Erasing false balance: the right is more antiscience than the left

By Phil Plait | September 28, 2011 12:31 pm

[Note: I'm anticipating some, um, interesting comments to this post. So, before you leave one, please read this post on my political thinking, and this one on political posts in general.]

I write quite a bit about how rabidly antiscience the political right in the US has become. From the attacks on science by the Bush Administration (and Newt Gingrich before that) to the political litmus test of needing to denounce evolution and global warming if you’re a candidate, the Republican party has planted its flag firmly in the ground of nonsense. At the bottom of this article is a section called Related Posts that has links to just a handful of the copious examples of this outrageous behavior.

They have also become masters at spinning this, going on the attack against science they don’t like and using the media to sow doubt. One of the most aggravating of these tactics is the one of false equivalency. For example, in a post I might lambaste yet another Republican candidate saying creationism should be taught in schools, and someone in the comments will say, "Well, people on the left are antiscience as well!"

This is a common claim, but at best it’s a gross mischaracterization of what’s going on, and in reality it’s beside the point. Sure, some people on the left have issues (mostly anti-corporate or alt-med stuff like being against GMO, vaccines, and so on), but those are not the main planks of the left. And those issues are a drop in the bucket compared to what’s going on in the right. To say you think evolution might be true is political suicide if you’re a Republican candidate right now. It’s that simple, and that bad. I think that, like on the left, the majority of voters on the right are not antiscience, but if you look to the leaders in Congress, in State legislatures, and at the Presidential candidates, that’s all you see.

And that’s why you need to read an article by my friend Chris Mooney, "Unequivocal: Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today’s Left". He lays out just how big this problem is, why the right has gone this way, and why they have solidarity among their candidates.

The chief reason the political right is anti-science is because it contains the Christian Right (and Tea Party, which is kind of the same thing). There is no force in American politics generating anywhere near so much unreality, in science or in other spheres, as this one. It is not just evolution, or the age of the Earth… When it comes to science, it is also anything having anything to do with abortion, reproductive health, and sexuality. Moreover, we are talking here about the willful advancement of dangerous falsehoods, and the clinging to them in the face of all evidence and refutation—because this is about unwavering certainty, and ultimately, about faith.

This is one of the most important political articles I’ve read in quite some time. Chris lays out the political reality of antireality in a stark way. The article is frustrating and infuriating, because it shows just how the right’s leaders have lost their grip on reality, and is a grim reminder of just how important the elections next year are.

To be clear: I am not saying that anyone who calls themself a Republican is antiscience. I am saying the leaders of the party and their mouthpieces are, and Chris does a good job of showing that this is now the mainstream thrust of the party. If you are a conservative person who is pro-science, it is up to you to talk to your leaders about this issue. The GOP used to be pro-science, but was hijacked by the antiscience fringe many years ago. I can talk about this all I want and try to raise awareness, but your voices must be heard. Speak up.


Related posts:

- Republican candidates, global warming, evolution, and reality
- The increasingly antiscience Republican candidates
- Michele Bachmann needs to check her ID
- Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA): on climate change, makes wrong even wronger
- Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity
- Antiscience party
- Another climate scientist responds to Rep. Joe Barton’s false claims
- Vaccines on the left, vaccines on the right

MORE ABOUT: left, Republicans, right

Comments (168)

  1. Daffy

    While I agree the problem lies with the leaders, I have noticed that Republican voters tend to be far more loyal to their party than Democrats; consequently, Republicans are more likely to make excuses for idiocy, which in turn allows the leaders to get away with pandering to morons.

    Btw, before anyone says it, no, I don’t belong to either party.

  2. There is no force in American politics generating anywhere near so much unreality, in science or in other spheres, as this one.

    QFT! Reminds me of what I wrote a while back on my own blog about the type of “thought” that is inherent to those individuals.

    My issue is not really religion but irrational thought and belief without evidence. Religion is just the most evident, and for some reason respected, irrational belief system on the planet. If you really analyze religion, it’s all about accepting the unprovable and non-existent as a matter of course. You would readily scoff at someone who worshiped a giant flying space pickle, so why is your particularly strange deity immune from that rational examination? Have you examined homeopathy, power balance bracelets, new age, alchemy, astrology, tarot card reading, ghosts, UFOs, paranormal, mind-reading, tea leaf reading, remote viewing, spirit guides, bigfoot, etc. and made conclusions about those things? Why not examine the rest of things you “know” in the same way? Not to keep flogging a horse, but what I like about science is that it makes no claims without backing them with evidence. And the fantastic discoveries that it makes in every field are so much grander and more astounding than any supernatural conjecture about omniscience, answers to prayer, miracle healing, etc., that people have ever come up with, both past and present. And its brutally honest with itself. No religion has ever passed this test and every preacher pretty much makes stuff up as they go along. And people keep believing it.

    I do understand how a person can be “spiritual” and cling to the possibility of a supernatural entity. Especially in tough times its nice to think that something “up” there is looking out for you. But when it comes down to it personal responsibility is the key. Laying your hopes, desires, and life on some invisible unevidenced entity is a cop-out if you don’t work to make things happen yourself.

    And I must add, your right to your religion end at everyone else’s rights to their religion or lack thereof. Again, I could care less what you believe, so long as you aren’t trying to foist off your fairy tales as science in the schools, attempting to deny other human beings their basic rights, or expecting everyone to live by your rules and dictates.

    @Daffy (#1), sometimes I think it’s because the Republican base is so used to being told what to do, and inherently do what they are told, that the idea that they even have a choice escapes them. ;) Or am I being too cynical?

  3. QuietDesperation

    Everything you said is basically correct. It’s also irrelevant minutiae to the bigger picture.

    Anyone who can be described as “left” or “right”, “liberal” or conservative” or “libertarian” or “progressive” is existing in an ideological singularity, and is useless for solving any problem anywhere at any time.

    On any single topic, yeah, you can weigh one over the other in the aggregate, but when you look at the broadband perception of the two Parties, they both sit deep within reality distortion fields. Picture it like gravity wells. If the Republicans are sitting on Jupiter’s core and the Democrats are sitting on Saturn’s, noting the difference seems a bit pointless.

    We need a third party, one that doesn’t rigidly follow any ideological playbook, one that is open to any method of solving any problem, and flexible enough to put forth different solutions to the same problem in different locations, and we need it right fraking now.

    They also need to recognize when to *not* do anything. Here in California, I predict by 2020 everything single action you make all day will somehow have a law associated with it. I’m sure someone in Sacramento has considered a law about how to wipe our bums.

    Waiting for someone from the EU to say “Well, you’re all right wing to us.” Not something to be proud of, dude.

  4. QuietDesperation

    @#2 Both bases have deep and entrenched flaws. Again, trying to praise one landfill over the other is a fruitless exercise.

  5. hhEb09'1

    False equivalence, eh? Well here’s one for you: any screed pushing politcal views in the name of “science” is anti-science. O yeah, humans are political animals, that’s justification enough I guess.

  6. @QD (#4) you are correct. :) However, the perceived strength of the GOP (particularly at the polls) is what tends to frighten me in that regard. I agree with what you say in post #3 entirely! I think I have a blog post somewhere in which I complain that the two party sistem is almost a one party system with just different window dressing at the two headquarters. ;)

  7. JHGRedekop

    I’m not even convinced that all of the Republican leaders are anti-science. But they are all (except for Huntsman) at least pretending to be anti-science to get votes, which is at least as bad (and shows a huge contempt for the intelligence of their constituents).

  8. TxKat

    There’s a big difference between anti-science and anti-consensus science. Global warming in and of itself isn’t what’s debated by most conservatives. It’s the connection to human activity which does not stand up to scrutiny beyond the average news report. But if you’re a scientist or politician today, dare you support anything other than the consensus? Watch your research grants and votes evaporate. With so much money and career success riding on the answer to a scientific question, you have to wonder how objective and complete the research findings are.

    I recommend a book, Voodoo Science, which discusses how the role of the press in scientific discoveries – not just global warming – has skewed and politicized the research. As someone who is fascinated by genetics, anthropology and archaeology, I found it an eye-opener, and in no way did it create an irrational fear of science.

  9. SeanMcD

    I realize this is a science blog and thread, but this discussion affects the way the country perceives and uses science in daily life, and the way others with a different agenda attempt to steer the conversation and funding.

    The same people who perpetuate the anti-science on the right have also been working at perpetrating anti-history, such as the attempt to erase Thomas Jefferson and the ideas of the founding fathers and replace these ideas with their own nonsense/Christian Nation dogma. The good folks on the right are too emotionally committed to the GOP to realize that it has been hi-jacked by the neo-cons. This and more is part of concerted effort, not a conspiracy, to remake America in their image. Remember prohibition, same folks, and there are many examples of this effort.

    Clear thinking people of all stripes have to keep doing what we always had to do, keep the noise machine in check and keep voting them down at the poles.

  10. TerryEmberson

    While I generally agree with this post, Mooney’s characterization of the Tea Party as Christian Right is laughable. It’s like saying the Academy of the Sciences is the same thing as the Social Progressive movement. It may be technically correct that many in the Academy are social progressives, but the demands of the Tea Party movement have little to do with the push of the Christian right. They aren’t calling for teaching god in schools, repealing the First Amendment, or anything like that.

    It is completely disingenuous to claim otherwise. If you disagree with the calls of the Tea Party (which are mostly libertarian, despite the fact that most of them are also socially conservative) fine, but at least don’t accuse them of denying reality while denying reality about them.

  11. Ann

    You sound like a naderista, ( as I like to refer to them). There is always a difference and so long as we do not have a parliamentary system, a third party is simply not going to get anywhere.

  12. Elmar_M

    The problem in the US is that you have two ideologies to choose from and no alternatives in a 3rd opposition party. No the tea party does not count, as they are mostly just conservative republicans. I have to say that I met a few notable exceptions in the Teaparty In Space movement which seems to have some of the more reasonable people in it ( its space and science after all), but I am still not too sure about them either. At least some of them want to fight the antiscience in the TP or so they claim anyway).
    Generally though, the US needs a new political party that does not follow an ideology. Ideology, whether left, right, up or down, straight, queer or otherwise, is wrong. Period.
    The right have their religious/conservative/antigovernment ideology. The left have their big government, “everyone is the same”, “we must share everything with everyone” sort of idiotic mentality. Both is stupid and does not work!
    Socialism == bad
    religion/conservativism == bad
    Get that into your heads!
    Finally as the recent space policy debacle has shown (surprised that Phil did not have to say more about that. It is pretty evident that both parties favor big government and pork equally as long as it brings government money to their respective lobbies. They dont care about a space program! They both dont give a darn about whether their policy will stall space development for decades…
    So the two parties keep playing the pork ball between each other. 4 years its the reps who can pork their defense lobbyists, then for 4 years its the dems that can pork their social projects and whatnot. Same difference!
    Since neither of the big parties in the US is free of ideology and both have clearly no interest in the wellbeing of their citizens, the US needs a 3rd anti- ideologic party that will help keeping the other two in line and point out the issues. It needs to be a true opposition party.
    I doubt that this will ever happen so:
    USA: Doomed!

  13. Again, I hate to shamelessly plug my own post, but in the interest of being accurate and comprehensive, I have compiled a list of what EACH and every one of the 2012 republican candidates thinks on two key science issues: climate change and evolution. It’s depressing reading, so don’t say I didn’t warn you:

    http://www.lukesci.com/2011/09/06/all-of-the-2012-republican-candidates-on-climate-and-evolution/

    On the US “left” (which i.m.h.o. is only called “left” because it’s not as right-wing as the US right), you have AT LEAST Clinton and Gore, both of whom have campaigned for action on climate. As it happens Clinton has lambasted the science-denying Republicans, saying that the US looks “like a joke” because “you can’t win the nomination of one of our major parties if you say the scientists are right.”. Here is that video:

    http://www.lukesci.com/2011/09/21/bill-clinton-attacks-anti-science-republicans/

  14. Eccentric & Anomalous

    “Generally though, the US needs a new political party that does not follow an ideology. Ideology, whether left, right, up or down, straight, queer or otherwise, is wrong. Period.”

    Ideology s wrong? I am sorry but I have to call this statement by what it is: meaningless. There is *always* an ideology, whether you, Elmar_S, are aware of it or not. An anit-ideology party…jeebus what nonsense.

  15. It can't happen here!

    I’d be willing to go as far as saying that anyone who VOTES Republican for Federal positions is also anti-science. Not necessarily because of their opinions, but because of their actions. (I say Federal because there are very occasionally sane people who run on a Republican ticket at State or more local levels)

  16. JohnW

    This emphasis on the anti-science attitudes of the Republican Party strikes me as so much intellectual masturbation.

    There is definitely an anti-science bent to the Republican Party, and I deplore it. But the day the Republicans’ anti-science attitude does more than the tiniest fraction of harm to this country as has the Democrats’ incestuous relations with the teachers’ unions, I’ll eat my hat. Entire generations of poor urban minority kids are cycled through the failure factories that are our nation’s inner-city school systems. Those systems are not designed to teach, they are set up to confiscate money from shrinking tax bases and funnel it into local politician’s pockets through the mechanism of the school systems and the unions.

    The voter participation rates in the cities are abysmal. The public employee unions pick who is going to be the next mayor and who is going to sit on the city councils because they are well organized and ruthless. So of course they pick the mayor who is going to offer them the best deal when the next contract negotiation comes up. That is why the cities are economic dead zones. That is why the schools are uniformly awful. And nearly all of them have been run by Democrats for 40+ years, and they fight any reform tooth and nail.

    Railing about creationism is picking the cheap, low-hanging fruit. It is an annoyance. The education racket is much more damaging to our nation, its people, and our scientific and technical base. It is a much more important issue. But it’s more complicated, and more difficult, than blog posts saying, “Hey, look how dumb these creationists are!”

    There’s a coherent progressive narrative on the nation’s economy. I don’t agree with most of it, but it’s there. But I’ll vote for the guy who thinks Jesus rode Velociraptors on the way to Sunday School over the architects of this ongoing human catastrophe any day of the week.

  17. Orv

    @8: While you’re right that *presently* most conservatives do not debate the existence of global warming, that’s relatively recent. They used to deny it existed entirely (and some, including many conservative talk show hosts, still do.) Questioning whether it’s caused by human activity is their fallback position; it’s a way of continuing to sow doubt when their original objections have been disproved and no longer play well with the public.

    We’re also starting to see hints of their next fallback position, which will be, “it’s caused by human activity, but doing anything about it would be too expensive.”

  18. Melissa

    *sigh* When did all of this happen?

    I enjoy Bill Maher’s characterization; “The left moved to the right and the right moved into a mental institution.”

  19. h.r.

    Tell Luke Scientiae that before he plugs his blog he should make sure it isn’t so bloated that it locks up a person’s Chrome browser on a new Sony computer with FlashBlock etc. and connected to the highest-speed Internet account available in California. Seriously, who can look at that page?

  20. Cheyenne

    @John W – As a person who is relatively familiar with Chicago Public schools I can only say – you are absolutely correct.

