding science is not silly or laughable.

  13. Cheyenne

    @Lauren – When you are done with the Adler you should stroll a little north to the Shedd aquarium. I guarantee you’ll be happy to have visited both ;)

  14. JtC– an ad hominem attack is one that is 1) attacking the person rather than the claim and 2) (generally) irrelevant to the discussion. Jindal attacks science and tries to inject religion into government. Therefore, calling him a creationist and exorcist is not ad hominem, it is directly relevant to the case.

  15. The BA says: “yes, the far right lost a lot of ground in the last election, and yes more moderate people took control (more or less) of Congress. So why attack them now? Because the far right is not gone.”

    They used to be in charge of the Presidency and the Congress, then just the Presidency and Senate, then just the Presidency and now none of them. However, there are still some there! All we have to do is get rid of those last few pesky Romanoffs, er, Republicans and we can all go marching arm-in-arm into Obama’s Workers’ Paradise singing the songs of the Proletariat.

    :-) for the sarcasam impaired.

    – Jack

  16. I could be wrong, but I’m thinking the photo at the top of this article was Photoshopped. It’s subtle, but the lighting is slightly off.

  17. David D

    That’s right, look over there. Look at silly McCain, and goofy Jindal, and mention Palin if at all possible. You should be more worried about them, than about your tax bill, or what happened to your 401k, or what’s happening in Afghanistan . . .

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

  18. CryoTank

    Could someone please light McCain a Candle?

  19. Randy Griffin

    @Cheyenne – I agree with the advice to visit Shedd Aquarium as well as Adler, but north? Ummm…. that’s Lake Michigan, I’m afraid. Shedd is mostly west, and north only about as much as being on the other side of a street.

  20. dre

    Phil, to avoid being accused of ad hominems, you should have posts devoted exclusively to ridiculing folks like Jindal and McCain – both of whom I feel are indefensibly ridiculous – and separate posts that describe their opinions and misunderstandings of science. I would gain the same enjoyment/exasperation as I always do if you compartmentalized your statements in such a way, and you would not technically be arguing fallaciously. So to speak.

  21. kash

    @JtC
    “Is that really that much worse than snorting cocaine in your 20s?”

    Both are really stupid. But if a coke head went on to become Governor and worked toward and accomplished removing science based education and replaced it with cocaine based creationism, then that, would make him an idiot worthy of derision. Just like Jindal is.

    Only Jindal is worse. A coke head would actually try and hide his embarrassing behavior.

  22. Cheyenne

    @Randy- D’Oh! You’re right. Oops.

  23. Todd W.

    @David D

    I wholeheartedly agree. Phil should be saying something about former Pres. Bush.

  24. Funny enough, I was talking to someone recently and was asked what I think about the Swine Odor Study and how it seems to be kind of a waste of money. My reply? There are quite a few pig farms in the Great Plains and all of these farms produce a cocktail of noxious odors. If you live downwind of a pig farm (and that’s at least a few hundred thousand people), spending a few dollars to figure out how to make the stench stop and clean up the farms is actually a pretty important and worthy issue for you.

    Though I must note, if the study was named Swine Farm Efficiency And Ecological Study For Rural Residents, it wouldn’t be so easy to make fun of and encourage more people to read what the study is really all about.

  25. @David D: You say that as though you think those people and those issues aren’t all related in a little bundle of insanity.

  26. David D

    @Todd W–

    But of course! All the bad things belong to Bush! Only good flows from Obama!

    Hope and change!

    :)

  27. Russ

    Phil, Phil, Phil…Why do you still not get that part of what this nation was founded on is no taxation without representation. When the Federal government funds local projects, thats a lot less representation than when local government funds local projects.

    How much would it suck if for ever dinky local project, you had to send money to the federal government, and hope that you can get the vote from the representative for Timbuktu. Its Chicago’s job to fund a Chicago planetarium, not the Mom with three kids from Santa Fe.

