New Point of Inquiry: David Frum, Kenneth Silber — Conservatives and Science

By Chris Mooney | August 2, 2011 7:38 am

The latest show is now up and you can listen here. Here is the write-up:

When it comes to the U.S. political right, it often appears that the opposition to science-and reason in general-is everywhere. From climate change denial to anti-evolutionism; from debt ceiling denial to, that’s right, incandescent light bulb availability denial; conservatives today have plenty to answer for.

Fortunately, some conservatives know it. And given how much he has blasted the “Republican War on Science” in the past, on this show Chris Mooney wanted to hear their take.

So he invited on David Frum. Frum is the editor of the group blog Frum Forum, a former speechwriter for the George W. Bush White House, and a widely published author, most recently of Comeback: Conservatism that Can Win Again. In recent years, Frum has become a leading critic of today’s GOP and its allegiance with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.

Joining Frum is Kenneth Silber, a frequent contributor to Frum Forum. Silber is a science writer based in New Jersey who contributes to Research MagazineScientific American, and other outlets. He calls himself a “center-right dissenter, a deviationist apostle of the Frumian Heresy” and these days, a RINO (Republican in Name Only).

Once again, you can listen here.


Comments (22)

Links to this Post

  1.   What the Hell is Frum’s Problem? by Macsmind | August 7, 2011
  1. Joe

    haha, FYI the light bulb law IS an effective ban on incandescent light bulbs by 2020… kind of casts so-called “denialism” in a different light doesn’t it?

  2. Jeff

    Joe, you should do some research. The law in question phases out older technology, less efficient incandescent bulbs only, it does not ban them all.

  3. Somite

    Oh boy. Frum said that dems were going to see the poor handling by Obama of the economy and consider conservatism? Hopefully people remember what caused all the problems in the first place.

  4. Johnny

    Maybe for your next book you can write “The Democratic WAR on Business”

  5. Somite

    And how are democrats waging a war on business? Lowering taxes on the rich and attacking the EPA and FDA is not pro-business; it is just pro-rich.

  6. Johnny

    The unelected unaccountable EPA isn’t regulating the rich, its regulating businesses. Its time they start abiding by the laws which the elected and accountable congress enacts.

    We need less environmental protection and more human protection.

  7. Somite

    But this is the problem. You can not negotiate or argue with the environment and contaminants. Industrial byproducts and drugs that cause toxicity will cause harm if their use is not regulated scientifically and using facts. The EPA protects humans and the environment with regulation. It may be more costly for corporations to ensure their practices are safe but such is the cost of doing business.

    The EPA and FDA should be unelected and unaccountable because they should only use data and the best science to exert regulation.

  8. Johnny


    You can not negotiate or argue with the environment and contaminants

    I’m negotiating with the humans who think they trump democracy because they represent the “environment”.

    I’m arguing with environmentalists who think that Carbon Dioxide is a pollutant, unlike all other official pollutants, which directly harm the body, C02 does not.

  9. Somite

    This categorical distinction you are making is not how regulations work. Regulatory agencies look at the possible adverse effects of substances, zoning practices, water rights and many other entities that are not pollutants. As long as an adverse effect can be demonstrated a case can be made for regulation.

    Consider greenhouse gases. As temps go up and heat waves become more severe the number of deaths caused by heat increases. These deaths are considered and adverse effect.

  10. Nullius in Verba

    “As temps go up and heat waves become more severe the number of deaths caused by heat increases.”

    As temps go up and severe winters become less common, the number of deaths caused by cold decreases. These are lives saved, that efforts to mitigate global warming would cost. By your logic, since efforts to prevent global warming have adverse effects, we ought to be able to regulate them. Yes?

  11. Somite

    Can you find a reference for deaths due to winter in comparison to deaths due to heat?

  12. Somite

    And here is the problem. The original article reaches no such conclusion. It discusses the decreases in mortality in september is specific mediterranean countries:

    The inference that there will be less deaths in winter as climate warms is entirely speculative and only present in the denialist blog you link to.

    The first thing you would have to show is that indeed winter deaths have decreased over time and that this decreased is less than the increase in heat-related deaths.

    My hunch is that although considerable warming has been documented winter deaths have remained the same while heat-related deaths have possibly increased.

  13. ThomasL

    So let me get this straight Somite,

    In the absense of hard data you’ll just “have a hunch” and go with it? that doesn’t seem very scientific, almost more like that touchy-feely Social Science stuff…

  14. Somite

    The diference is that I acknowledge is a hunch rather than peddle a bogus or low impact reference.

  15. Nullius in Verba


    So far as I can see, the inference that there will be more deaths in summer as climate warms is likewise entirely speculative. But do feel free to point out where in your earlier comment you provided the evidence that you ask for of me.

    My prior expectation would be that no changes in either direction would be detectable from a 0.6 C global average change. Heat waves and cold winters fall into the category of weather-not-climate, on a local scale where the signal is lost in the noise. I would expect that there would be no significant change observable. Regulation would constitute an enormous cost for no discernible benefit, the money could be spent elsewhere to save many more lives.

    However, many more people die from cold than heat, and global warming reportedly affects the winters more than the summers, polar regions more than tropical, night more than day, so if in future the temperature rose enough that there were to be a change, I would expect it to be in the direction of fewer deaths.

    The argument was hypothetical, as I said.

  16. Somite

    At least there are papers that conclude that heat-related mortality may increase due to climate change in New York. The same can not be said for a decrease due to warmer winters:

    Conclusions. Although considerable uncertainty exists in climate forecasts and future health vulnerability, the range of projections we developed suggests that by midcentury, acclimatization may not completely mitigate the effects of climate change in the New York City metropolitan region, which would result in an overall net increase in heat-related premature mortality.

  17. Nullius in Verba

    So what does that paper say about winter deaths?

  18. Somite

    Nothing. That’s not what the paper is about. I could not find a paper that looks into a correlation between climate change and winter deaths.

  19. Sean McCorkle


    That was a really great episode. I don’t think of myself as a conservative at all, but I really enjoyed hearing Frum’s and Silber’s views. The point about how scientists used to be more republican 4o years ago or so, but have shifted to the democratic side since then, is enlightening. That, plus the observation that conservatism has been lately usurped by forces of unreason, plus your recent social/psychologial postings, has convinced me that we shouldn’t be looking at politics as the root cause of the anti-science & political shifts of the last couple of decades, we should instead be looking to understand the underly social-psychological dynamics for an explanation.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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