  21. Franklin R

    There’s some impressive false equivalence on the part of Elmer_M. Granted, both parties are pretty corrupt and beholden to their donors and the interest groups. But the Democratic Party isn’t as far to the left as the Republican Party is to the right. The president signed into a law a health-care bill that was equal parts written by the insurance industry and inspired by the mid-90s Republican counter-proposal to Hillarycare. It’s just that the Overton window has shifted that far to the right. The Democrats would have to be actual socialists, or even communists, to be as far left as the Republicans are far right. Quick, define socialism, Elmer_M.

    And JohnW massively overestimates the power that unions have. If they are the sole cause of all of our educational woes, perhaps he can explain why private school students don’t fare much better, or in some cases worse, than public school students.

  22. Amanda

    Just to reiterate Terry (#10), the Christian Right and the Tea Party are by no means synonymous. If you’d like an interesting study of how Tea Party members’ beliefs shake out, there’s one at:
    http://reason.com/poll/2011/09/26/is-half-the-tea-part-libertart

    If anything, the Tea Party is made up of Libertarians, plus Christian Right-ists who seem willing to put their social conservative views on the back burner for the moment until the country gets its fiscal condition under control. In short, they come together over economic matters, not social conservative-ness.

  23. PeteC

    I think one of the great problem you have in American politics at the moment is the “package deal” bundling of policies. Apparently if one believes in a moderate fiscal conservatism – not a particularly extreme position, in my opinion – then one must also believe in teaching Christianity as the One True Faith in schools. And, since you must be a True Christian ™, you must also believe in mass handgun ownership and “he had it comin’” as a valid defence [something to do with Jesus opening up a can of twin-Uzi'd whoop-ass on the Roman soldiers that came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane, and cheering on Peter as he slew Roman after Roman, or something like that, as I understand it]. As a fiscal conservative I also must disbelieve in any scientific evidence that the Earth is older than 6000 years. If you’re a believer in gun ownership and strong self-defence laws then you of course are heavily against sex education or protecting teenagers from STDs or unwanted pregnancies. Assuming you believe in a strong military, you must also believe that taxes on the top 1% of earners should be reduced to as low as possible or eliminated entirely, and that corporations deserve all the rights of the individual (such as free speech) but none of the consequences (such as imprisonment or the death penalty). If you believe in a low-taxation and low-support economic model then you obviously don’t belive that homosexuals deserve the same human rights as heterosexuals and youu must be Baptist or Evangelical; and you must believe that there is a huge world-wide conspiracy of global warming scientists all twirling their moustaches and laughing evily, just because that’s what scientists do.

    I suspect several of your less insane contenders for the Republican nomination only believe half of that, at most, but they have to pretend to believe it all or end up as Huntsman – last.

  24. Gamercow

    “But I’ll vote for the guy who thinks Jesus rode Velociraptors on the way to Sunday School over the architects of this ongoing human catastrophe any day of the week.”

    No. This will do more harm than any “failure factory”. To be taught fallacies and untruths is much more damaging than jamming heads full of answer keys to tests. It is a case of harm vs neglect. Both are bad, but harm is worse.

    Also, it is UNCONSTITUTIONAL to incorporate religious teachings in public schools. THAT is the number 1 reason why people like Rick Perry should be feared and rejected. Willful, illegal reduction of the knowledge being taught to students.

    I have my own theories why the GOP candidates are promoting anti-science and anti-education, but that is not for this space.

  25. jim

    Sure thing …

    It’s the left that pushes the anthropomorphic global warming hoax, ad nauseam. Talk about the “willful advancement of dangerous falsehoods”!

  26. Mutant Dragon

    One thing you should bear in mind is that politicians ALWAYS play to the more extreme wing of their party during the primaries THEN play to the center during the general election. That’s because the more extreme wing tend to be the people who actually vote in primaries, whereas the centrists are more likely to turn out for the general election. So what you are hearing right now is the Republican candidates trying to appeal to the far right of the Republican party. Regardless of which one wins, you will hear them singing a more moderate tune when it comes time for the general election. Disingenuous, no doubt, but there it is. It’s not too terribly different from Obama and Hillary promising to research the safety of vaccines back in 08 — crass and ridiculous, no doubt, but they were trying to appeal to the left wing of their own party.

  27. I think a few people don’t get the point: saying that the Republicans are bad right now just does not amount to saying that the Democrats are good. This is not a rundown of who’s best to vote for. This is simply stating the fact that Republicans are disappointingly anti-science.

    That being said, maybe the Democrats got the schools into a mess, but I don’t think the current Republicans will fix it the way you want. Teachers can do a lot of good to a society, but they can also do a lot of damage. Do you want your local school teachers to teach that abstinence is the best contraception? That evolution is “just a theory”? That god created the Earth 10000 years ago? The people who want these things to be put in the school’s agenda would have an easier time getting it their way if Rick Perry was president. All of this with no guarantee whatsoever that the actual problems in the schools will be fixed.

  28. Christopher

    I do find it INCREDIBLY difficult to be a science loving Republican. There’s no inherent contradiction in the ideals of small government, the free market and a strong national defense and the love of science, a thirst for knowledge and trusting people with “Ph.D” after their name…

    I have to wonder if the “Right”‘s anti-science stance is one bourne of anything other than the higher religiosity of the right over the left. I’ve known some hardcore left wingers who, being very religious, and especially christian, are just as anti-science. To be honest, I find the inherent contradiction in the main ideals of Christianity with those of the Economic Right wing more interesting…

  29. Consider being an on air meteorologist in the South and try writing a blog post that mentions evolution, or doing a post on a road cut with rocks that are 200 million years old (vs 6,000).
    Not easy I assure you…

  30. JJ (the other one)

    I dislike the title and would state:

    The current establishment that claims to represent the “right” is more anti-science than the current establishment that claims to represent the “left”.

    IMO, once you get down the “grassroots” level of the “left” then the anti-science is basically indistinguishable from that of the “right”.

    It’s just that the last 20+ years of dedicated right-wing meme building has led to those “grassroots” on the “right” taking over the establishment.

  31. Elmar_M

    >>There is *always* an ideology, whether you, Elmar_S, are aware of it or not.>>
    Science is absolutely unideologic. Ideology is the opposite of science in about every aspect.
    The dems in the US are slightly better than the socialists here in this regard, that is true. I am actually always surprised by how much more center and unideologic they appear than most of the parties here in Europe.
    BUT, there is still a lot of ideology going on among democrats as well. Not only that democrat government officials will even work against their own president when it comes to making sure they keep getting government pork for their districts. Nelson was siding with the republicans Shelby and Hutchinson (among others) against the Obama- administrations very pragmatic and IMHO excellent original plan for NASA.
    All that was then turned up side down by greedy people in congress and senate (both reps and dems), where we saw some horribly idiotic theatre going on. I cant find words to describe how despised I have been by what I can only call a desastrous development in regards to NASAs plans. Fact is that with everything Obama tried to do, he appeared to me pragmatic and rational. Then the rest of the government motivated by greed and lobbies came in and turned it into crap.
    Personally, I find the power of the lobbies in US politics horrible. I think that it should be done away with.

  32. RobT

    @19 h.r – if you’re having issues loading that blog then there is something wrong on your end. I also use Chrome and was able to load it in 5 – 10 seconds.

    As a foreign observer I find that the Republican Party has gone off the deep end after being hi-jacked by the religious right and Tea Party. Whatever happened to the GOP of Eisenhower’s time? And to be clear, while I have some liberal leanings, I am also a conservative when it comes to government spending. I don’t understand how the party that is supposed to care about the economy could appear to be so anti-education (note this is not the same as anti-teacher). If the US, or any other country, wishes to be relevant in a knowledge-based economy they need to put education at the forefront. That would start at making sure students are taught not only to think but also given a solid foundation of science, mathematics and language skills. It would continue with providing affordable college and university educations and access to adult learning and re-training.

  33. TerryEmberson

    I think one question here is who’s anti-reality (Republican anti-science, Democratic anti-capitalism) is more damaging to society. I almost point Democrat anti-freedom, but both parties score pretty low on that.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Democrats and the Republicans aren’t parties any more, they are coalitions. Parties stand for certain political ideals, coalitions are formed of diverse groups with different ideals for short or long term political gain. The Democratic coalition is formed of the social liberals, progressives, Christian Left, and environmentalists. The Republican party is formed of the conservatives, Christian Right, and free market libertarians. The problem is that about a third of active American voters are not longer affiliated to either party. They aren’t being represented in those coalitions.

    My completely untestable hypothesis is that the parties are becoming so much less relevant to America that they are having to scream louder with less detail. As they are losing relevancy, they are becoming more extreme in their views. Eventually a moderate party will either form, hopefully around conservative liberals who want to protect and enhance our freedoms in the social and economic realms alike, or one of the other two parties will break down into a new party.

    A presidential system of government, however, does not give incentive to a three party system, unlike a parliamentary government. We won’t stay three party for long.

  34. Keith Bowden

    h.r. – I’ve got Chrome too, and I also had no problem loading and viewing the page. I have noticed that Chrome has a tendency to “implode” if you have a lot of tabs open, though (Shockwave usually crashes if you have, say, a dozen flash-intensive pages open in the same browser).

  35. Ken

    Awesome, but ineffectual, strategy via a simple slogan: “…the right is more antiscience than the left.”

    Basically admit your side is wrong then excuse it by saying the other side is wronger.

    Like the R. Catholic Church — ‘Hey some of ours may have abused kids, but so did others!” Like that strategy worked for them, it will work just as well here, eh?

  36. Jeff

    you people are kidding yourself if you think there is a substantive difference between “left” and “right”; the power structure of the world is something completely different and this left/right stuff just distracts us from solving real problems. But go ahead, humor yourself with this stuff.

  37. TerryEmberson

    Maybe someone should write “The Democratic War on Economics”.

  38. Renee Marie Jones

    Thank you for speaking up.

    One of the terrible things that the media does is to give equal time to outrageous lies in the name of “fairness.” I think that is part of the reason the voters are so confused about what should be simple facts.

  39. JJ (the other one)

    @22 Amanda: I wouldn’t put much stock in self-selected polls.

    Let alone self-selected polls that don’t report response rates or sample sizes.

    Let alone self-selected polls from a single geographic region / event.

  40. Ken

    There’s one fundamental difference, profoundly significant, between the Right and the Left:

    The “Right” believes its views are soundly grounded on some “objective” [quotes necessary] value system (e.g. religion). Relative to one group’s given standards, they tend to be pretty consistent (granted, a given religious group’s interpretation commonly varies with that of another’s).
    They may, and often do, make incorrect statements, but such is the result of honest belief. What one might call stupidity. But it is demonstrated to be tenuously consistent.

    IN CONTRAST, the “Left” (much of the readers at this site) tends to have a highly inflated sense of self-righteous grounding routinely found to be based on equally ethereal foundations, despite assurances to the contrary, to their noble-minded “skepticism,” etc. More significantly is the oft-observed pattern of overt willfull lying as an intrinsic value system if/when the lies are perceived as contributing to the “greater good” du jour. Most people, as a general matter of principle, find lying socially/ethically UNacceptable…but the “Left” finds this tool of persuasion acceptable when it suits their values. This fluid moral value system is at its core very hypocritical by its inconsistency.

    Some examples:

    Stephen Schneider who is probably quoted more frequently about global warming than any other authority told Discover magazine in October 1989 that scientists should consider stretching the truth “to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination.” Said Schneider: “That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So, we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. . . . Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

    As Senator Timothy Wirth (D-Colo.) put it: “We’ve got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

  41. QuietDesperation

    They used to deny it existed entirely

    Always give credit to people who change their minds. That’s good science. Skepticism and then acceptance when the evidence mounts. If someone comes around, it’s very bad form to criticize past positions. We all start somewhere. The media is so obsessed with “D’oh! Flip flop!” than no one dares change their mind, ever. It’s so bad I have to admire Romney a bit for admitting to the flaws in his state’s health care plan.

    you people are kidding yourself if you think there is a substantive difference between “left” and “right”

    There is a difference. A huge one. They are just so far out into woo land it ceases to matter anymore, but they are in different woo zones.

    Consider being an on air meteorologist in the South and try writing a blog post that mentions evolution, or doing a post on a road cut with rocks that are 200 million years old (vs 6,000).
    Not easy I assure you…

    Well, it’s not as bad as being an anti-drug blogger in Mexico. You wind up with your head in a sack or hanging from a bridge.

    Science is absolutely unideologic.

    In theory. :-)

    The problems start when you add people. Maybe we can uplift dolphins or ponies to do our science for us.

  42. Renee Marie Jones

    TerryEmberson, would you please read “The Wealth of Nations” and then report back on what opinion the “Father of Capitalism” had on the behavior of corporations?

    Also, would you please explain whether and in what sense supply and demand curves really exist as single valued functions, and are they really scalar valued functions of scalar arguments, or is vector calculus actually involved?

  43. Gonçalo Aguiar

    @3

    “We need a third party, one that doesn’t rigidly follow any ideological playbook, one that is open to any method of solving any problem, and flexible enough to put forth different solutions to the same problem in different locations, and we need it right fraking now.”

    You don’t need a third party. European countries don’t have just two parties, they have sometimes dozens and yet problems and predicaments are not solved. When people embrace a given ideology with closed minds they will fail at solve anything related to reality. Bringing another party would just create another anti-democrat/anti-republican closed minded well.
    What the U.S. and ultimately the world needs is true democracy, where everyone is heard and all opinions matter. You have that system working in private companies, and everyone is happy there.
    The so called democracy you have now is laughable. You are called twice in 4 years to put a cross in a paper, like if you were some kind of retarded illiterate, and that’s it. Your degree of choice, your degree of freedom resolves to voting between two already selected and filtered individuals… What difference would make a third one, besides augmenting the grieves and fights in congress?

    I ask you: did you vote for war on Afghanistan ? Did you vote for war on Iraq? Did you vote for any political choice done in all your republic history?

  44. There’s actually some evidence that the general conservative voters are more scientifically knowledgeable under certain metrics than those on the left. See e.g. http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2011/03/republicans-are-more-scientifically.html and http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/03/the-republican-fluency-with-science/ I think that’s taking this evidence a bit too strongly. I’d conclude from it that there’s not much of a difference between the rank and file conservatives and liberals.

    So it seems that there’s some sort of severe disconnect between the leadership in the Republican party and the moderate end of their party. The question that maybe should be asked is how to go about repairing that bridge?

  45. Muahahaha. Now that US will become an anti-science country it will be the turn for us (third world) to take over the world.

    I’m just joking, this is a very serious problem and I hope pro-science right will find the way to make their voices been listened.

  46. Johnv2

    Dr. Plait, your required reading list says you don’t go for black and white. So what about this

    “To say you think evolution might be true is political suicide if you’re a Republican candidate right now. It’s that simple, and that bad.”

    isn’t flat out black and white? I can assure you that there are very large numbers of conservatives who would disagree with that analysis. For example, it hasn’t torpedoed Mr. Romney as a candidate. Also, I’m quite certain that there are aspects of evolution that would prove problematic to Democratic candidates if they were clearly articulated.

    It isn’t that simple. And it isn’t that bad. Unless, of course, you look at the world as black and white.

  47. @3

    Anyone who can be described as “left” or “right”, “liberal” or conservative” or “libertarian” or “progressive” is existing in an ideological singularity, and is useless for solving any problem anywhere at any time.