  28. JtC

    Phil,

    Your comment about McCain not knowing how to use email wasn’t an attack at McCain rather than his views on science? If I said that “Joe doesn’t even know how to email” I would certainly be implying that Joe is an idiot.

    I didn’t see how Jindal was relevant to McCain article. Even if you were slamming Jindal for his Volcano monitoring comment, the claim was about Volcano Monitoring as economic stimulus for average Americans. How are his creationist views or participation in an exorcism relevant to the arguement that Volcano monitoring isn’t economic stimulus? If he were opposing research money questioning the efficacy of Holy Water or Research money for “Evolution Monitoring” the exorcist/creationist comment would be relevant.

    No worries, Phil. Like I said, write whatever you like, I’ll just refrain from commenting on or reading the political posts.

  29. David D

    @Naked Bunny–

    Yes, they are related. Everyone knows about the McCain/Jindal/Palin/Rothschild/Bilderberger/Illuminati conspiracy.

    You have mistaken me for one of the unwashed uninformed. Is it because I don’t type in ALLCAPS?????

    :)

  30. Todd W.

    @David D

    Now, now. We had 8 years of Bush. We’ve had a couple months of Obama. Is that really enough to time to make substantial changes in the bad things that Bush did (e.g., first stimulus package with no oversight, pulling troops out of Afghanistan to go into Iraq for no sound reason, etc.). At least he’s turned around Bush’s EO on stem cells.

    And no need to be snarky that “only good flows from Obama”. He is human. He is a politician. He will make mistakes, and we will hold him accountable.

    Every single post that comes up critical of any Republican’s stance on science, you respond with knee-jerk snarkism about Obama and his administration. It adds nothing to the conversation. Perhaps you should try a different approach, like maybe arguing why Phil should not call McCain or Jindal or anyone else out on their statements. And saying, “But such-and-such Dem is anti-science, too!” does not fit the bill. Sarcastic “Hope and change!” does not fit the bill.

    I apologize for my own snarky comment and hope that you will try to be a constructive contributor to the thread, rather than just continuing to utter “Dems are bad, so that excuses Republicans” style statements.

  31. Brango

    Such anti-science madness is not only biting the hand that feeds you, but also an attempt to force your own dumbosity down the throats of others.

    It was without a doubt a collective sigh of relief that McCain did not get elected, as it would have led the US down a road to disaster on a scale that would dwarf the current situation. Reading his Twittering is like opening a portal into an alternative universe, it should serve as a clear warning to anyone to anyone who voted or is thinking of voting for him – this is where we would be. Things may seem bad now, but don’t let the uncomfortable ride around the U-turn swerve you from avoiding the precipice.

  32. Sili

    That’s no beaker.

    It’s a volumetric flask and you really really shouldn’t heat them.

    In fact you should be very careful about heating anything over direct fire – and without some kind of stirring.

  33. TheBlackCat

    @ JtC: So you fail to see how McCain’s failure to understand basic modern technology is relevant to his pronouncements on the value of the work that pushes that technology forward?

  34. RE: Ad hominem attacks

    I’d posted this on my blog some time ago, the proper way to actually use Character Attacks

    J/P=?

  35. David D

    @Todd W–

    I seem to be getting criticized for my snarkiness here. You know, it’s not like this whole blog isn’t snarky or anything . . .

    I’m not going to argue why Phil should not call McCain or Jindal or anyone else out on their statements. He should–I don’t disagree with that.

    But I am not saying anything like “such-and-such Dem is anti-science, too!” I am simply saying that Phil’s anti-science criticisms are particularly one-sided. On the rare occasions when he does call a Dem on an anti-science issue (like his recent post on Conyers a few days ago) I applaud him for it. Anti-science is anti-science, no matter which side of the aisle it comes from. And don’t tell me that it’s only the Republicans who are anti-science; google Tom Harkin for starters. Or check out Hansen’s recent statements.