    Stuff and nonsense. By your logic, as soon as you create a third party of (wanna be) “independent thinkers”, the people who associate it are now trapped in its singularity. I notice that in your very next sentence you refer to Democrats and Republicans, in which case your idea of people being trapped at least has a tiny bit of merit. But people divide into left and right because there is legitimate and broad consensus around different types of solutions to problems: people on the left may prefer regulatory solutions, and apply them in very different cases like environmental protection and human rights; whereas people on the right may broadly believe that market solutions are more effective, and apply those to a whole suite of problems. Although they may be right or wrong in any case, to say that they are trapped in an ideological singularity, simply because they have an ethical or idealized view of one set of approaches, is incredibly smug and unhelpful. Waving a third-party magic wand will not bring together people who hold legitimately different opinions.

    Many of the reasons for the disaster that is current US politics stem from practical political concerns, like the Republicans’ willingness to go to the mat to deny Obama any appearance of a win. These are practical problems that have little to do with ideological singularities.

  48. I didn’t leave the party – the party left me.

  49. David Smith

    From what I see, the republicans aren’t so much anti-science as anti-pushed-down-your-throat-for-the-sake-of-gaining-poser.

    Take “global-warming.” I first read of it in the early ’60′s as greenhouse warming. Not a bit of politics about it. After the “nuclear winter” debacle in the early/mid ’80′s, I started seeing a few gusts from global-warming. Mainly, it was extrapolation with poorly formed models and I sat back to see what would happen to it. I also noticed that it was being used as a lever for certain groups that have their own political agenda. I’m called anti-science because I don’t fall for it. Yeah, greenhouse warming is true, but the extrapolation and weak models makes me wonder why I should listen to the “science” doomsayers. Yes, science should be unideologic. No, it isn’t always that way, especially after the media and politicians get hold of it.

    I’m amused by how much grant money rides on “global-warming” and now, “climate-change.” More power to you guys who can bootleg real research on the back of the band-wagon.

  50. anevilmeme

    Many of us inside the republican party are strongly pro-science, skeptics & in many cases like myself, atheists (the GOP is a bigger tent than you’d think).

    The anti-science republicans reject evolution, geology, cosmology, etc despite all the evidence on religious grounds is werid. Personally I think they have crossed some bizzare theological line to where they don’t worship their god as much as they are worshiping the bible. And no I don’t have a solution beyond continuing to show them the evidence.

    Yet despite all their rhetoric it was a W appointed judge that punkslapped them at the Dover Trial.

    Their rejection of global warming is also partly due to their religious beliefs but also partly “the boy that cried wolf.” During my lifetime there have been media driven scares over nuclear attacks, global cooling, killer bees, a population explosion, shark attacks, black holes, satanic cults, irradiated food, food shortages the moral majority taking over America & genetically altered food. Those are just off the top of my head. So of course they’re going to be skeptical, if not reject it outright.

    My suggestion is simple, change the sales pitch. I’ve been trying to convince my fellow republicans that we need to go to the same place but for different reasons, e.g.:

    - “No we don’t need to run our cars on something else to save the planet, we need to do it to screw OPEC.”

    - “I’d love to put a windmill in my back yard to stick it to the electric company.”

    - “Energy independence is our most important national defense issue.”

    - “Solar energy is free, let’s see them tax the sun.”

    - “If we’d move most of our freight by rail instead of semi we’d buy a lot less foreign oil, plus it would defang the Teamsters.”

    Yeah, its really cynical, but its what I have.

  51. Grung0r

    Chris Mooney doesn’t care about stopping climate change deniers. Chris Mooney is only interested in one thing: More power for Chris Mooney. He will surrender on every point, appease and accommodate the most dangerous lunatics, all in an effort to become the spokesman for something, anything, as long as he’s on top.

    If you go look, you will notice that Chris Mooney has all but abandoned discussions of religion, accommodationism and “framing”. He has done so because in his failed effort to become spokesman for all of science, he burned every bridge and surrendered on every point.He caused massive flame wars and schisms. Once it became clear that he had lost, he abandoned it all. He didn’t care about the battle between science and religion, he only cared about making sure Chris Mooney was at the head of that discussion. When it stopped being all about him, he showed how much the subject truly mattered to him and left it all behind.

    He will do the same with climate change. He is a cancer for any advocacy community. Don’t let him in.

  52. JohnW

    @24 Gamercow:
    Almost two-thirds of high school students in city public schools do not earn diplomas, giving Baltimore the third-worst graduation rate in the nation, according to a study released by the publication Education Week.

    The study, which analyzed 2004 data, found that 34.6 percent of Baltimore high school students graduated four years after they began school. Detroit had the worst graduation rate, 24.9 percent, and Cleveland was next, with 34.1 percent.

    Why this concentration on what is really, worst case scenario, a hypothetical annoyance versus this ongoing, real disaster? A disaster that has nothing to do with a religious or anti-evolution standing, but the cynical political and financial calculation of (largely) one party? This is the number one problem in our society, the number one problem with science education–or lack thereof–in our country, and from what blogs I follow, is completely off the radar. It’s shameful.

  53. Al

    I was sort of expecting a bit more political correctness from the left wing demagogue who wrote this piece of Stalinist-era blood libel. However, in the best tradition of the Liberal narrative, political correctness does not apply to their political opponents, only as a bashing and demonizing tool, when it suits them. The Liberals don’t really like to practice what they preach, do they?

    This libelous and generalizing article convinced me that discovery magazine is quickly becoming an Extreme-Liberal political propaganda and disinformation tool. This latest discovery (pun intended) makes the magazine just as inciting, out of context, arrogant and deceiving as the likes of Huffington Post and Michael Moore.

    I hope you all at the Discovery Magazine like the company.

  54. Elmar_M

    @47 Greg.

    By your logic, as soon as you create a third party of (wanna be) “independent thinkers”, the people who associate it are now trapped in its singularity.

    Not if they base their thinking on science. The difference between science and ideology is that scientists are willing to update their strategy and even completely change their direction based on new scientific discovery and new evidence, updated theories, etc.
    Ideologies are static. They are based on a ideas that can not be changed.
    Example “everybody is the same from birth” (which results in a miss interpretation of “everyone has the same rights from birth”, anyway). WRONG!
    “Criminals can be reformed by punishment and in prison” WRONG!
    “Nurture, not nature” WRONG!
    “It is societies fault” WRONG!
    Most of these were already pretty much known t be wrong once Watson and Crick discovered the DNA, but the left kept clining to its ideals and is still till this date trying to proof that they are right (and will spend billions on it).
    Equally
    “Earth is 4000 years old” WRONG!
    “We need to teach creationism” WRONG!
    “Religion is good” WRONG!
    “Stem cell science is evil and should not be allowed” WRONG!
    “Global warming does not exist” WRONG!
    They have all been proven wrong a long time ago, but on both sides people like to stick to their believes “religioously (hehehe).

    Meanwhile science is evolving and rapidly changing our understanding of the world. But the old believes and ideologies are static, they can not adapt. They will prevent progress and damage our ability to compete with other nations.

  55. Pete

    Why is ‘anti-corporate’ equivalent to ‘anti-science’? Corporations have repeatedly shown themselves to be malignant organisations, and its not denying reality to suggest that there might be better ways to organise the economy than through institutions legally structured to be driven by blind greed.

    I can understand the confusion. Alt-med freaks try to appeal to anti-corporate sentiment as a populist ploy. The correct response is not necessarily to defend corporations; it is to defend the researchers who work for those corporations (normally having been presented with few other options) and the work they do.

  56. Wzrd1

    One glance at the current funding levels of even congressional campaigns leads one to one inescapable conclusion: The candidates will say whatever the funding sources want them to say and nothing else.
    One can also consider the incredible expense of these campaigns, most of which speak with the same voice, then consider that we are in the middle of a depression, where is that money coming from? The cash strapped populace?
    Of course not. It’s coming from certain wealthy sources, who want things the way THEY want them, to hell with the populace’s wishes.
    Consider the NATIONAL level attacks on education. Why could that be?
    Because, an ill educated populace is easy to control, a well educated populace is impossible to control. That was why slaves were not permitted to learn to read and write, why all higher education in Europe spent a thousand years exclusively in Latin and why the Gutenberg bible was the undoing of abusive royalty based systems.

  57. Jess Tauber

    Gloog, if you’ve been reading this gnorp, then you know why I think its time to just dissolve these human contaminants and start over with something more promising, such as various fungi I just discovered in the southern polar continent. We’ve wasted several precessional periods hoping they might become something worthwhile, and I’ve got a vacation coming up. So lets get this over with before I’m scheduled for departure from this rock. This job sucks…

  58. Daffy

    @Larian (#2) “sometimes I think it’s because the Republican base is so used to being told what to do, and inherently do what they are told, that the idea that they even have a choice escapes them. ;) Or am I being too cynical?”

    Maybe. My own take is that their leaders have done such a good job demonizing Democrats (or anyone who disagrees with them) that many Republicans really do think of the opposition as traitors or worse.

  59. Elmar_M

    I do have to agree with 54 to some extent. There should be some control over funding for parties and probably some more visibility to the public as well.

  60. Justin

    I always say that the conservatives who blatantly display their anti-science rhetoric should not be allowed to use GPS-enabled devices. I’m sorry, GOP, if you can’t accept the overwhelming evidence of climate change and evolution, relativity must be outside your realms of belief as well. I mean, really, how could time be moving at a different rate for objects at different speeds…?

  61. Eccentric & Anomalous

    “Science is absolutely unideologic. Ideology is the opposite of science in about every aspect.”

    Obviously, but you were talking about forming an non-ideologic political party, a concept which is meaningless.

    Anyway, to the point of Phil’s post: I agree with it and certainly could not have said it better myself.

  62. Brian Too

    There was a time when the extremist positions were easy to marginalize. All the center had to do, when they were really on their game, was let the extremists talk. Eventually they would say something so outlandish that most observers (not fellow extremists of course) would write them off.

    What ever happened to those days? I have my own list of suspects that I will not share here, in an attempt to keep this civil and nonpartisan.

    Even the term “extreme” has lost most of it’s meaning. Commentators of all stripes will label some person or position extreme, and sometimes I find myself thinking, “no, that’s not extreme. You happen to disagree. That is all that is going on.”

    What word will we use now that “extreme” is devalued? Shall we say “ultra extreme”? Is “fringe” appropriate? Perhaps “radical” is too 1960′s? Can we agree that “marginal” is a little close to the edge?

  63. Elmar_M

    @59 Eccentric&Anomalous

    Obviously, but you were talking about forming an non-ideologic political party, a concept which is meaningless.

    I dont get it. Why is that meaningless? A political party can be non- ideologic as well. These two terms are not mutually exclusive. Call it the “party for reason and science in politics”.
    I see quite a lack of both in current politics in the US and most European countries as well.
    Oh and having a strong opposition party does work in some European countries. Keeps the other two honest, or at least prevents them from doing all and everything they want.

  64. Steve

    Appreciate what you’re saying Phil, but there’s no way I’m voting for anyone who wants to increase taxes and supports deficit spending. That applies to any party. The finances of our country are more important to me than whether someone is an advocate of non-science. Most people believe in god including active politicians and our president, yet while belief in god seems anti-science to me, I don’t hold it against them. There are precious few choices of good candidates running for office, but my biggest issue of debt and deficit financing trumps everything else. There is no science funding without a healthy robust economy and that is only achievable through a free market system. Democrats need to drop their insistent and wrong belief in Keynesian economics. If they did that and became more like libertarians, I would have no issue with them at all.

  65. Craig Thomas

    “AnEvilMeme: says:

    > – “No we don’t need to run our cars on something else to save the planet, we need to do it to screw OPEC.”

    > – “I’d love to put a windmill in my back yard to stick it to the electric company.”

    > – “Energy independence is our most important national defense issue.”

    > – “Solar energy is free, let’s see them tax the sun.”

    > – “If we’d move most of our freight by rail instead of semi we’d buy a lot less foreign oil, plus it would defang the Teamsters.”

    > Yeah, its really cynical…

    Hey! I loathe lefties and their obsession with making laws for everything – your points above aren’t “cynical” to me, they are *exactly* on the right track from my point of view.

    – Buy less oil from the arabs could only be a good thing. On the other hand, buying all their oil before they develop their own civilisation capable of using it might have some merit, but only if we were using it to develop our economy instead of frittering it away on wanton consumerism.

    – Buying windmills will result in a distributed system of power generation which the electric corporations would be unable to monopolize, ensuring greater economic freedom for a libertarian world. An excellent thing!

    – Energy independence/national defence issue. Absolutely. Western civilisation has wasted trillions of dollars on warfare
    since the beginning of the 20th century, largely as a result of the pursuit of control of energy sources. If that money had been spent on development of geo-thermal, solar, wind, and tidal sources of energy, we would be a spectacularly rich civilisation instead of our current status as a civilisation teetering on the brink of collapse.

    – Solar is free. Exactly! The cost of generating power using renewables is 99.9% establishment cost.

    – Freight by rail. Exactly! The taxpayer pays to maintain roads even though 99% of maintenance is required as a result of freight movement. Not to mention the dangers involved with so much freight on the roads. The unions are reponsible for keeping freight on the roads and we’re all paying for it through our taxes.

  66. Daffy

    Steve, if you look, you’ll find that the times when the country was the most prosperous were times when taxes were WAY higher than they are now. Reagan’s voodoo economics has been the greatest con job in my lifetime.

    Asking the mega rich to pay 4 percent higher taxes (they still have their loopholes, too) is hardly going to break them. Remember, in the 1950s (a time of GREAT prosperity) the top tax rate in this country was 88 percent!

    Supply Side Economics doesn’t work, can’t work, has never worked, and will never work.

  67. Messier Tidy Upper

    From my perspective after years of following science, reading and thinking about it, I think saying either party, either side of the political is anti-science whilst the other is pro-science is a false oversimplification.

    Science covers a whole lot of things and areas.

    The Right is against Climate Science, pushes Creationism and sucks inthat regard but is generally pro-space exploration, pro-nuclear power, pro-Genetically modified foods and more.

    The Left is pro-Climatology, pro-Evolution but very much anti-nuclear power, quite anti-space exploration and technology and excetremely anti-GMO and genetics science work and also very anti-vax.

    The Right wing have the millstone of religious extremists and fundamentalists like Rick Perry and listen to too many crazy televangelists, Fox news commentators and too many deep Libertarians who take that philosophy to an uncomfortable extreme plus to the extreme Laissez faire economics.

    (Libertarianism and Liassez faire capitalism are okay in moderate forms but can be – and often are taken too far. Balance I think is required and, of course, very hard to find. No one political ideology or party has all the answers, In My Humble Opinion Naturally.)

    The Left are often captured by some extremely anti-science and anti-technology environmentalist positions and listen too much to some at least semi-socialist anti-capitalist rubbish ideologies and doctrines incl. of course the whole Political Correctness movement against Free Speech and also is blighted by the Cultural Relativism ideology.

    To say you think evolution might be true is political suicide if you’re a Republican candidate right now.

    It would be equally true to say that if you believe in nuclear power and Genetic Engineering and finding scientific technological as opposed to international treaties and domestic taxes and hippy lifestyle solutuions to Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating you’d be committing political suicide as a Democratic candidate right now.