    It is Phil who claims not to be partisan, not me. If you want to stand under that banner, hold the current Administration’s feet to the fire, too. Is it early in the game for Obama? Sure. But in previous comment threads, I and others have pointed out anti-science and science politicization already going on. All I’m saying (once again) is that there is enough anti-science going around that one can actually be non-partisan (bipartisan?) on this issue. Phil doesn’t seem to be doing that.

  36. Phil,

    I won’t call you a political moron, but as a fellow skeptic, it’s just disappointing to see the coverage of governmental anti-science so biased and one sided. That’s all. I think that’s what a lot of commenters feel.

  37. Todd W.

    @David D

    Then lead by example. If you want Phil, or others, to be bipartisan, then do so yourself, regardless of whether anyone claims to be bipartisan or not.

    Whether my criticism of your posts is fair or not, the tone they set is hardly constructive and tends to detract from the message you are trying to get across. Have your tactics worked thus far? Perhaps it is time to try a different tack.

  38. David D

    @Todd W–

    “If you want Phil, or others, to be bipartisan, then do so yourself, regardless of whether anyone claims to be bipartisan or not.”

    Huh? Look–this is Phil’s blog. I am commenting on Phil’s blog, not seeking to change his political temperament. I don’t necessarily have a “message” here; is that a necessity to comment on this blog? Maybe I’m just trying to point out a need (in my opinion only) for a little balance here. Surely that is allowed, right?

    I am not the only commenter (see Shane P. Brady above, for just one example) who has noted that Phil’s politics tends to detract from HIS OWN message about skepticism and science.

  39. JtC

    @TheBlackCat

    John McCain doesn’t use email. Do you really think he doesn’t understand basic modern technology enough to learn how to use Gmail? Keep in mind we’re talking about a guy who flew fighter jets for a living which is a much more impressive application of modern science technology than emailing, texting, or blogging. (Yes, I know McCain crashed a lot and that might call into question how much he really knows about flying)

    Again, the arguement, I think, was about science funding as economic stimulus. I think the debate gets twisted when pro-stimulus people -not Phil- quote Keynes to promote large government spending, and then talk about investments for the future. Keynes’ view on stimulus had very little to do with investment, it was about putting everyday people back to work. He literally said “If you can’t find projects that are ready, pay people to dig a hole. Then pay some more people to fill it back up.” He also said that the government should be able to severely cut back spending once the private sector can start hiring again. I don’t think science research fits that description.

    I’m all for funding for science projects, but not as part of an immediate stimulus package aimed at providing jobs to average people. It’s just not accessible enough. In the short run, the vast majority of Americans don’t have the education in science do benefit from it, which is a topic for a whole other blog post. If we can cut money elsewhere now to provide for scientific research, great, if not, it should wait until after the recession.

  40. I would also like to note this passage:

    “As usual when I post on politics I have been lauded as a voice of reason, told I am a political moron, had my arguments backed up by others with evidence, and attacked with ad hominems (despite my commenting policy, which I even linked to in the post).”

    Phil,

    You either ignore, or just lump with the others, people who disagree with you without using ad hominem attacks and who didn’t call you a political moron. I think that’s actually kind of insulting.

  41. Davidlpf

    To the republicans who do not want to be asscioted with the extrem right wing, go out there and get them out of your party.

  42. Davidlpf

    soryy that was suppose to be “associated”.

  43. David D

    @Davidlpf–

    I agree. There are many of us on the right who are skeptics and rational thinkers who are not thrilled by the creationists and others who seem to be dominating the Republican party right now. I hope that the party can develop a more rational underpinning in the coming months and years to remain a viable political entity.

  44. *sigh*

    For all the calls for Phil to demonstrate “balance”, what the actual call should be “If you’re going to bash a republican, then bash a democrat in kind”. I don’t know how I can say this any clearer: This is not balance. This is a false dichotomy. You’re asking Phil to artificially create an argument (which just so happens to align with your political persuasion, no less), in order to demonstrate what YOU define to be political pundit- equality.

    Has it not occurred to you that no such balance exists? The dems have a poor track record of science, it’s true (Phil’s recent admonishments of Conyers and RFK Jr seem to be out of the selective memory already), but the GOP have a far worse record. Bogus calls for an eye-for-an-eye is not balance, much the same way that creationists admonish public science teachers for not “teaching both sides”.

    No one is forcing you to read this blog, nor agree with Phil’s politics. Yet you froth at the mouth with calls for “balance” and “non-(or bi-) partisanship”. But this is not what you want. You want Phil to extol science credentials of the GOP or not mention politics at all.

    Phil is an educated person. Part of that higher education requires a sophisticated understanding of modernity, ethics, and civics. And part of his mission is education, so you’re not going to get him to keep his political opinions to himself, no matter how much you exclaim that he’s unqualified to speak on political matters.

    While it’s true that no one is forcing me to read your comments, I refuse to sit here and not voice my concern when all manner of insults are hurled Phil’s way….insults which are largely baseless.

    If you disagree with his characterization, express your disagreement. Don’t shot-gun blast this thread with calls for balance and non-partisanship if you’re not willing to engage the actual issue at hand (note: I have seen a handful of people that disagree respectfully with Phil, and these people I don’t include in this criticism). You could always start your own blog. It’s very cathartic.

  45. David D

    @Some Canadian Skeptic–

    ” . . . all manner of insults are hurled Phil’s way….insults which are largely baseless. ”
    Exactly who is insulting Phil?

    “Has it not occurred to you that no such balance exists?” By the way, I did applaud Phil for his comments on Conyers–I mentioned it above, so it’s not out of the selective memory already. I assure you–there is a balance, but if you are “blinded” by your own politics, you may have trouble seeing them.

    Phil has never had any problem keeping his political opinions to himself. Some commenters have pointed out that his claims to be “non-partisan” ring hollow. I have not expressed the opinion that he is unqualified to speak on political matters.

    I liked your Flickr post, but you seem to be getting a little over heated again.

    :)

  46. JtC

    Davidlpf,

    Easier said than done. Getting them out of our party basically means forfeiting elections in most states. How can we be expected to ever have a Republican president or majority in Congress if we throw out a certain percentage of our party? It would have to be a fair trade. We kick out our far right, the Dems kick out their far left. Our only hope is to have more moderate leadership… which is what I thought we had in McCain.

  47. Robbie

    Phil Plait: “One final note: yes, the far right lost a lot of ground in the last election, and yes more moderate people took control (more or less) of Congress.”

    Since when is this a comedy blog? That statement is hilarious.

  48. Davidlpf

    I think what happened to McCain kind shows what happens when you decide to pander to hard right wingers. You lose. Fo the republicans to be seen as a moderate party with moderate membership you have to get rid of extremes. The other side has their extrremists as well. What actually should be done is make seperate party for the moderates (maybe for both parties).
    Things seem a lot clearer from the outside (Canada).

  49. @ David D
    “By the way, I did applaud Phil for his comments on Conyers–I mentioned it above, so it’s not out of the selective memory already. I assure you–there is a balance, but if you are “blinded” by your own politics, you may have trouble seeing them.”

    As I recall, your quote was “I applaud Phil for showing some rare nonpartisanship and calling out a Dem on anti-science thinking.” By needlessly throwing in the word “rare”, you made that a back-handed comment; It’s couched in insulting language (along with your “Hope and Change! :)” sarcastic mantra)

    “I have not expressed the opinion that he is unqualified to speak on political matters.” Nor did I accuse you personally of such an admonition, but many, many have in the past. That was not directed to you.

    *SIDE NOTE*
    Phil, could you get the Hive Overmind to program a “preview” button?

  50. I’m guessing that there are people at the University of Arizona who’re rather mad at McC these days! He’d have them out of work, I’m guessing…
    Dweeb!