    IOW & in a nutshell. BOTH poolitical sides or teams suck on science as they do inso many ther ways.

    Both have their irrational people and positions, neitehr is perfect and saying one is worse or better than the other seems like choosing between eating broken glass or rusty barbed wire.

    Would be great if we had a pro-science, all rational party that advocated space travel, evolution, vaccinations, fighting HIRGO, nuclear power etc .. tThat wa sconsistently behind taking the best science regardless of dumb ideologies and voodoo economic theories. But we don’t.

    One other thing that really puts me off about the Leftwing of politics. They seem to have very little if any national pride and patriotism and don’t really seem that enthused about Western values and principles prefering to undermine them with cultural relativism and anti-nationism. When it comes to wars and global conflicts incl. the space races and national progress in space and global influence, the Left often seems to be backing theother side and not their own.

    Now this is my perecption based on a whole lot of things and a bit of a side story but it is relevant in that “space races” and ,sadly, military conflcits are one of the main drivers of scientific and technological progress. If you want science todevelop you should I’d suggest worry less about appeasing enemies who are philosophically implacable and incapable of being appeased by anything short of total surrender and conversiontotheir way of life and more determined to see your side, your homeland win – or at least be capable and determined enough – to win on the battlefields – metaphorical (eg.space progress) and otherwise.

  68. Elmar_M @54:

    Good points, but you simply can’t base everything on science. Science can provide a lot of data, but the underlying choices are always moral and ethical. For example, if I have a vaccine that will save millions of lives but kill dozens of innocents along the way, the decision to use it is a social, political, and ethical one, and is heavily dependent upon your personal ethical philosophy (a utilitarian would say “of course”, but many others will disagree). Similarly, science can tell us what the impacts on climate are likely to be, but it can’t weigh for us the value of economic disruption now against (discounted) future human suffering. Finally, of course, there are a great many problems — I would say most problems — for which science gives you a lot of data but much less certainty. You can’t wait for it to come up with the final answer; you need to make choices now.

    Obviously we have a desperate problem with science education and literacy, which is part of Phil’s point. But science itself isn’t the answer. Even if you had all the scientific data you wanted, it would tell you how to imbue different aspects of a problem with meaning. And that’s the hard part.

  69. Daniel J. Andrews

    In the book, The Inquisition of Climate Science, the author cites a survey by the Pew Foundation that 52% of American scientists identify themselves as liberal. Dr. Richard Alley (google his The Biggest Control Knob speech to the AGU in 2009–fantastic talk) identifies himself as a registered Republican, and he’s testified before Congress on climate matters (google The Brain and the Blowhard on youtube).

    With such a large percentage of scientists not liberal per se, and with some well-known and respected Republican scientists, it is a bit surprising that the party itself has become so antiscience. Bachmann, as mentioned, fell into the antiscience of the antivax and made a fool of herself (yet again–google Bachmann and light bulb lunacy).

    As one blogger noted, it really says something about the current Repub folks that by comparison they make the Bush gov’t look good in the sciences.

  70. Messier Tidy Upper

    Dang-nabbed gosh-durned typos in my comment (currently #69) above! Oh well, hope y’all get the gist anyhow. :-(

    I’m a supporter of NEITHER Red nor Blue political team. Both are really pretty rubbish on science in varying ways and areas.

    (Almost all politicians are like diapers and need to be changed regularly for the same reason. ;-) )

    The Right are worse in some areas the Left are worse in others and a balance needs to be found between them.

    This is true not only of science but of other areas too.

    For instance, the Left wing are much better than the Rightwing on health and education whilst the Rightwing is better economically and vastly better on foreign policy.

    Moderates from either party are better than extremists from either party and the centrists should be supported not the candidates at the fringes of either wing. (Eg. Romney is far preferable in my view to Perry, Hilary Clinton far preferable to Obama.)

    As was discussed on another thread the Republicans have sent four politicians into space where the Democrats have sent just two. (Will have to find the exact comment citing that again later.)

    Interesting and perhaps shows their respective committments to space exploration if that’s your priority criteria.

  71. SLC

    Re David Smith @ #49

    Climatologists could make far more money pimping for the Koch brothers than they make in government grants.

    Re Messier Tidy Upper @ $69
    .The Left is pro-Climatology, pro-Evolution but very much anti-nuclear power, quite anti-space exploration and technology and excetremely anti-GMO and genetics science work and also very anti-vax.

    1. Relative to nuclear power, Mr. Upper means dangerous leftists like Chancellor Merkel of Germany, head of the conservative party in that country who is advocating phasing out the nuclear power plants there. By the way, being a PhD physicist herself, she is probably more competent to evaluate nuclear power then is Mr. Upper.

    2. If by space exploration, Mr. Upper means manned space flight, he possibly has an argument with some merit, as for instance, both Bob Park and Steven Weinberg lean left. If he means unmanned space flight, he is seriously in error.

    3. I can't speak to GMO, although the opposition in the US is far weaker then in Europe.

    4. As Dr. ORAC who has studied the anti-vax movement in far greater detail then, I suspect, Mr. Upper has observes, anti-vax sentiment seems to be quite equal on both the extreme ends of the political spectrum (Michelle Bachmann anyone).

  72. Ray

    As much as I love the physical sciences, political opposition to scientific consensus is the least of our worries. How about economics? The best thing skeptical bloggers could do at this point is dig deep into the economics literature and figure out who’s right about the current crisis. Is the way out more or less spending?

    Full disclosure: I’m pretty sure I know the answer:

    Near as I can tell, the fastest way out of this slump is government spending, subsidized by dirt cheap borrowing (inflation protected treasuries have a negative yield up to 10 years) or even printing money. If it causes inflation all the better (the biggest thing prolonging this crisis is underwater mortgages.)

    So that’s what my common sense says. But how about data. We’re empiricists, right?

    Consensus — people as far right as Ben Bernanke (bush appointee note) and as far left as Dean Baker seem to agree with me. I haven’t done a full survey of economists, but it seems like I’m on the side of the majority here.

    Predictions: Yeah, Schiff got the housing bubble right, but so did lots of people (e.g Baker and Krugman). Not to beat a dead horse, but Krugman also got the rock bottom interest rates, continued low inflation, and even got the political fallout of the undersized 2009 stimulus right.

    see http://www.businessinsider.com/paul-krugman-mike-huckabee-tom-friedman-maureen-dowd-liberl-conservative-columnist-2011-5 for more of the same.

    Results: Democratic administrations seem to have outperformed republicans on any reasonably long time scale (40-100 years say) if you look at economic results. Stock market performance is particularly striking. I’ll let you Google this one. Most studies are from before Obama, but his numbers really haven’t been all that bad (not that great either mind you, but he’s not a Hoover or even a W).

    So. Near as I can tell. The truth is all on the side of Keynes and the democrats. If you’ve got any non-cherry-picked data that says otherwise, I’d love to see it.

  73. katwagner

    You know Stephen Colbert’s definition of the word “truthiness” right? Someone says some lie enough times that people believe it. Which leads me to Renee M. Jones’ post at #38 re media and equal time and false equivalencies. If some blowhard is spewing nonsense, and I’ve seen it on CNN, I mean, Anderson, COME ON! It’s up to the moderator to shut the blowhard down. I mean, really. A person is entitled to his own opinion, but he’s not entitled to his own facts. It really gripes my soul when smart people don’t call out the idiots.

    And I am so sick and tired of, and I will say it here, the jerks on Fox who call people “liberal” and say it like it’s a four-letter word. Like it’s their code for scum of the earth.

  74. zach

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, I’m non-partisan, I agree with both sides on various issues but one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that things in this country will never improve until we quit this left vs right/democrat vs republican nonsense and actually work together for once. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  75. Wzrd1

    You know that the comments here have proved to me?
    After over 27 years of sacrifice defending this once great land, it has failed, courtesy of the robots of this society.
    I’ll begin today to depart this land, with specific and damaging information, courtesy of those decades of defending idiots who PREFER to doom themselves.
    If my wife, children and grandchildren decide not to join me, to hell with them and the failed nation.
    YOU sink and kill each other off. I’ll sit from abroad and WATCH you nuke your own cities.
    But, if you remove MY grandchildren from the world, I’ll release OTHER information that WILL ensure the sterility of this continent.
    Because, at the end of the day, life has taught me ONE lesson. One that Doctor Who never learned.
    There ARE times when genocide IS a good idea, lest ALL suffer…
    I’ll give FULL disclosure, I’m UTTERLY middle of the road, UNTIL it comes to RIGHTS. Then, I’m BEYOND DRACONIAN.

  76. QuietDesperation

    is incredibly smug and unhelpful.

    Do I care?

    You aren’t getting what I mean by an ideological singularity.

  77. QuietDesperation

    Ideology s wrong?

    Yes, it’s a mind cancer.

    I am sorry but I have to call this statement by what it is: meaningless.

    No, it only seems meaningless from inside your singularity.

    There is *always* an ideology, whether you, Elmar_S, are aware of it or not.

    And you demonstrate the problem. You cannot even conceive on a non-ideological approach to a problem. You cannot even fathom the concept of addressing a problem clearly and with an open mind, and not going in with “regulation!’ or “free market!” or any other preconceived notion.

    An anit-ideology party…jeebus what nonsense.

    What color are your reality distortion fields?

  78. QuietDesperation

    If my wife, children and grandchildren decide not to join me, to hell with them and the failed nation. YOU sink and kill each other off. I’ll sit from abroad and WATCH you nuke your own cities.
    But, if you remove MY grandchildren from the world, I’ll release OTHER information that WILL ensure the sterility of this continent.

    Hey! Settle down!

  79. BigRed

    @TxKat: Sorry but this is yet *another* attempt at weaseling.

    ALL empirical science is consensus-science! You bring in evidence for and against hypotheses until their is a consensus about which ones are (provisionally) accepted and which ones aren’t. The distinction between “consensus-science” and just “science” is therefore pointless and politicians who proclaim to not accept evolution through natural selection (a very broad, well-established consensus, mind) or man-made global warming are simply anti-science.

  80. QuietDesperation

    What the U.S. and ultimately the world needs is true democracy, where everyone is heard and all opinions matter.

    I’d settle for consensus voting.

    Yeah, Joe Butterball in his trailer will be right there clearly voting on intricate geopolitical and macroeconomic issues.

    This is a huge nation in a maelstrom of global pressures and tensors, not some high school civics club.

  81. BigRed

    @MessierTidyUpper:
    For instance, the Left wing are much better than the Rightwing on health and education whilst the Rightwing is better economically and vastly better on foreign policy.

    Sorry to bash the second Bush administration but I both economic and foreign policy decisions during those two terms were disastrous. As was, at least in terms of economic decision making, the Reagan administration.

    Which in my opinion is directly connected to the science issue: the “Left” in the US, as little left as it is – and if you consider Obama on the left fringe that’s more a statement about how centered the Democrats are than anything else – bases its decisions far more on real-world evaluations than the Right currently does. The main rightwing ideologies in economics at the moment have to do with trickle-down effects due to tax cuts on the wealthy and keeping markets unregulated – both of which have empirically been shown to impoverish the majority of the US population and lead to market failure in the last couple of decades.
    Yet there is no course correction on the Right, which in my opinion has two possible explanations: a) on the Right ideology trumps reality any day, b) the effected outcomes are very much desired by the Republican and Tea Party leadership and a lot of smoke and mirrors are being put up.

    Both explanations also neatly fit the Right’s relation to science.

  82. Isaac

    #76 Wzrd1 has to be the most psychotic Internet rants I’ve seen in years. Oh, that brings back memories. I wonder if he frequented Usenet back in the day.

  83. Nigel Depledge

    Larian LeQuella (2) said:

    Again, I could care less what you believe . . .

    If you could care less, this means you care to at least some extent.

    Perhaps you meant to say you couldn’t care less (which would mean that you care not at all)?

  84. Nigel Depledge

    Quiet Desperation (3) said:

    Waiting for someone from the EU to say “Well, you’re all right wing to us.” Not something to be proud of, dude.

    This is a mischaracterisation.

    The right wing in the UK, for instance, ranges from moderate conservatism (roughly between the position of the Dem and Rep parties) all the way to the verge of neo-nazism (as represented by the British National Party, which is not the joke that it deserves to be).

    What you in the US call “left-wing” would mostly be roughly equivalent to the middle-of-the-road liberal ideals (very approximately and – erm – flexibly represented by the UK’s Liberal Democrat party). You don’t have a real left wing. In the UK, Labour is nominally left-wing (the last Labour government of the 1970s was – or tried to be – a genuinely Socialist government), but in the 1990s, it borrowed so many policies from the conservatives that it is now much more slightly-right-of-centre than it ever was before. The true left wing is now only represented in the UK by parties such as the Socialist Worker party (assuming they still exist) and the Communist party, but these are such minorities that they never tend to get taken seriously. We also have a Green party, that is left-of-centre but not actually Socialist.

    And I think our diversity is something to be proud of. We have far more choice at a general election than do you guys in the US, even if only two of the parties have a realistic stab at winning enough seats in Parliament to be able to form a government.

  85. harry tuttle

    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

    “I did,” said ford. “It is.”

    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

    “What?”

    “I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”

    “I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”

    Ford shrugged again.

    “Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”

  86. harry tuttle

    Wzrd1 – the major problem with the twatcull is that, if you have any success, then ultimately you end up having to kill yourself…

  87. Nigel Depledge

    TxKat (8) said:

    There’s a big difference between anti-science and anti-consensus science. Global warming in and of itself isn’t what’s debated by most conservatives.

    Many public figures in the US still denounce either (i) the fact that GW is happening, or (ii) that it is a bad thing.

    It’s the connection to human activity which does not stand up to scrutiny beyond the average news report.

    No natural source for all the extra CO2 has been found, despite several studies to see if there are any. OTOH, the CO2 that human activity has pumped into the atmosphere does account for the increased concentration of atmospheric CO2.

    Seriously, disputing the link between human activity and GW is so 25-years-ago. Back then, it was worth disputing because it was not very well established. Now, the situation is different. All of the relevant scientists who doubted the link in 1986 have subsequently been persuaded by the evidence that has been accumulated since then.

    But if you’re a scientist or politician today, dare you support anything other than the consensus?

    It’s not a question of daring or otherwise. It’s a question of having data. There is no credible data to support a non-human source for all the extra CO2. Basing your research on something for which there is neither logical nor factual support is scientific suicide, irrespective of the consensus.

    And there are plenty of politicians who base their platform on disputing the scientific consensus – that’s what Phil’s post is all about.

    Watch your research grants and votes evaporate. With so much money and career success riding on the answer to a scientific question, you have to wonder how objective and complete the research findings are.

    And thus the smear campaigns paid for by the fossil-fuel industries have paid off. Thank-you for proving to the oil company execs that the lies for which they paid were worth it.

    If you want to talk about money, start with the oil companies and the coal companies. Government-funded research is peanuts to these guys. I am sure that any major oil company could lose a research council’s entire annual budget down the back of the sofa and hardly even notice.

  88. Nigel Depledge

    Jim (25) said:

    It’s the left that pushes the anthropomorphic global warming hoax, ad nauseam. Talk about the “willful advancement of dangerous falsehoods”!