  51. JtC

    @Davidlpf,

    I don’t think it boils down to “going to the right loses you an election.” It won Bush 2 elections, and he was far more to the right than McCain has ever been.

  52. David D

    @Some Canadian Skeptic–

    Wait–I asked you who was insulting Phil (“hurling insults”)–

    –and you are upset because I used the word “rare”? “I applaud Phil for showing some rare nonpartisanship and calling out a Dem on anti-science thinking” is somehow “couched in insulting language”?

    Read some of Phil’s posts; is my tone that different? Read some of the comments on some of the other threads. And then we’ll talk about what insulting means.

    Snarky and sarcastic? You bet! Insulting? Well, you are going to have to come up with some better examples before I’ll cop to that.

  53. Davidlpf

    Not going into whether Bush won the first one. But look at the disaster they left your country (and portions of the world) in afterwards. Hopefully people will have a long memory.

  54. o you fail to see how McCain’s failure to understand basic modern technology is relevant to his pronouncements on the value of the work that pushes that technology forward

    Except time and time again it has been pointed out that McCain *does* use and *does* understamd computers:

    http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/is_mccain_unable_to_use_a_computer.html

    “His nightly ritual is to read his email together with his wife, Cindy. The injuries he incurred as a Vietnam POW make it painful for McCain to type. Instead, he dictates responses that his wife types on a laptop. “She’s a whiz on the keyboard, and I’m so laborious,” McCain admits”

    Of course, that Phil *still* repeats the known *lie* about McCain does not reflect well upon his (Phil’s) integrity. In fact, its a rather Creationist tactic.

  55. Dave, that’s funny that you call me a creationist and imply I’m a liar. Neither is true, but something that is true about me is that I read the link you posted, where it says, “He can type. But using a keyboard for long periods is uncomfortable for him. He says he’s been an “illiterate” on a computer. But he says now he’s learning to use the Internet.”

    So he says himself he’s illiterate about computers. He’s learning now to use the internet. And using email is not really understanding computers.

    So I stand by what I said, and I think you are wrong. The link you posted shows that itself.

  56. Shane P. Brady

    For the record, I don’t want to see Phil have “balance”, just completeness. He’s done so much good work promoting good science (just listen to his C2C appearances), as a fan of his, I would just like it to extend to all of our government, not just (it seems anywa) to Republicans.

  57. JtC

    @Davidlpf,

    “But look at the disaster they left your country….”

    There is a chunk of America that see’s Obama’s reversal of Bush’s Abortion and Stem Cell policies as disastrous. Not to mention the implications of FOCA. Especially if, and it’s a big if, all the Catholic hospitals shut down because of it. I really think Democrats lost so many elections from 2000-2004 because they forgot that the far right still has a vote. You can call them idiots for not believing in global warming and despising stem cell research, but they are still smart enough to cast their vote. Obama was much more respectful in his disagreements.

    “Hopefully people will have a long memory.”

    You are absolutely right. Hopefully they will remember George H.W. and Reagan. That’s what you were implying, right? ;)

    Back to the going right thing, and I get laughed at for saying this, but I really think Romney could have won the election had he got the nomination. The financial world went to hell 2 months before the election and that would have played right into Romney’s hands because he really was the strongest in the entire field on business/economics. He also had zero ties to anything resembling the Bush Admin or Washington so Baracks’ Change/Youth movement would have lost some steam.

    As much as I like to see “my side” win, depsite my positive experiences with Mormons and a very high regard for their ethics in the business world, I’m thankful Romney didn’t end up being President. This is a guy who thought Justices Alito and Roberts were liberals.
    Phil’s head would have exploded even before he attempted committing suicide over Romney’s social/science policies.

    Jeez. Sorry Phil, I seem to have turned the comments section of your blog into my own blog. I think I’ll do as Some Canadian Skeptic said and just start my own.