    Eh? What human-shaped global warming? Or did you mean anthropogenic (human-originated)?

    And, yes, if you wish, I’ll talk about the wilfull advancement of falsehoods.

    It is a wilfully advanced falsehood that there is any reasonable doubt that AGW is a real phenomenon. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine – just find me a 100-year-old photograph of a glacier that shows less ice than that glacier has today.

  89. Maggotry

    If we were electing a new head of the science department at (fill in your favorite university), then yeah, most republicans need not apply. However, as James Carville famously wrote, “It’s the economy, stupid”. And when speaking of the economy, liberal economics are an abject failure. To vote for more left is to vote for, well, as Mr. Gingrich put it “We might as well all buy Greek bonds and go down together.” A candidate’s position on science is such a tiny little part of the overall picture that, to me, is mostly unimportant. Mostly.

  90. David Tamayo

    God bless America and God bless you all.

    That is what Obama said the other night, when he finished his discourse.

    To me, that’s antiscience, too.

  91. Guy

    What’s most scary and depressing about this is that there is growing support for antiscience candidates in the Republican party. Worst case scenario: we could end up with another W for 4-8 years and see more setbacks on the environmental and other science issues. We may have already passed the tipping point on global warming. Another 8 years of an antiscience president and congress could put everything we care about at risk.

  92. TerryEmberson

    @42 Renee Marie Jones:

    TerryEmberson, would you please read “The Wealth of Nations” and then report back on what opinion the “Father of Capitalism” had on the behavior of corporations?

    Wait… you mean… I have to READ? I’ll make you a deal, you read John Locke, the “Father of Liberalism” and report back on what opinion he had about government who steal or fail to defend private property and I’ll get back to you in more detail on why Adam Smith felt that corporations like any unaccountable organization are terrible at safeguarding money. He was right, btw. Limited Liability Corporations are dangerous and need to be monitored for fraud and abuse… not given loan guarantees, government sanctioned monopolies, and protection from their own mismanagement, as our current government is wont to do.

    Also, would you please explain whether and in what sense supply and demand curves really exist as single valued functions, and are they really scalar valued functions of scalar arguments, or is vector calculus actually involved?

    I’m terrible at math. I had to work a statistician to finish up my dissertation. What I can tell you is that only in countries with a healthy respect for individual freedoms, civil and economic, are there obesity epidemics among the poorest inhabitants. In countries where there is no protection of private property and personal freedoms, for any number of reasons from tyrannical government, to low social capital, to weak and ineffectual government, there is generally more deprivation.

    Also, please try not to make assumptions that just because I am a healthy believer in economic freedoms, I am a libertarian or a conservative. I am a liberal, just not a progressive, and simply not a fan of the concept that government should get to decide how I live, so long as I’m not hurting others with how I live.

  93. TerryEmberson

    @90. Nigel Depledge Says:

    It is a wilfully advanced falsehood that there is any reasonable doubt that AGW is a real phenomenon. If you don’t believe me, that’s fine – just find me a 100-year-old photograph of a glacier that shows less ice than that glacier has today.

    I don’t deny AGW, but just wanted to point out that this test would only demonstrate that there is a regional climate change, not global and not anthropogenic. Even accepting that the inability to find any photo would imply a global effect, it still leaves out the anthropogenic. It’s not a valid test.

    Also, one only has to imagine a glacier photo magically taken during the last interglacial period maximum to realize that this test is flawed.

  94. QuietDesperation

    To me, that’s antiscience, too.

    Meh. My reaction depends on the intent. If it’s a politician, I default to the “pandering” position unless there’s evidence to the contrary. ;-) If just some religious person says it to me, I take it as intended because it means something to *them* and to them it’s a complimentary thing to say to someone.

    This is a mischaracterisation.

    Sorry, I wasn’t characterizing the reality of EU politics, I was characterizing what someone inevitably pops in to say in these sorts of threads.

    What’s most scary and depressing about this is that there is growing support for antiscience candidates in the Republican party.

    But are they pandering to a base and will forget all that stuff in office, or is it real? It’s extremely difficult to tell sometimes, and I’m moderately good at reading people. Our political ecosystem of unnatural selection has bred some truly alpha sociopaths.

  95. Mark

    So Republicans lie more about science than Democrats.

    Okaaaaay…

    The only relevance to this observation I can deduce is this is a science blog, because it sure doesn’t have much relevance to any real effort aimed at fixing the many problems–both scientific and NON-scientific–we face…

  96. noen

    Politics is inherently unscientific because political ideas are about what values we should pursue and science can *only* tell us what the facts are, not what values we should have. There is no fact of the universe that says a bunch of apes should or shouldn’t have universal health care, or that the rich apes should be taxed a little, a lot or not at all. Science can only say that given the assumption one wishes to enact policy XYZ here are the likely consequences and best means of achieving it.

    Wzrd1 said:
    Because, at the end of the day, life has taught me ONE lesson. One that Doctor Who never learned.
    There ARE times when genocide IS a good idea, lest ALL suffer…

    That is unnecessary. All that is needed is to decapitate the leadership but it has to be done so their followers realize that “we lost”. That is what happened in Germany and Japan. The extreme right took over their countries for a while and others had to come in and remove, one way or another, those leaders responsible. I suspect that is what will have to happen in the US too. People have noticed that Germany isn’t quite so cocky as they used to be. That’s because they have the institutional memory of having lost and lost big as a consequence of pursuing failed policies.

    There is no equivalent social consensus in the US. On the contrary, certain regions of the US are virulently fascist and authoritarian with absolutely zero awareness this is a self defeating strategy. They need to be defeated politically and marginalized socially in such a way that there is a general social consensus of “that doesn’t work”. This is what happened to the Left in the 20th century. No one today really wants to return to the times of really existing socialism. They just want to tinker at the edges of capitalism.

  97. noen

    Maggotry Says:
    If we were electing a new head of the science department at (fill in your favorite university), then yeah, most republicans need not apply. However, as James Carville famously wrote, “It’s the economy, stupid”. And when speaking of the economy, liberal economics are an abject failure.

    This is false. The Right today believes in the economic creationism (market fundamentalism) of libertarian ideology. We’ve *never* had a leader of the Federal Reserve who followed saltwater economic theory. What we have had is a succession of far right Randian loons setting economic policy and we had a direct experience of the failure of market fundamentalism.

    What is typical of the far Right is the unwillingness to learn from failure. That is not merely anti-science, it’s anti-intellectualism. Which attitude, combined with right-wing paranoia, has dominated politics at the national level for decades.

  98. limboman

    When Obama in the run up to the last election said he wanted to put science back where it belongs, I knew what he meant. What he meant was he wanted to support the use of quack science to push a leftist political agenda. From the lies and deception in Al Gores “inconvenient truth”, to the suppression of dissenting viewpoints that was exposed in climate gate, to the shoving down our kids throats of evolution (the theory of lots of luck and lots of time as an all encompassing explanation of the origin of everything), to the justification of radical environmental policies with junk science, policies that are wrecking our economy here in the U.S.

    The political left is putting science in disrepute. Anything in science with any potential political ramifications is being hijacked and used as a political weapon by leftists and liberals. Just another way they are ruining civilization.

  99. Theron

    Wow — this post really brought out the nutters.

  100. Igor Kornilov

    USA is in the road of being converted in a theocracy. The defeat of Tea Party has become a turning point for the human kind.

    Regarding economy it is ludicrous that existing the books of Kindleberger, people speaks not having read them. There is no mistery in what needs to be done now and is not a question of right or left. Glass-Steagall act is leftist? forbidd shorting is leftist? limit speculation with derivatives is leftist? etc…

    This road leads to say that right is madness since any reasonable, rational and/or sensible behaviour becomes forbidden in the name of a freedom that is no more than a word to incarnate lunacy.

    Friedman was a mainstream economist of the same size as Keynes but for some reason he started backing up randian non sense, wasting the prestige he earned by explaining the 70s stanflation. He gave academic prestige to randian loons. It is time the left accepts Friedman was right with stanflation, and only then critize his backup to randians that is causing so many problems.

  101. limboman

    Theron,

    Nothing like ad hominen when you have nothing intelligent to say.

  102. limboman

    Igor Kornilov says,

    “USA is in the road of being converted in a theocracy. The defeat of Tea Party has become a turning point for the human kind. ”

    This post shows your ignorance and lack of knowledge about the constitution of the United States. Separation of church and state is enshrined in our constitution, therefore a theocracy is not possible here. It’s the kooks on the left that are talking about suspending the constitution and canceling elections as a way of “saving” the economy.

    Ironic and telling that so many posts here are pushing a leftist agenda. Kind of proves my point about the link between junk science and the political left.

  103. Igor Kornilov

    “Leftist agenda” is the new name for rational thinking and scientific knowledge?

    I feel moved because when I read Kuhn, Koiré, etc… writing about the fight of light against darkness and science against superstition from Buridan onwards, I never suspected that I would be able to participate in a second leg of the fight during my span of life.

    I am going to whatch James Burke’s “Lights from above” in Youtube to inspire myself.

  104. limboman

    Igor says “I am going to whatch James Burke’s “Lights from above” in Youtube to inspire myself.”

    Great, knock yourself out.

  105. Elmar_M

    @Greg 70

    For example, if I have a vaccine that will save millions of lives but kill dozens of innocents along the way, the decision to use it is a social, political, and ethical one, and is heavily dependent upon your personal ethical philosophy (a utilitarian would say “of course”, but many others will disagree). Similarly, science can tell us what the impacts on climate are likely to be, but it can’t weigh for us the value of economic disruption now against (discounted) future human suffering. Finally, of course, there are a great many problems — I would say most problems — for which science gives you a lot of data but much less certainty. You can’t wait for it to come up with the final answer; you need to make choices now.

    Obviously we have a desperate problem with science education and literacy, which is part of Phil’s point. But science itself isn’t the answer. Even if you had all the scientific data you wanted, it would tell you how to imbue different aspects of a problem with meaning. And that’s the hard part.

    Morality is usually defined by society or rather those in charge in society and is therefore meaningless. E.g. during the time of the Nazis it was moraly perfectly acceptable in society to kill jews and others.
    Ethics is a different thing all together and varies to much from person to person. You can not rationalize ethics nor can you generalize them. Therefore they are also meaningless when it comes to making decisions.
    So the only viable path is science and reason.

    @Noen, who said:

    Politics is inherently unscientific because political ideas are about what values we should pursue and science can *only* tell us what the facts are, not what values we should have.

    And those values come from here? From my experience it is usually a book that someone once wrote, be it whoever wrote the bible, or Marx, Lamarck, Skinner, Mao, Hitler… You get it.
    All books that supposedly contain some sort of values that supposedly will make the world a better place and of course the values are dogmatic and can not be changed and adapted. “You can’t change the bible ” after all. Here is the church, there is the steeple…
    This is exactly the opposite of science, where theories are adapted to newly discovered knowledge and not some eternal value that supposedly is good for mankind, the world or whatever (usually it is not).
    Therefore values are crap! Throw them out! Replace them with facts and ration!

    There is no fact of the universe that says a bunch of apes should or shouldn’t have universal health care, or that the rich apes should be taxed a little, a lot or not at all.

    But science can put the facts into numbers and then you can have a panel of independend experts figure out the best way to persue based on facts.

    In regards to healthcare, e.g. it is a fact that the US citizens pay the most for the least coverage and they have the most people without any health insurance of any developed nation. Which is a fact, you can put it into statistics and there is nothing you can deny about that. Science also says that there are plenty of nations that have excellent treatment and very short wait times, while having very low cost. They all use universal healthcare.
    Now if you were to look at these facts pragmatically and rationally there is only one decision to be made.

    Equally if things were the other way round, the decision would have to be made in the opposite direction. But they are not. It is a fact. Everything else is scare tactics by people that do not employ science and facts for their politics.

    Also worth noting that after being involved in sometimes quite harsh discussions with people on both the left and the right end of the spectrum in the US, I find it humorous how the boogie man, the Nazis are put into the right and the left corner depending on who you are talking to. The left call the Nazis “extreme right, they were nationalists after all” and the right calls them “extreme left, the were socialists after all”.
    Which once again shows that these values are all worth nothing!

  106. Igor Kornilov

    Limboman, you are making me think in a new light. Do you think Burke is a soviet agent? Perhaps he was the “fifth man” and Cairncross was his cover up… This can ben an explanation to why he spreads all these stories about godless people such as Galileo Galilei. Has Gingricht confirmed if the earth is flat? To be honest I have never fully believed that is round…. An exorcist monk told me that Stalin invented this comunist lie as part of his Sputnik hoax.

  107. Daffy

    Limboman: “Nothing like ad hominen when you have nothing intelligent to say.”

    Wow…just…wow. Did you even read your earlier post?

  108. Allan Maurer

    Ideology is a truth-killer, regardless of which side of the political spectrum it comes from, and today’s GOP is increasingly ideologically oriented. The “ideological” left, which doesn’t seem to be much of a force these days, was just as anti-science over different issues, as another, earlier comment points out.
    It’s ideology – religious, political, or personal, “true believers,” who place faith above facts – that’s the problem.
    But the current anti-science, anti-intellectual attitude in the United States is downright scary. Because counter-factual ideologies are doomed in the end. The Soviet Union’s ideological insistence on Lysenko’s theories rather than scientifically based evolution led to its agricultural failures and added substantially to the stresses that eventually destroyed it.
    Evolution is a fact. The only “theory” is about the exact way it occurs. Even much of that is now well known. Ideology may ignore facts, but reality tends to catch up with it eventually.

  109. TerryEmberson

    @99. noen Says:

    We’ve *never* had a leader of the Federal Reserve who followed saltwater economic theory. What we have had is a succession of far right Randian loons setting economic policy and we had a direct experience of the failure of market fundamentalism.

    No “Randian” or libertarian loon would EVER set economic policy. It would be like setting evolutionary quotas to see X number of genetic mutations per quarter.

    The Right today believes in the economic creationism (market fundamentalism) of libertarian ideology.

    A better analogy would be economic evolution. There is a clear connection between the concepts of the invisible hand and the concepts of evolutionary fitness.

    What is typical of the far Right is the unwillingness to learn from failure. That is not merely anti-science, it’s anti-intellectualism. Which attitude, combined with right-wing paranoia, has dominated politics at the national level for decades.

    When by intellectualism you mean paying less attention to facts than to theories, you are correct that it is anti-intellectualism. You are wrong that the facts support your hypothesis. With the exception of single-resource rich nations, the best economic performers are consistently those countries that limit government control over individual economic rights and where the concept of individual property is strongly supported. The best places to live for the poorest of the poor is in economically well-performing countries.

    Even in “economic failure” in America we are having a obesity epidemic. Economic FAILURE is in developing nations where social and political conditions breed failure, not the concepts of protection of private property and prevention of tyranny.

    Edit: On another note, I absolutely agree that the people generally only want to tinker at the edges of capitalism. That’s a very good thing. Unfortunately, they still have the same conceit that they can effectively shape economies with things like the “economic policy”.

  110. harry tuttle

    you are aware that the term capitalism, and it’s modern usage and wider definition was developed almost entirely by socialists and communists… so the idea that capitalism is only to be lightly tinkered with was definitely not on the agenda for those who created the concept. ;]

  111. QuietDesperation

    USA is in the road of being converted in a theocracy.