  58. Davidlpf

    Obama may have been more respectful but that is why he politican.
    I do not think any hospitals will close down over it. Rommey may have been a better choice on the economy but what yiu need is the best choice all around. And the majority said Obama was the best choice.

  59. Daniel J. Andrews

    Re: “Agent of Intolerance” = Falwell. Agreed. He makes it all an us vs them binary issue, demonizes the other side, ridicules it even if he doesn’t understand it, caricatures the alternate position and refutes the caricature and not the position itself, and ascribes a type of superiority to his side.

    On the other hand, that description also fits some prominent opponents of Falwell and his ilk. Sigh. Why am I reminded of Lazarus in TOS: The Alternative Factor?

    P.S. Phil, Dave didn’t call you a creationist. Just that you used a creationist tactic (i.e. keep repeating something that has been refuted). Not that I agree with him, and apparently McCain wouldn’t agree with him either.

  60. “Investing in astronomy won’t help the common citizen put dinner on the table”

    It will on mine, and I am about as “common” a citizen as you can be.

  61. I have to wonder how many people here missed (or ignored) Phil’s criticism of a senior Democratic congressman from Michigan just a few days ago.

  62. Ah, I see now. When Phil attacks Republicans for saying stupid things it’s partisanship, and when he attacks Democrats it’s “a rare display of nonpartisanship”. There’s something fundamentally wrong about that, but I just can’t put my finger on it.

  63. Nigel Depledge

    JtC said:

    It’s funny you complain of Ad Hominen attacks when your previous articles had some pre-emptive ad hominen attacks itself.

    “That’s pretty amazing for a guy who doesn’t understand computers or even use email…”
    “…Amateur exorcist and creationist Bobby Jindal…”

    The reasoning here is “These people are idiots; therefore, their views on science are not valid.”

    If this is what Phil were actually doing, then I would agree with you.

    However, Phil did not reason thusly. He has demonstrated how and why these people’s science comments betray ignorance and illogic entirely independently of their other activities. He then goes on to illustrate how disconnected from reality such figures as McCain and Jindal are by reference to other things they have done that betray an utter lack of critical thinking.

  64. Gary Ansorge

    JtC:

    There is a very great difference between Jindal performing an exorcism and IMPOSING his will on another human being vs:
    someone snorting coke/dropping acid/smoking pot, which is done to ONESELF.

    That difference seems very obvious to me. Do you see it?

    Gary 7

  65. David D

    @Gary Ansorge–

    “There is a very great difference between Jindal performing an exorcism and IMPOSING his will on another human being . . . ”

    Actually Jindal did NOT perform the exorcism. He was a witness.

    But if you repeat a lie often enough . . .

  66. It’s good that people like McCain, Jindal, and the rest are still being called on their ideological stances. I live in Alabama, and from what I’m seeing- local Editorial Page (columns and letters to), FOX, etc- people who are talking at other people are saying McCain lost because he was too moderate. Those same people inevitably mention “god” or religion. The far Right isn’t just not gone, there appear to be loud voices calling for its return and for movement further right.

    McCain didn’t retreat back to obscurity, he lost and then continued his job as a Senator- one of only 100. He’s still making decisions on policy, and any view he’s ever expressed is fair game for comment and criticism- that’s the price of getting elected.

  67. @ David D
    “Actually Jindal did NOT perform the exorcism. He was a witness.”

    If I said ‘He did NOT commit the crime. He just watched it.’ would that seem somehow incongruous to you?

  68. David D

    @T Hand–

    As far as I know, exorcism is not a crime, so your analogy is flawed. I think exorcism is a rather silly idea, but some folks believe differently. No matter what you make think of exorcism, it’s not a crime.

    My point was that Gary said specifically the Jindal performed the exorcism, and IMPOSED his will on someone else. That is an inaccurate statement.

  69. MH

    Maybe he’s just trying to make snarky soundbites

    DINGDINGDINGDINGDING
    We have a winner! McCain doesn’t care about science one way or the other. He probably doesn’t really care about earmarks, either, that’s just his shtick to get attention, which is what he’s really after.