    Um, no.

  112. harry tuttle

    @ quiet desperation
    you’re absolutely right… the US is not on the road to theocracy, it became one in 1956 when the phrase ‘in god we trust’, which was borrowed from the Christian psalms, was adopted as the official motto of the country.

  113. TerryEmberson

    @ harry tuttle:

    you are aware that the term capitalism, and it’s modern usage and wider definition was developed almost entirely by socialists and communists…

    Because, when I think socialist, I think David Ricardo…

    you’re absolutely right… the US is not on the road to theocracy, it became one in 1956 when the phrase ‘in god we trust’

    So what’s so objectionable about theocracy if it’s just making mottoes? I thought it was the whole killing or depriving rights from people who were did not believe in the god of choice. I guess theocracy isn’t so objectionable.

    (Remember, WORDS MATTER.)

  114. TStein

    It is hard to take Mr. Plait seriously about matters of religion and politics when he quotes someone who confuses the Tea Party with the Christian Right. Both may be hard right in various ways but they have large disagreements about many issues. The tea party has strong libertarian leanings while the Religious Right cares more about ‘social issues’. There are certainly people who overlap and are in both camps. But they are distinctly different political groups with very different political goals.

    Personally, I think that Mr. Plait is doing more harm than good with this post. I think it is great that he points out that fair is not the same thing as balanced and that the vast majority of attacks against science has been coming from the right today. But the quote from Mooney does not support his argument; it is just a diatribe against the religious right. It also ignores the fact that many on the religious right are for reductions in greenhouse gasses.

    Mr. Mooney’s statement that the religious right are against any science that has:
    “anything having anything to do with abortion, reproductive health, and sexuality.”
    is also laughable since there is almost no credible science in these areas.

    Putting it all together, I think people on the right (the very people Mr. Plait should be reaching out to) can easily be forgiven if all they see in this article is a hatchet job against them and not what it should be a defense against those who would destroy science.

  115. guest123

    How about the left being anti-science / data on economics? The data on Keynes is pretty clear cut (except for those on the left) and it’s limits taught in freshman econ 101, yet because it’s self serving for the left to spend they twist what JM Keynes wrote into policy that JMK would never have approved and do it under the “all economist agree” banner. One small example: JMK advocated deficit spending in recessions but not structural debt. Look at the stimulus passed by Obama and the dem house and senate and it greatly increased structural debt, especially for the states. Economics is science too… then there’s broken window fallacy and the unanswered FA Hayek charges that JKM could not respond to, the opportunity costs of private sector investment displaced by government debt spending, the list goes on and on.

  116. Joseph G

    Very timely post, Phil.
    Personally, this issue played a big part in my political “journey”. I used to consider myself somewhat to the right, and looking back I realize that that’s because I was surrounded by wooey New Age left-wingers who’d long ago abandoned any speck of rationality. They were anti-rational, and the stuff I was hearing from the moderate right at the time (mostly about balancing the budget) sounded like the stuff of people who had their heads screwed on right.
    Since then, I’ve discovered that, though I dislike labels, I have a lot more in common with “Liberals” then “Conservatives”. Again, looking back, I think a big part of this shift was due to my growing awareness of two things: First, that while I happened to know a lot of wooey New Age hippies, this sort of thinking doesn’t represent the overwhelming majority of Liberal Democrats, and is not a part of mainstream American Left politics. Second, that the opposite was true with the American political Right (things such as the anti-evolution and global warming “litmus tests” Phil mentioned), and the anti-science trend only seemed to be increasing. Look up “reality based community” for a classic example, if you’re unfamiliar with it. Hint: the phrase wasn’t invented by skeptics or those on the left.

  117. Darby Abe Igtrol

    Hey! This is supposed to be a SCIENCE BLOG. I don’t see SCIENCE, just a bunch of Libral claptrap! I came here for ASTRONOMY! Well, tough nuts, pal, ‘cuz you just lost yourself a reader! That’s right. I’m going and I’m not coming back. Evar!

  118. @Elmar_M 107:

    You can not rationalize ethics nor can you generalize them. Therefore they are also meaningless when it comes to making decisions. So the only viable path is science and reason.

    But science and reason can’t make value-laden choices for you. For example, in your healthcare example, you say that we can look at the data about health care systems and that when we do, “if you were to look at these facts pragmatically and rationally there is only one decision to be made.” Someone who takes personal liberty as a core value might say, very legitimately, that it is not ethical behavior to take their money away to pay for someone else’s health care. That is a social, political, ethical decision — and the society must have a way to decide on it as a whole.

    But science can put the facts into numbers and then you can have a panel of independend experts figure out the best way to persue based on facts.

    Ah, so now we see the solution — the independent panel will do the best thing. What’s “best”? It’s what they think is “right”, i.e., an ethical decision according to the ethical framework of the panel. All you’ve done it taken control out of the hands of the masses, and put it into the hands of an oligarchy. Very tempting, given the current state of American politics, but if your solution to our problems is to take away democracy and replace it with a Nerd Council, you’d do better saying so up front.

    Science contributes facts. The decisions on how to act on those facts are always value-laden and always require consideration of moral and ethical reasons for action. Morality and ethics are subjective, as you have pointed out — therefore, science can’t help us there.

    I’m starting to think we are more in need of ethical education than science education. Indeed, I was at a conference last week where ethical education of scientists was a major point of discussion. Scientists have to realize that they can’t escape from the ethical implications of their work.

  119. john werneken

    True the Right is worse. Because conservatives while friendly to the causes of progress are more change-resistant and science changes things. Lefties are very hostile to the causes of progress as they dislike some of the consequences, just as the righties do, but their POLITICAL philosophy is much much worse. Faith is as absurd a guide to anything as liberal principles are, except that Faith that survives tends to be compatible with human nature, while ‘principles’ tend to represent aspirations, a far worse touchstone. But the Lefties think that they can use science to bludgeon the uninformed, as the righties use faith. That’s what’s really going on here.

    The Righties and the Lefties aren’t stupid if they were they would not be so dangerous. They take advantage of the one decent feature of direct democracy and universal adult suffrage: change is slow and therefore not as costly, usually. They use it to maintain their duopoly of oligopolistic special interest rule.

    The solutions are to end both direct democracy and universal adult suffrage. Indirect democracy and citizen suffrage works as well as the other on the good stuff and is far less dangerous in the face of idiot-ology, whether the idiot-ology is defined as Right-ism, Left-ism, Pro-Science-ism, or Anti-Science-ism, and is much better at demolishing duopoly or monopoly power.

  120. Timbo

    10. TerryEmberson Says:
    If you disagree with the calls of the Tea Party (which are mostly libertarian, despite the fact that most of them are also socially conservative) fine, but at least don’t accuse them of denying reality while denying reality about them.

    Huh? The Tea Party is mostly libertarians, but most are also social conservatives? I don’t understand how that’s even possible. Social conservatives typically believe in outlawing abortion and gay marriage. Libertarians believe those are personal issues and the government should not be involved. Libertarians tend to be all about individual liberties, and not having the government tell them what they can and cannot do in their personal life.

    In my opinion, the tea party isn’t, in any shape or form, libertarian oriented. Their stance on immigration goes against libertarian views. Don’t they want to give the government to find and root out all “illegal” immigrants looking for work? Another thing, where were they when Bush was president? How come they didn’t protest the big government policies of Bush? But all of suddenly they are upset when Obama does it to? I’m guessing most libertarians don’t like being associated with the tea party, in any shape or form. I wouldn’t.

    Perhaps I’m confused.

  121. CG

    Clearly most of these people haven’t been paying attention for the last several years.

    The Tea Party may have started as a largely libertarian anti-tax movement, but now it is completely indistinguishable from the religious right.

    The “Tea Party candidate” is the theocrat Michele Bachmann. Who also happens to be a science denialist of all stripes, creationist, antivaxxer, and global warming denier.

  122. Kathy King

    It would be nice if the Tea Party group was was not completely lumped in with “the right”. Not EVERY Tea Partier is basically the right; I consider myself a TP’er (looks funny, I know), but I’m also a person of science. It would be similar to me making a claim that all men are (insert word here) because of a bad apple I met with. I’m really tired of being lumped in! Two radio personalities in California are TP’ers and so are many of of their listeners, yet they also understand science to be fact, not fiction. I respect and admire you, but please don’t be a “if one is, then they all are” … Again, these two parties are not essentially the same.

  123. Infinite123Lifer

    119 oh wow
    At least I can read comments from scientifically minded folk who like Astronomy and Science. I would rather have input on political situations from people of the like, rather than have news preached to me elsewhere.

    Wzrd1, for 27 years I am guessing you believed in something. I am hoping for another 27 years you can believe in something again. It is so easy to only hear, see and focus on the negative especially when as a person you possess gift’s of intuition and foresight and natural skill sets which perhaps others do not share and will never be privy to. It is all to easy to see the impending disaster from which peoples actions are displayed today. The seeds of enlightenment are planted though and sometimes we just cannot see the sprout let alone the tree let alone the fruit. . . but it is there . . . waiting for us to Choose to look at it. There is always more than one reality always more than just our reality always more to it than I can see and for the gifted sometimes you see all too many kinds of realities and are unable to just “keep it simple”. I remind myself often of this when I am frustrated beyond reasonableness and I always tell myself “your missing something, your missing something, what is the flip side, what is the good in it” or “I cannot do everything I cannot be everywhere I cannot save all of them”.

    I reconcile that it may be hard; impossible to reconcile the “good” of it all, but what only matters is that I try. Nothing else. Protecting Humanity is a job for all of us. Protecting myself is a natural device. Of course I do not want to get lost in fairy tale land, but I must remain vigilant.

    –One glance at the current funding levels of even congressional campaigns leads one to one inescapable conclusion: The candidates will say whatever the funding sources want them to say and nothing else.–

    I unfortunately completely agree. I think the funding of candidates and the system in which they are given a platform as it works in general is astoundingly Illegal. The idea of funding is crazy. Why should someone get millions of dollars in “fundraising” to run for election?

    Somebody please answer that, then look at your answer, then ask yourself,
    How many ways can this lead to corruption?
    How many ways can this dilute what the issues for the populace are?
    How are those millions of dollars being spent any different than “bribery”? and why does everybody basically admit that it is?

    Almost all governments only thrive under an advanced system of bribery, both present day and in the past. If humans could govern themselves without the need for a government than perhaps it would have succeeded somewhere and taken root and flight but this is the way things are. The right and left? They are bought, they are bribed, legally and they even have parties when doing so. The higher up you go the more people need something from you or the more you need something from others.

    I am sorry that I cannot offer a general fix. Both to the community and to the next generation.

    I like the President. I don’t know what he does or does not do but I know what he looks like, I know what he talks like, I like his positive outlook and I am aware that his team probably knows all to well that what the President says most of the time is Exactly what I Want To Hear. Thats good enough for me (fake it to you make it, there is very proper truth in that statement). Why is it good enough for me? someone might ask. Because unlike 2001-2009 I don’t have to be ashamed that the President of the United States of America sounds like a total jack-ass and cannot speak any better than I can. I was embarrassed that we elected (if thats the case) and re-elected (once again if thats the case) a man such as bush. I don’t care if anyone liked him or not . . . tell me he didnt come off sounding like a total idiot on more than one occasion. His blooper reel is as long as anyones. And it aint funny. That is the person who is supposed to representing my country. Sooo, my standards dropped considerably. As I just said I like Obama. What I don’t like is him coming to Washington state to gather money. I know it is the way the game is played and won, but I see it as widespread open and accepted corruption period.

  124. Infinite123Lifer

    97. Mark Says:
    September 29th, 2011 at 8:34 am
    So Republicans lie more about science than Democrats.
    Okaaaaay…
    The only relevance to this observation I can deduce is this is a science blog, because it sure doesn’t have much relevance to any real effort aimed at fixing the many problems–both scientific and NON-scientific–we face…———–

    Okaaaay… I understand that solutions would be a great focus but hell most people cant even agree on what the Problems are! How is this blog supposed to

    “have much relevance to any real effort aimed at fixing the many problems”?

    And even if it can get an effort aimed at fixing the many problems you could not base its relevancy on any one such blog, but rather as a compilation.
    It is just the Bad Astronomy blog. Nothing more, Nothing Less. I never read a sign on the way in that said: “Bad Astronomy and its bloggers will now begin to save the world”. I hope it can contribute but I don’t carry any false assertions about it. Plus, you don’t demand genius from a genius. In such cases you let nature work at its own pace.
    Even though yes . . . Republicans lie more about science than Democrats . . . should not really be a celebratory thesis. Keeping in mind though that the name of the article is

    Erasing false balance: the right is more anti-science than the left.

    Maybe we should be discussing How To Erase that false balance. If it is even probable.

  125. How about the left being anti-science / data on economics? The data on Keynes is pretty clear cut (except for those on the left) and it’s limits taught in freshman econ 101, yet because it’s self serving for the left to spend they twist what JM Keynes wrote into policy that JMK would never have approved and do it under the “all economist agree” banner.

    guest123, you might want to study up on a thing called neo-Keynesian economics. Yes, the limitations of Keynesian economics are well known, which is why economists have moved on. When flaws were found in neo-Keynesian economics, ‘new Keynesian economics’ were formed instead, taking the good things from Keynesian and neo-Keynesian economics, and adding stuff from other schools of economics.

    The limits to supply-side economics are also well known, and is taught in economics 101 outside the US, and probably even in some US universities. Yet some still keep teaching the Chicago School of Economics as if it wasn’t debunked a long time ago (read up on the Chicago Boys and Chile).

    Economics is science too… then there’s broken window fallacy and the unanswered FA Hayek charges that JKM could not respond to, the opportunity costs of private sector investment displaced by government debt spending, the list goes on and on.

    Hayek was one of the contributers t0 the Austrian school of economics and the founder of the Chicago School of economics. His economic theories have caused real grief in the former Eastern Europe and Chile. So depending on him while arguing against a different school of economics, is not something I’d do.

    What’s more, his challenges to Keynes were flawed, as was demonstrated even at the time. A few had merit, and was taken into account when neo-Keynesian economics were formed, while the rest were disregarded.

    Also, your whole argument seems to rest upon the notion that economics is a static field, and that Keynesian economics haven’t moved on since the time of Keynes. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s like thinking the theory of evolution hasn’t changed since Darwin’s time.

  126. Nigel Depledge

    Terry Emberson (95) said:

    I don’t deny AGW, but just wanted to point out that this test would only demonstrate that there is a regional climate change, not global and not anthropogenic. Even accepting that the inability to find any photo would imply a global effect, it still leaves out the anthropogenic. It’s not a valid test.

    Also, one only has to imagine a glacier photo magically taken during the last interglacial period maximum to realize that this test is flawed.

    You are sort-of correct here.

    There is one glacier (in the entire world) that has grown in the last 20 years – and that’s the one on the north face of Mt St Helens. Since the topography of the mountain precluded glacier formation before the eruption (in the late ’80s?), and since the glacial corrie is sheltered from direct sunlight, one would expect this one to be the last glacier to succumb to the effects of GW.

    Even so, you are right about the anthropogenicity of GW – as far as my single test is concerned, at least. But that was not my point. The state of the world’s glaciers is just one part of a large jigsaw. It’s probably the most directly-obvious sign of GW, though.