  70. Gary Ansorge

    David:
    My bad. Further research supports your statement.
    I really must be more skeptical of Jon Stewart,,,even he makes mistooks,,,

    HAving said that however, I will note, exorcism is a really stupid reaction to someone afflicted with what appears to be a psychological problem. The only demons that exist are those we create in our own minds and that’s just mental illness.

    When my father died he was attended by my step brother and a bunch of well meaning but, by my standards, whack job, born again christians who kept trying to get my father to “accept christ for the good of his immortal soul,,,”
    Eventually, a few hours before Dad croaked, he gave in and then claimed to be seeing his beloved Mary(who died 23 months prior). At that the whackos finally left Pop alone long enough he was able to die in peace.
    I know my Father quite well. He had a sardonic sense of humor, was about as religious as a brick, was baptized in his mid forties as a generic christian and responded to my queries on that act with “Hey, you never know when it might be a good idea to hedge your bets,,,”. He was also a Mason, for the simple reason that his company placed great store by that particular loonyness(see:political expediency).

    I expect he just said all that stuff to get those folk to leave him the heck alone. He was tired. He was done,,,and he really missed his Beloved.

    I’ve been where angels fear to tread. There was no One there but me! So poo on all religions,,,

    GAry 7

  71. Ian

    Don’t worry Phil. He’s an old geezer. Do you seriously think he twitters on his own? That’s a staffer.

    It’s sad really, the Republicans used to be the go-to party for big science way way back in the day. Now they just want to make sure every kid learns that Jesus rode dinosaurs and that if you don’t agree with them you are a traitor and a communist.

  72. JtC

    @ Nigel Depledge

    I understand your point, and I understand the link Phil was trying to make. So I’ll say this, Phil wasn’t trying to use Ad Hominen, but to me, it came across that way. The examples he uses don’t seem to be related to the claims he is refuting. John McCain doesn’t understand computers and can’t email; therefore, he can’t think critically about science issues. I think that’s way too much of a stretch. Had this been about Net Neutrality, ok, his lack of experience on the internet is completely valid, but certainly his lack of email/computer aptitude shouldn’t be carte blanche to use against him over anything related to science. In fact, I think John McCain has shown the ability to think critically about science and technology. He did so in voting for the expansion of embryonic stem cell research despite his pro-life position.

    I think that’s why Phil brought Jindal to the table. McCain isn’t religious, in fact, the religious people hate McCain. So he brings Jindal in with his Exorcist and Creationist views to help round out his arguement in a guilty by association kind of way. Do I think Jindal can think critically about science? Absolutely. I don’t think that’s in question. How does someone graduate with honors in Biology from an Ivy League school if they can’t think critically about science? Or score in the 90th percentile on their MCATs and get accepted into Harvard Medical School?

    The problem people have with Jindal is that he puts aside his knowledge of science and critical thinking skills in favor of his religious beliefs. That’s where you see his illogical comments about creationism and exorcism. But, do those beliefs disqualify him from commenting on other aspects of science? What about his religious beliefs would affect his views against Volcano monitoring, especially in the scope of economic stimulus? What if someone proposed money for Volcano monitoring after the recession as protection against loss of life? I have a hunch that he would support it. After all, after Katrina, he allocated a billion dollars of state funds, and asked for federal funds for the Coastal Gulf states, for restoring wetlands to protect against tidal surges from Hurricanes. That’s funding a scientific undertaking somewhat similar to volcano monitoring, but doing it through proper means, and not slipping it in an Economic stimulus bill. Moreover, his comments on global warming: “I think [we should] let the best science decide,” Jindal said when asked his opinion on the global warming debate. “It’s pretty clear to me that the land is sinking, the water’s rising, and that means that we better act today.” When it comes to Non-religious issues, Jindal isn’t the anti-science boogeyman he is made out to be.

    I think Phil’s arguements about McCain and Jindals’ science aptitude and critical thinking skills were intentionally unrelated. To me, that’s ad hominen. But if Phil says he meant no personal attack than, ok, I apologize. I’ll just settle on saying that Phil’s article was just trying to make snarky webclips.

  73. John Phillips, FCD

    JtC, actually the point I would assume that Phil was making was that taking the two incidents together shows that there is a strong anti-science element in the republican party. Possibly for different reason, McCain is probably, as someone said up threads, just scoring easy zinger points as a politico, while Jindal’s comes from a different POV, even if he is also a politico trying to score points. During the campaign, McCain bragged about his lack of computer related skills in what I assumed was an attempt to appeal to the anti-intellectual wing of the party. He has continued in this vein with his various anti-science zingers. Plus, choosing Palin as VP, especially after much of what she said during the campaign is taken into account, didn’t actually do anything to dispel the anti-science, anti-intellectual appearance. Jindal recently signed in an anti science education ‘teach the controversy’ or ‘academic freedom’ bill to pander to the IDiots/creationists in his state making the exorcism point relevant. Even his volcano zinger was, to be generous, disingenuous, as only some 10% of that part of the bill actually related to volcano monitoring. Thus their reason for appearing anti-science may be different, even if ultimately both are simply scoring political points, but the result is the same, i.e. anti-science. Therefore there is no ad-hominem in linking them or in bringing up the points he did.

  74. JtC

    @ JP, FCD

    As I said, I’ll downgrade my criticism to “seeking snarky webclips.”

    The point I was trying to emphasize — I failed to though — was that it seemed the meat of the post was regarding the legitimacy of the science funding in the stimulus bill, and you can have that conversation without mentioning Bobby Jindal or John McCain. It’s not too dissimilar from what Phil says in this post. Phil could have chosen his words differently. He could have just left out the 2nd to last paragraph in his initial post and probably avoided a lot the attacks, but I feel he’s just extending the “Us vs. Them” game.

    “And the tone of that comment makes it clear he is deriding science. He could have said, “Investing in astronomy won’t help the common citizen put dinner on the table” which would have been no less inaccurate than what he said, but wouldn’t have been insulting…”

  75. John Phillips, FCD

    JtC, then you must be reading a different article by Phil to the one I am. For I only see mention of the bill and earmarks in relation to the actual tone taken by McCain when dissing portions of them. That tone being an anti-science one rather than an anti-bill/earmark tone. In fact, even your last paragraph in reply to my post quotes Phil saying exactly that.

  76. Dave, that’s funny that you call me a creationist and imply I’m a liar.

    I *never* called you a Creationist. I said you were using a “Creationist Tactic” of repeating a smear.

    Secondarily, the first article I quoted was from 2000. EIGHT years ago. It shows him and his wife using a computer together. Pretty much what would happen if you couldn’t use one due to his injuries (which he has admitted makes it hard for him to use and learn)

    Incidenally, Tony Blair never knew how to send an email until after he stopped being Prime Minister.

    Honestly Phil, if the US Republicans get their act together under reasonable folks like Crist or Huntsman (Which I hope they do), your head is going to explode big time with all the hypocrisy going on.

  77. Zar

    I can’t help but notice that none of you indignant conservatives even try to argue that the Republican party is pro-science. Not.a.one. That’s all it would take, guys. No more sniping and attacking; just give us some actual evidence.

  78. I can’t help but notice that none of you indignant conservatives even try to argue that the Republican party is pro-science. Not.a.one.

    None of us “conservatives” are arguing that the Republican party is pro-UFO either, Zar. Stop trying to change the subject. The point here is that Phil boobed. And he boobed due to his rather hysterical (yet often justified) viewpoint of anything other than his own liberal biases. And instead of admitting he boobed, he just dug his heals in deeper.

  79. JGH-4774

    I agree with you Phil.

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