    Currently, no natural source has been identified that can account for the recent rise in atmospheric CO2, whereas human activity does account for it.

    The timescale, however, matters. The last interglacial is irrelevant, because that interglacial was started by natural and much slower GW than we are experiencing today. The key timescale is the time during which we have been turning fossil carbon into CO2.

  127. Nigel Depledge

    QD (96) said:

    Sorry, I wasn’t characterizing the reality of EU politics, I was characterizing what someone inevitably pops in to say in these sorts of threads.

    Citation needed, then. If it’s inevitable, it should not be hard to find a few.

  128. Nigel Depledge

    Limboman (103) said:

    Theron,

    Nothing like ad hominen when you have nothing intelligent to say.

    Theron’s comment (101) was not an ad-hom. Go and look up argumentum ad hominem. Calling you a loony was a simple comment on the lunacy (none of which you backed up with anything remotely resembling an argument) of your comment.

    An ad-hom would be an attempt to discredit your argument by drawing attention to an irrelevant fact. For example, “limboman likes pink custard, therefore his opinion of evolution can be discarded without discussion” would be an ad-hom.

    If you want to claim that evolution or AGW or microbiology or whatever have been politicised by the left (and please start by defining exactly what you mean when you say that), then at the very least you should assemble an argument and back it up with facts. Your preceding comment (100) was nothing but a bunch of random assertions.

    What your comment (100) actually looked like was a bunch of ad-hom arguments: “it’s leftists and liberals telling us that we are spewing too much crap into the atmosphere, therefore we can discard their arguments without examining them”. Your accusation to Theron of making an ad-hom against you is high hypocrisy indeed.

  129. Igor Kornilov

    Call it as you want but a country ruled by people who make a point of being irrational, ultra-religious and antiscience can perfectly be called a theocracy. The problem is not the name, is the fact…

  130. Nigel Depledge

    Limboman (104) said:

    This post shows your ignorance and lack of knowledge about the constitution of the United States. Separation of church and state is enshrined in our constitution, therefore a theocracy is not possible here.

    What, and you think the First Amendment couldn’t be amended if the far-right gets into power?

    It’s the kooks on the left that are talking about suspending the constitution and canceling elections as a way of “saving” the economy.

    Who has said this should happen, when and where?

    Or are you just making stuff up to make your own position seem vaguely reasonable?

  131. Nigel Depledge

    Igor Kornilov (105) said:

    “Leftist agenda” is the new name for rational thinking and scientific knowledge?

    In limboman’s head – apparently, yes.

  132. Nigel Depledge

    Daffy (109) said:

    Limboman: “Nothing like ad hominen when you have nothing intelligent to say.”

    Wow…just…wow. Did you even read your earlier post?

    Well said!

  133. Nigel Depledge

    Greg (120) said:

    Very tempting, given the current state of American politics, but if your solution to our problems is to take away democracy and replace it with a Nerd Council, you’d do better saying so up front.

    Yes!! The USA should be run by a Nerd Council! That will solve all of their problems. In Klingon.

  134. TerryEmberson

    @123. Timbo Says:

    Huh? The Tea Party is mostly libertarians, but most are also social conservatives? I don’t understand how that’s even possible. Social conservatives typically believe in outlawing abortion and gay marriage. Libertarians believe those are personal issues and the government should not be involved. Libertarians tend to be all about individual liberties, and not having the government tell them what they can and cannot do in their personal life.

    I should have clarified my language better. I meant to say that the calls of the Tea Party are mostly libertarian while a large number of Tea Partiers are also socially conservative. The Tea Party is not calling for banning gay marriage. That is a position many of them hold individually, but the actual messages they are trying to get out with their movement is the reduction of government interference in American economic lives.

    In my opinion, the tea party isn’t, in any shape or form, libertarian oriented. Their stance on immigration goes against libertarian views.

    Don’t disagree there, but that is tangential to their main “platform” (if you can call it that). There are many other issues in which they are not libertarian as well, such as support for Medicare, but they are more libertarian than conservative.

    Another thing, where were they when Bush was president? How come they didn’t protest the big government policies of Bush? But all of suddenly they are upset when Obama does it to?

    They grew in reaction to the single largest expansion of government interference into American lives, the Affordable Care Act. That was not enacted under Bush. Many of the (big “L”) Libertarians in the group were also protesting Medicare Part D, but Libertarians have never been a big contingent in American politics.

    I’m guessing most libertarians don’t like being associated with the tea party, in any shape or form. I wouldn’t.

    There are quite a few (little “l”) libertarians in the group, and many of the Libertarian Parties across the country are supporting the Tea Party, which is why the Tea Parties periodically have to rein in their socially conservative members to keep from alienating the Libertarian Party support.

    Perhaps I’m confused.

    Nothing to be ashamed of, there is a lot of false language about them because neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party really trust this group, much as the Republicans may need them to stay relevant right now.

  135. TerryEmberson

    @129 Nigel Depledge:

    I don’t disagree with anything you said, but your single-test did not address any of those issues. Only reason why I commented.

  136. They grew in reaction to the single largest expansion of government interference into American lives, the Affordable Care Act. That was not enacted under Bush. Many of the (big “L”) Libertarians in the group were also protesting Medicare Part D, but Libertarians have never been a big contingent in American politics.

    If anyone thinks that the affordable care act is the largest expansion of government interference, they obviously are quite a-historical. Try looking into the patriot act or the new deal (personally, I think the later interfered in a good way)

  137. TerryEmberson

    @139 Kristjan Wager:
    The Patriot Act was a large invasion of privacy, no doubt, but it did not put a new onus upon individual Americans to take action to avoid punishment. The Patriot Act only affected a selection of Americans and for most it had no impact other than a reduction in individual liberties, which I hugely opposed at the time and still do.

    The New Deal did not do this level of intrusion on individuals either and many of the smaller intrusions it DID make were later ruled unconstitutional. The New Deal also failed to reduce unemployment significantly, so I don’t see how it was a good thing. The War eventually did that, through much the same kind of spending, but I’d rather not start a Total War just to get out unemployment.

    The Affordable Care Act puts a requirement on EVERY American to get health care insurance (quite a boon for the insurance companies there) and on every business to monitor the total income of their employees (not just what the business pays them) in order to ensure that they are in compliance with providing health care. It also informally caps small business at 50 by starting these requirements there. Businesses will have to weigh whether the increase in employees is worth the increase in hassle and invasion of employee privacy.

  138. Igor Kornilov

    #140 TerryEmberson

    Leftist are always trying to bend God design with taxes. This act is a scheme to stop natural selection. In the long term this leads to a degradation of human race. If someone has not health insurance should die and the faster the better so he cannot have sons that will also not contract one. If God would have wanted universal health care He would have written in the Bible. God wants the able to survive.

    And remember : empathy is anti-american. Each one is on his own and f… the loosers.

  139. Elmar_M

    Actually Obamas original plan was pretty good, I thought. The plan as it was finally enacted was a not so ideal compromise though.
    But that was mainly due to the conservatives interfering and blocking.
    I want to say that the syste as the US has it right now is not working very well. The rest of the civilized world generally pays quote a lot less for health insurance and has more coverage and less struggle. The cost of health insurace was still exploding at the time and Obama rightfully saw that as an issue.

    If someone has not health insurance should die and the faster the better so he cannot have sons that will also not contract one.

    What about those that do not get health insurance because the insurance companies dont want to give it them due to a preexisting condition, or because they can not afford it despite working 3 jobs (though all part time only, becuse companies wont hire them full time so they dont have to give them insurance)?
    Because that is the what applies to the bulk of people that dont have health insurace in the US!
    Some people are just so unbelievable…

  140. TerryEmberson

    @141 Igor Kornilov:

    First thought is that doesn’t deserve a reply. Unfortunately, I just can’t brook strawmen.

    I can’t speak about God’s plan; I am an atheist now and don’t find it my place to trash the beliefs of others. I can speak about empathy. Empathy is when someone is moved to help another person. Empathy is not being moved to help another person by holding a gun to a third persons head.

    I can also speak about community. Each one is not on his own in a community. Government should exist to preserve community. Government should not replace community. Government is dangerous AND necessary; like a guard dog it needs to be leashed. Democracy is that leash, but its not being wielded intelligently right now because most of the American population has become apathetic.

    Other than that, yeah, life sucks and bad things can happen. That’s why I pay for health insurance, dental insurance, eye insurance, and life insurance for me and mine. I also support charities to take care of those who can not afford it on there own. There is that is empathy again. The empathy that I also share for my fellow taxpayers.

    @142 Elmar_M:

    They pay a lot less because we are subsidizing a large portion of their health care for them. Drug companies charge us so much here in the US, in part, because we can afford it and, in part, because the national single-payer systems have the backing of government enforcement in negotiating for lower fees. Also, most of that new medical science that costs so much to do, it’s mostly developed in those countries with private medical systems, not in those with public medicine. MOST of it is developed here in the US. Going to a single-payer system here would handicap medical research.

    As far as preexisting conditions and medical insurance, do you have a problem with someone having a break-in and then going out to get insurance on their house so they can claim it? There are charities. There are not enough charities. Some of that is because those who make enough to give to charities are already giving much of their income to the government, but not all. Much of it is because our society has turned individualist into self-centered. We need to fix that, but government mandate is not the way. It just hurts the middle-income earners.

  141. Igor Kornilov

    @143 TerryEmberson

    Sorry if my strawman was rather primitive but I think your answer has allowed my to see your point.

    Regarding political theory, my answer would be that the comunity must own the government so the size should not be a political problem. For me the real problem of big size of the government is not political but economical because bigs sizes are dificult to manage efficiently.

    In the case of health care, scale economies are enormous and the spread of risk in big numbers is extraordinary positive. However it requires a cohesive society were people understands that some things (e.g. the seats of the wating room of the hospital) are of everybody. I am not sure if USA society has this concept.

    Regarding taxes, the places were life is better have high taxes. Demagoguery against taxes is OK for bar taking a bear with friends but a political program based in offer the voter to not pay taxes is a motorway to Mad Max world. To ask for not paying taxes in the name of freedom is an insult to the memory of all those who died fighting for freedom, many of them Americans in the four corners of the planet.

  142. TerryEmberson

    @Igor:
    I agree on taxes. In the modern world, paying taxes is a must. I’m not a member of the Tea Party and I don’t intend to become one. I believe that we need welfare, I just think that it needs to be structured so that some people can’t skate on welfare on the dime of others. It’s heading away from that and my state was the one state of the Union who defeated the welfare reforms of the last decade despite it being the smartest choice to help the poor.

    I also come off as an ideologue here because I lean toward the smaller state side of things, but smaller doesn’t mean non-existent. I recognize that by the magic of democracy, my opinion on things doesn’t get to trump all other opinions (the way it should be) so I’m going to vote, however I can, against increases in taxes or debt unless there is a compelling reason to increase taxes. I’m going to vote against additional mandates on people because I don’t agree with forcing people to do things that they don’t choose to do unless there is, again, a compelling reason.

    Because I can’t vote directly on smaller government, I’m going to vote for those idio… errr… politicians who espouse smaller government, hope they keep to their word, and then continue to donate to the ACLU so that they can’t force their social agenda on me as well. When our economy is working right, I’m going to vote for the socially liberal people and continue to pay my Chamber of Commerce dues so their economic policies are mitigated a bit.

  143. Elmar_M

    They pay a lot less because we are subsidizing a large portion of their health care for them. Drug companies charge us so much here in the US, in part, because we can afford it and, in part, because the national single-payer systems have the backing of government enforcement in negotiating for lower fees.

    I have heard this argument before and after some investigation found it to be utter nonsense!
    1. The cost of prescription drugs only makes 20% of the total cost of healthcare in the US.
    The US is however paying about 70% more for healthcare than the average European nation.
    2. Besides companies like Hoffman La Roche, Bayer and other European countriey would probably object.
    3. Prescription drugs have be to be equally certified in European countries and clinical trials have to be conducted there as well. So the cost savings are probably marginal.

    As far as preexisting conditions and medical insurance, do you have a problem with someone having a break-in and then going out to get insurance on their house so they can claim it? There are charities. There are not enough charities. Some of that is because those who make enough to give to charities are already giving much of their income to the government, but not all. Much of it is because our society has turned individualist into self-centered. We need to fix that, but government mandate is not the way. It just hurts the middle-income earners.

    Since health insurance is tied to a job in the US, your way of thinking effectively prevents people that got layed off after they got sick (which does happen) from starting their own business. It may even prevent people from taking a job at a company that does not offer insurance.
    Also, you do not adress the people that work several minimum wage jobs and still dont have health care, because they all are only part time.
    It is the typical closed minded and totally blind sided talk of the right wingers in the US, who obviously have absolutely not idea about the real world and get all their “knowledge” from watching O Riley on Fox news…

    Finally, let me add that americans are alrady paying a sizeable amount of their income for social security. Public health care would only add a minimal extra cost on top of that.

  144. Joseph G

    @129 Nigel Depledge:

    The timescale, however, matters. The last interglacial is irrelevant, because that interglacial was started by natural and much slower GW than we are experiencing today. The key timescale is the time during which we have been turning fossil carbon into CO2.

    This point bears repeating, because I hear permutations of it from a variety of denier types.
    Yes, in the Earth’s geological record, there are instances when atmospheric CO2 concentrations were several times what they are now. The main difference is that the kind C02 increase that we’ve produced in the last hundred years is the sort of increase that has in the past taken half a million years or more due to natural causes (large-scale volcanism, etc).

  145. Joseph G

    @146 Elmar M: Hear, hear. I wish people would quite dicking around with ideals and abstractions and look at the real problem. The fact is, as you said, people in the US pay more for health care then pretty much anywhere else, and yet we have millions of people getting substandard care (or having to go into lifelong debt to get care). Others (myself included) suffer from non-life-threatening degenerative conditions that could be helped by minimal treatment now, but will probably cost a lot more to fix in the long run in the absence of preventative treatment. Yet they can’t afford insurance due to having these diseases (in many cases, genetic/non-preventable ones). The insurance model we have is flawed from the ground up, which is why the home insurance comparison is laughable. And relying on employers to provide insurance? I know plenty of people who make far more then minimum wage, who get absolutely no health insurance through their employers. In fact, the only folks I know personally who get benefits through work are those employed by the state (as teachers and education workers).

    Bottom line, people are suffering and dying needlessly, in the wealthiest country on Earth, just to support an unnecessary industry that’s making record profits and buying off our elected representatives left and right. And meanwhile, people are buying the industry line and yelling about death panels and lazy poor people. It’s disgusting.

    On a related note, anyone willing to accept a thoroughly disillusioned American into their country? I have extensive technical skills, an aptitude for learning, and I promise to be utterly polite, and contribute to the community as best I can.
    Any takers? I’ll walk your dogs, too!

  146. Joseph G

    Oops. Didn’t mean to pull a threadjack there :-

  147. Charles Bogle

    I’m neither a Republican nor a conservative nor a Democrat nor a liberal. Or even a Tea Partier. It doesn’t matter what I am, but the point is I don’t have a dog in this fight politically. I am, however, hugely interested in science, and have read more science books than any other nonscientist I know. My special interests are cosmology, quantum physics, complexity theory, information theory, evolution, environmental science and economics (if you consider that a science, which I do).

    Let me say at the outset that you are dead right about the GOP stance on evolution. The science is now more than 150 years old and becoming more definitive all the time now that we have such detailed evidence from the human genome. There are still some holes in evolutionary theory but they do not appear to be of the kind that will cause the whole edifice to come crashing down someday. Recent attacks by the “irreducible complexity” critics — the most serious challenge in decades — have been soundly refuted. My personal guess is that natural selection will soon be supplemented by complexity theory and other emerging disciplines to give a more detailed picture of exactly what happened when on the great tree of life. So at worst Darwin might get folded into a bigger, richer picture just as Newton got folded into the larger reality revealed by Einstein.

    Let me go further and say that I don’t buy the common argument that the Republican view on evolution doesn’t matter because it has no practical consequences. It has terrible practical consequences. To introduce nonscientific theories into the classroom as a supposed counterweight to established science is just insane. It’s an attack on rationality and the whole scientific method, and I have no doubt it will hurt us materially as a nation down the road. Ideas have consequences.

    The issue of climate change is a little more complicated. For starters, it is a very young science, really only several decades as a distinct discipline. That’s why few of the experts have degrees in it specifically. Until very recently there were no such degrees.

    More to the point, as with any young, growing science, there has been some rather extreme flip-flopping on the consensus view. I am old enough to remember when global COOLING was the climate disaster du jour. It’s even mentioned in the lyrics to the title song from London Calling by the Clash (who would no doubt be writing songs about global warming today if they were still around). That view changed almost overnight and has held steady ever since to the global warming thesis, pausing only to adopt the climate change label along the way for propaganda purposes.

    There are a few extreme GOP folks who deny that there has even been any warming over the last 150 years. Those people are definitely rejecting well-established science. There certainly has been some warming. But that is not the prevailing Republican view that I know of. The real controversy is over the exact cause of the warming (posited to be greenhouse gases, specifically CO2), and mankind’s role in that. And here, although the Republicans are indeed bucking a consensus, I don’t believe that necessarily equates with rejecting science per se.

    The reason is that the science is too young and so far too error-riddled for a consensus about climate change causation to mean much at this point.

    The computer models on which nearly the entire argument is based are woefully inadequate. They can’t even accurately predict existing conditions, let alone future conditions. They don’t accommodate solar cycles and variations and they are so far incapable of addressing the precise role of clouds, cloud formation and water vapor, because to date those variables are not all that well understood, particularly in their complex interactions with one another. The science is making rapid strides and will no doubt get better. But at the moment it is not unreasonable to say, let’s not bet the farm on anthropogenic warming.

    Further, the critique of the right that climate science has been highly politicized from the beginning, and sometimes corrupted by money and politics, is dead on. The ClimateGate scandal revealed this clearly from the mouths of leading climate scientists, and the failure of the climate establishment to acknowledge its failings and deal with this issue forthrightly has tarnished not just climate science but science in general. It has done terrible damage. The investigations of ClimateGate were basically all inside jobs and produced little but whitewashed lies. The public fallout from that is continuing and well deserved. Anyone who actually cares about environmental issues should be leading the charge to clean up this mess. So far, no takers on the left.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was from the beginning not a disinterested group seeking only scientific truth about the climate but rather a very political entity. They didn’t so much discover that global warming was manmade as simply assume it. So there has always been some selection bias in their research and conclusions.

    A startling recent experiment using the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and published in a peer-reviewed journal strongly suggests that cosmic rays and solar activity may account for (in the opinion of one of the experimenters) anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of the warming we have experienced in modern times. Even if you assume the low end of that estimate, it would radically change the scientific and policy debate on climate change. If the truth turns out to be somewhere closer to the high end, then we will indeed have spent a lot of time and money on something that humanity cannot affect much one way or the other.

    Aside from the actual results, the interesting thing about that experiment is how long it took to get approved (7 or 8 years) and how delicately the CERN administrators have tiptoed around the public announcement of the outcome. Would they have been so shy and reticent if the results had confirmed anthropogenic warming? I think we know the answer to that.

    So while I am as pro-science as anyone I know, I am not pro-politicized science, whether the politics are left or right or anywhere in between. I want the truth and I want it straight. Don’t keep trying to sell me doomsday scenarios that overstate the case and misuse science.

    And there we come to the crux of the problem regarding the Democrats and science. They are in the tank for environmentalism, which of course is the not the same thing as environmental science. As a recovered environmentalist who spent a very active decade in the movement in the 1970s, I know how little respect for science there is among these activists. It’s all politics.

    The fact is that they have bet everything on climate change being the issue that will put their agenda to the fore. The jury is still out on that but my guess is that they bet on the wrong issue. Which is a shame in a way because there are certainly serious environmental problems that need our attention — water availability, biodiversity, and deadly pandemics, to name just three. I would add the threat of impacts from space objects, which unlike climate change are known to be the real harbingers of extinction-level events. They don’t happen often but we know for a fact they have happened before and will happen again, and now that for the first time in human history we have the technology to prepare for them, we have done almost nothing. Climate change has sucked the air out of just about every other environmental issue.

  148. Taed

    One thing that I will say is that I feel that FOX News currently does the best job of covering NASA events such as launches, particularly in terms of quantity of air time and number of events — there’s been a few launches that I’ve only seen covered live on FOX, not the others. I really liked Miles O’Brian on CNN, but even when he was there, FOX still covered more events than CNN or any of the others.

  149. Nigel Depledge

    @ Igor (141) -
    I call Poe!

  150. I’m neither a Republican nor a conservative nor a Democrat nor a liberal. Or even a Tea Partier. I’m a smart guy. You can’t fool me. I love science. I really love it. I love it to death. I have a degree right here in my hand and two more in the back yard. Science is good. I love science. Yay!

    Hey, I even love Evolution. I don’t have a problem with Darwin or anything. Oh no, I love science. I’m not one of those nutty science deniers. I’m one of you. Love science I tell ya. Just love it to death.

    Shame on the Republicans and their position on evolution. Let’s all stand up for rationality and the scientific method. I love science. I really, really, really do. I’m not one of those anti science nutters. Oh no sir!

    But…
    But…

    Climate change is all too hard. It’s all too young. There are hardly any real climate change people.

    Back in the 70′s, all the scientists said it was cooling. I don’t have any evidence for this but I read about it on the internet somewhere. Trust me on this, I am old. I remember reading a newspaper about it or something. I get a lot of my science information that way.

    The scientists even use Jedi Mind control tricks. They used to call it global warming but then they tried to fool us all using mass hypnosis techniques and now they call it climate change. I don’t know when or how they did this or what their lying official explanation is from the NASA website but…it’s sneaky and they have not fooled me at all. Trust me on this.

    There may be a few GOP folks who deny all the stuff about climate change. But some others only deny SOME of the stuff that NASA and all the scientific communities on the planet have to say about climate change. That makes it all ok. Partial science denial is not real science denial. Nuance people, it’s all about nuance. Scientific consensus is like a buffet at a restaurant. Just pick and choose the bits you can live with and reject the stuff you don’t like. Easy fix.

    Besides there is no consensus. It’s all too young. Too many errors. Much much this and a whole lot of that. Trust me on this. I love science. I wouldn’t lie to you.

    Computer models?
    Pshaw! Let me telll you about computer models. They are bad, bad, bad, BAD!
    I just know it.
    They can’t do this and they can’t do that and they can’t do something else and they just don’t do that other thing at all. Further they don’t have this in order to to that or something so….yeah….let me tell you…just hold your horses on that whole global warming thing. Sit up and pay attention. I wouldn’t lie to you. It’s the scientists that are lying to you about them there tricky computer models. All them computer models are bogus. Those super computers? Probably a complete waste of everybody’s time.

    I love science. I love it.
    Yet it’s corrupt. It’s run by bad, bad people. And they are lying to you. All of them.
    NASA is the worst of them.
    Politics. Money. Scandal. Lies. Failure. Shock. Terrible Damage. Cover up. Inside Jobs. Whitewash. Just look at those emails. Keep looking at them. I’m not sure why and I have no specifics and it’s been two years now since they were released but…keep looking at them. Did I mention that I love science? I’m not a denier-honest.

    IPCC is bad. Bad. Bad.
    No really, it’s bad. It’s all politics. And assumptions. And bias. Trust me on this.

    Besides, CERN just disproved global warming. So there. There’s no need to do any fact checking on this. Don’t go to primary sources or anything like that. Just trust me on this.

    I’m pro-science. I love it. I just want the truth. It’s just that I figured out that the scientists are lying to me. Until they tell me the truth, they shouldn’t try to sell us doomsday scenarios. Just because your doctors tell you that you have cancer doesn’t give them the right to politicize everything and overstate their case.

    Of course, the real problem is those people over there. Over there and what those people do. Look at them. Not me. Shame on them. I know how little they respect science. They are not like me. Trust me, I know. I used to be one but now I am not so I have inside knowledge that you probably don’t have so you should believe me.
    Ok? Good.
    Um….
    It’s all politics. They have an agenda. What about real problems? I love the environment. I love science. [Insert Important science Words Here]

    Climate change is bad. Trust me.

    ///////////

  151. Nigel Depledge

    @ Cedric Katesby (155) -
    I call Poe!

  152. Nigel Depledge

    Terry Emberson (143) said:

    @142 Elmar_M:

    They pay a lot less because we are subsidizing a large portion of their health care for them. Drug companies charge us so much here in the US, in part, because we can afford it and, in part, because the national single-payer systems have the backing of government enforcement in negotiating for lower fees. Also, most of that new medical science that costs so much to do, it’s mostly developed in those countries with private medical systems, not in those with public medicine. MOST of it is developed here in the US. Going to a single-payer system here would handicap medical research.

    I don’t buy this.

    It is true that a great deal of medical research happens in the US, but you are overstating the case to say that most research into new treatments occurs in the US. As an employee at the European site of a contract manufacture organisation supplying process development and manufacture of biopharmaceuticals, I can tell you that there is plenty of good stuff being developed in Europe and the Far East.

    As far as preexisting conditions and medical insurance, do you have a problem with someone having a break-in and then going out to get insurance on their house so they can claim it?

    Not the same. In a nation with national health insurance, you are never in a situation where a medical condition can develop while you don’t have insurance.

    There are charities. There are not enough charities.

    Charities should not be performing the role of a national health service. Instead, they (medical charities, at least) should be focussing on finding treatments or cures.

    Some of that is because those who make enough to give to charities are already giving much of their income to the government, but not all. Much of it is because our society has turned individualist into self-centered. We need to fix that, but government mandate is not the way. It just hurts the middle-income earners

    So, do you consider access to basic – and affordable – medical care to not be a human right?

    Nations all across Europe have national health schemes, and yet middle-income earners do not seem to be any worse off, relatively, than their counterparts in the US.

    The UK has a two-tiered system. The NHS exists to help anyone and everyone, but it has its problems. For those with additional private health insurance, they can “go private” to be treated faster and (if a hospital stay is needed) in more pleasant surroundings, but very often the doctors providing the treatment are the same people. They might work 4 days a week for the NHS, and one day a week privately. And they can earn the same in a week from the two sources. Private medical insurance encourages healthcare providers to increase their fees.

    Last year, had spinal surgery paid for by my private insurance. Mostly. The surgeon did not adhere to my insurer’s pricing cap, so I had to pay the difference. The same goes for the anaesthetist. So, my surgeon received £1000 (roughly $1700) for an hour’s work, of which my insurance paid about three-quarters. What else was I going to do, go onto the NHS waiting list and perhaps still not be back at work? For the same work under the NHS, the surgeon would probably have received only a fraction of that fee (perhaps a tenth, but that is a pure guess on my part). Private healthcare providers charge insanely-large fees.

    In a country where private healthcare is the only kind available, does anyone receive good value for money? I very much doubt it.

  153. Nigel Depledge

    Joseph G (148) said:

    On a related note, anyone willing to accept a thoroughly disillusioned American into their country? I have extensive technical skills, an aptitude for learning, and I promise to be utterly polite, and contribute to the community as best I can.
    Any takers? I’ll walk your dogs, too!

    Sure, come to the UK.

    Just make sure your application states that you are seeking asylum from political persecution in your homeland.

  154. Joseph G

    @158 Nigel Depledge: Sure, come to the UK.
    Just make sure your application states that you are seeking asylum from political persecution in your homeland.

    Rats! In all honesty, I’m not sure that’s true :-P

    Wait… I supposed I could move to rural Mississippi, and try to start an Atheism club. At that point, I can simply show up to my immigration hearing still covered in tar and feathers. That ought to get me in :)

  155. Elmar_M

    I want to add one last thing to this discussion:
    Keeping the people in your nation healthy, is actually a matter of national security and making sure that the people arround you are healthy should be in your best interest as well.
    The reasons for this are obvious when it comes to contagious illnesses. Someone who is sick and is not treated can infect many others.
    But also non cantagious ilnesses can be a threat to public savety if untreated.
    To give the first silly example that comes to my mind : somone who has a brain tumor should not be driving arround in a car. You want that person in a hospital, not outside, where they can injure people. But if he can only afford treatment if he keeps driving to work every morning, or if he just keeps driving without treatment at all, then he could be a danger to everyone. These things can cause all sorts of things from blackouts to halucinations. Ok, this is not a very common illness, luckily, but still I am sure you get the idea.

  156. The Orwellian Philosopher

    In virtual sociopsychopolitical terms this article is correct. In the real world it is 180 degrees off. The right in real world terms is proscience and has done myriads for it in terms of its progress that requires real world economic support and funding. As implied it does this behind a hypocritical facade of being anti-science. The left mouths a proscience stance and in reality is destroying science and real world rational based world. The ultimate of Orwellian irony. TOP

  157. Leonidas

    Isolate the target freeze it. A tried and true technic.
    Tea Party ultra religious, hardly.
    What is seen? The right understands that government spending is at unsustainable levels.
    Unseen? The abject fear of funding cuts. The left, the party of pay offs with other peoples money. The right, the party that understands the importance of private property rights and a sound society.
    It is rational for the scientific community to fear the lose of power by the pay off left party however, with $15 trillion in debt and unsustainable deficit spending all spending is destined to fail.
    Better pick your side soon. Sustainable scientific funding or none. The choice is yours. (We saw this when Bush lowered one program a minor amount after Clinton increased it by an astronomical amount. I’d get rid of the blue t-shirts.)

  158. Steve D

    The Right produces cranks. The Left produces meta-cranks. The Left isn’t afraid of data because they can spin any finding to fit their ideology. Teen pregnancy declines? It’s because of our programs. Teen pregnancy rises? It’s because of the Religious Right, not because our programs failed. Minorities lag behind whites even with civil rights laws? The white power structure has ways of keeping itself in power. People oppose liberal policies? They have a false consciousness. You dropped out of school and you’re poor? Not your fault – that’s “blaming the victim.” “Homosexuality is wrong?” Where’s your evidence? “Gay marriage is a right?” We don’t need evidence.

    Surely the ultimate anti-intellectualism is attacking the notion of reality itself, and liberals are far more likely to buy into post-modernism that conservatives. The entire field of philosophy of science is now essentially pseudoscience.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »