Both the Left and the Right are at war with science

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117 Responses to “Both the Left and the Right are at war with science”

  1. GawainLavers says:

    Christ that was idiotic.

    The only thing worth noting was the 41% of young-earthers, but in our superstitious country anything less than a majority is pretty impressive, really.

    This is the best part:

    On energy issues, for example, the authors contend that progressive liberals tend to be antinuclear because of the waste-disposal problem, anti–fossil fuels because of global warming, antihydroelectric because dams disrupt river ecosystems, and anti–wind power because of avian fatalities.

    Because, as we all know, none of those things are true.

    • foobar says:

      But we have to get our energy from somewhere. Anything else is as much magical thinking as creationism or climate denial.

      • GawainLavers says:

        I’m sure there are some people like that out there, in the same sense that there’s someone out there who believes anything, but that’s not what the author is complaining about, is he? He’s upset that anyone is suggesting that energy generation comes with a cost, and these costs are significant.

        The actual discussion on the left is to what point we should reduce energy consumption to mitigate those costs, and how we compare the costs against one another in order to decide how to best manage our energy consumption.

        If it sounds like I’m reading something unfair into his essay, instead of your kinder interpretation, consider his anger that liberals would oppose Monsanto on purely political grounds (as I do) and then his conflation of that with being “anti-science”.

        • Tim in SF says:

          I’m more to the left than anyone I know (and I live in San Francisco!), and I’m not against nuclear power, I’m just against light water nuclear reactors. They’re f’ing dangerous (Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc.) and they produce a huge amount of dangerous waste. 

          I’m in favor of the LiFTR, which has none of those dangers (and produces an infinitesimally small fraction of the waste, to boot). 

          • Chernobyl was not a LWR…  It was a graphite moderated reactor.

            LiFTR is not professionally technically validated yet, and if it does work is nearly a magic nuclear weapons fissile material factory in addition to being a great power source.  I independently reinvented it in the early 90s, as a weapons material source, before finding the documentation on 1960s and 70s studies on it.  The recent swell of support seems willfully ignorant to the proliferation risk.

          • Tim in SF says:

            Your proliferation argument is simply wrong. The LiFTR does not produce the kind of materials from which you could make a nuclear weapon.

            Also, it *was* technically validated. We had a LiFTR running for several years. In this country. Here’s some lunchtime viewing: http://youtu.be/lG1YjDdI_c8

          • GawainLavers says:

            Typical of you Commie Pinko Facist Gay Sharia-lovers in San Francisco that you want to start a Holocaust against science, because light water nuclear reactors are science.  Q.E.D.  This makes you just the same as a million, zillion Hitlers.

            But I’m not comparing you directly to Hitler, so you can’t invoke Godwin’s Law on me.

        • Boundegar says:

          What the author demonstrated is his own war on straw men. 

      • Navin_Johnson says:

        The article hints at the typical right wing either/or fallacy: That lefties think that we should abandon any kind of energy that’s not perfectly ‘green’ right now and start fresh. Just ridiculous. Over and over the progressive point of view is that we should be investing and trying to shift toward greener energy over time. That is not ‘magical thinking’, it’s common sense. It also boils down nuanced opposition into simple sloganeering.

        Right, because preferring to invest more into sustainable energy means that the only problem with fossil fuels is…like: “global warming, dude”. *If Only* that were the only negative factor associated with fossil fuels…. thank god they don’t pollute, fuel global conflicts, have roles in coups, murders….and on and on and on…

        The Gulf oil spill was a real shame, because…you know…”Global Warming”..

        Just terrible.

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        Anything else is as much magical thinking as creationism or climate denial.

        Simple-minded, black-and-white reductionism much?

        • GawainLavers says:

          I wouldn’t want to say that there’s no-one who ignores the reality of contemporary energy needs, although most who do so do it from a NIMBY standpoint: which is decidedly not a liberal-only position.  Most ban-all-energy-production-because-environment liberals (which is now a very, very small set of people) generally assume that we’ll do so by farming our own food, living in tepees, cycling everywhere and going to sleep when the sun goes down.  This is an honest position, simply politically untenable.

          But for all that this may be politically irresponsible, it has nothing to do with a liberal war on science.

      • anansi133 says:

        But we have to get our energy from somewhere.

        Sure! How much energy, though? Energy to drive our SUVs to the store? Energy to air conditioin every cubic foot of human space? Energy to build vacant buildings and then tear them down?

        The conversation is somewhat about where it comes from, it’s much more about what it’s used for.

    • ocker3 says:

      Except the avian fatalities are often overblown. There was a wind farm in Victoria in Australia, the locals were up in arms about the bird deaths. Once the farm went up, bird deaths were incredibly low http://www.w-wind.com.au/downloads/CFS8BirdBatImpact.pdf Now that’s after learning the lessons of the wind farms in the USA and other places, which apparently had much higher strike rates due to a lack of understanding (or caring) about bird movement patterns

  2. PhosPhorious says:

    I’m a lefty, so of course I would say this but. . .

    The examples of “anti-science” given are not of equal severity for left and right.  It’s not “anti-science” to be suspicious of evolutionary psychology, or at least of any particular evpsy explanation for a given behavior (“Rape is natural because our forefathers needed to spread there seed”).  The Bell Curve, for instance drew some pretty specific conclusions from some pretty sketchy readings of that data.  It’s not “anti-science” to point this out.

    As for preferring “nature” to “technology” which many leftists do (I have luddite tendencies of my own). . .  that’s a difference in value, not a rejection of fact.  Birds DO die in wind turbines, and dams DO disrupt ecosystems.  That we should be okay with that is not a scientific proposition.

    Sure, the left is not perfectly rational or scientifically literate.  But the right is worse.  In the US anyway.

    • Nadreck says:

      It *is* however, anti-science to claim that something is good or desirable just because it’s the random result of nature and to ignore all technological or man-made benefits. It’s not a rejection of individual facts; just a rejection of analysis.

      This often manifests itself on the Left (the identical twin of the Right) through the “Blank Slate” fallacy. Everyone is deemed, without a shred of evidence, to be born a perfect angel and it is only through the evil effects of “society” (which is beamed in from hyperspace and is therefore not “natural”) that bad things happen. So it therefore follows that if *our* philosophy (and not anyone else’s) was allowed to control every single trivial aspect of society that evil would go away. So let’s just seize TOTAL CONTROL in the name of the Perfect Utopia which is just around the corner and will happen any day real soon now.

      Saying that bad things stem from nature, especially human nature, is not the same as saying that such things are OK, moral or desirable. That’s a favourite Straw Man argument of the Left. It’s saying that nature is the source of a lot of these bad things and that’s what we have to deal with when trying to alleviate or block them. Hume’s “Evolution and Ethics” is an essential work on this subject.

      Nature’s not like a Disney film.

      • PhosPhorious says:

        “Everyone is deemed, without a shred of evidence, to be born a perfect angel and it is only through the evil effects of “society” (which is beamed in from hyperspace and is therefore not “natural”) that bad things happen.”

        Show me the lefty who believes that and I will concede everything else in the article.

      • Sebastian Ceabaird says:

        “This often manifests itself on the Left (the identical twin of the Right) through the “Blank Slate” fallacy”

        Wow! Feel the projection! I love the constant whipping of the dead horse that is the false equivalency of the “Right” and the “Left”! Especially when you state that:

        “Everyone is deemed, without a shred of evidence, to be born a perfect angel and it is only through the evil effects of “society” (which is beamed in from hyperspace and is therefore not “natural”) that bad things happen.”

        This is a standard Right-wing dismissal of the progressive left. Who, I wonder, actually believes this? How can you state this, and then a few lines later say:

        “Saying that bad things stem from nature, especially human nature, is not the same as saying that such things are OK, moral or desirable.”

        So people are born “perfect angels”, but “stemming” from nature they are bad. Nice verbal yoga you got there.

      • wysinwyg says:

        It *is* however, anti-science to claim that something is good or desirable just because it’s the random result of nature and to ignore all technological or man-made benefits. It’s not a rejection of individual facts; just a rejection of analysis.

        No, that is still a question of values and not of scientific fact. What is good or desirable will never be a matter of scientific fact and it will always be a matter of values.

        Go ahead and try to establish something as “good” or “desirable” as a matter of scientific fact. It’s not as though this is a new principle in philosophy. We’ve been over this for a few thousand years now.

        This often manifests itself on the Left (the identical twin of the Right) through the “Blank Slate” fallacy. Everyone is deemed, without a shred of evidence, to be born a perfect angel and it is only through the evil effects of “society” (which is beamed in from hyperspace and is therefore not “natural”) that bad things happen.

        1. This is pretty clearly a straw man argument. I’d like to see you find a single “liberal” who actually argues this. 2. It’s not entirely false. We know as a matter of scientific fact (you’re not anti-science are you, boy?) that life history — how one is brought up — is a much larger determinant of human behaviors than any inborn “human nature.” Besides the data on neuroplasticity, there’s plenty of anthropological fieldwork that shows an absolutely breathtaking variety in how human beings operate psychologically and sociologically. Although human beings aren’t quite “blank slates” the actual variation is usually ignored by critics of “blank slate” perspectives — let alone the possible variation which I imagine must be truly breathtaking. Still, as interesting as all this is you’re arguing against a position that no one actually holds.

        So let’s just seize TOTAL CONTROL in the name of the Perfect Utopia which is just around the corner and will happen any day real soon now.

        Again, please find me a single respectable liberal making arguments like this. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

        Saying that bad things stem from nature, especially human nature, is not the same as saying that such things are OK, moral or desirable. That’s a favourite Straw Man argument of the Left. It’s saying that nature is the source of a lot of these bad things and that’s what we have to deal with when trying to alleviate or block them.

        Again, judging anything from nature to be “bad” or “undesirable” is indeed a value judgment, not a matter of scientific fact. And once again it is you making the straw man arguments.

  3. Navin_Johnson says:

    Wow, that was just a horrible, clumsy polemic. A load of strawmen to angrily attack. Total garbage from the opening notion that simply being a Democrat makes one a leftist or “left”. Just ridiculous.  Embarrassing.

    “Hi “liberal” Democrat Rahm Emanuel, will you please stop attacking unions, occupy, community groups, privatizing public assets, and extracting citizen’s wealth?……………………….”

    No doubt there are a lot of dizzy naifs on the left who are misguided about politics, technology and science, but this is ridiculous.

    Can’t help but think that if you dug around a bit for background on these dudes that you’d find interesting things.

    *edit* haha. One of the guys is a writer for National Review and The Daily Caller…..

    *edit* Oh, and the other guy is beloved by climate deniers…… Good stuff…

  4. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    That was pretty weak, even by the standards of the available data (people who distrust Monsanto’s desire to own a patent on anything edible and green are ‘anti science’; but the fine folks who enjoy firebombing researchers who use animal models don’t even get a nod? SRSLY?)

    Honestly, that’s the bit I’m most unimpressed by: There are overtly anti-science ‘leftists’; but he ignores or passes over any real discussion of the good ones in favor of the (quite different in many respects) left wing groups who, shockingly enough, distrust potentially dangerous technology in the hands of groups with a history of not giving a damn about the consequences for other people.

  5. Nylund says:

    Out of curiosity, are there old-Earth creationists or young-Earth evolutionists?

    More importantly though, believing in creationism isn’t the same thing as being at war with science. People who want evolution removed from textbooks, think creationism should be taught in public school science classes, or want tax-payer dollars to fund religious schools that denounce evolution are “at war” with science.  I don’t think all creationists push that sort of agenda though.  There are plenty of people who probably think Adam and Eve is a real story, but don’t push any sort of agenda.  I don’t have too big a problem out there.  Lots of people believe in lots of religions, and as long as they don’t push it on me or use my money to promote it, I’m fine with that.

    • TooGoodToCheck says:

      I think lots of creationists are old-Earth creationists.  Young earth evolutionist would be a lot trickier.

      • Timothy Tankersley says:

        Well lots of young-earth creationists are young earth evolutionists (though they probably wouldn’t think of themselves that way). Creationists who believe in a world wide flood (which is most I presume) believe that Noah did not have every species of animal, but only ‘two of every kind’. Then, after the flood was over, that kind of animal reproduced and multiplied until we got the many species we have today. Which is evolution, whether or not they call it that.

        • TooGoodToCheck says:

           Wow.  I honestly had no idea.  And I grew up in a faith that believed in a literal flood.  They didn’t really discuss biodiversity so far as I recall

        • SamSam says:

          Definitely not. While that may sound logical to you, but most young earth creationists do not believe in “macro-evolution” (evolution of new species) in any way, shape or form. They certainly do not believe that, say, cats and tigers and lions evolved out of any kind of single Noah-era feline.

          Those that believe in the literal story of Noah thus also believe that Noah literally brought two of every species we see today. Yes, it makes a big boat. God finds a way.

        • jhoosier says:

           They call it “microevolution”, and it’s a nice trick for getting around loading two of every animal on the Ark.  For example, they put two frogs on the ark, and after the flood, those frogs evolved into the hundreds (or whatever) species of frogs we see today.

      •  Actually, most young-Earth Creationists are also young-Earth evolutionists. While YEC’s aren’t ever very clear about exactly what a “kind” is, they do say that there are many fewer kinds than there are current species and that Noah’s Ark was thus feasible. For example there may have been only two dog kinds on the ark and three cat kinds, and maybe only 20 beetles. All existing animal diversity the result of an incredible rate of their so-called “microevolution” in only the last few thousand years. BTW, they have no explanation for plant diversity.

        Even Pat Robertson doesn’t believe this shit.

      • Robert Drop says:

        Although some young Earth creationists narratives require, at two different points in time (after the eating of the apple and the deboarding of the ark), that the animals underwent some sort of rapid transformations and diversifications, and since God isn’t said to have done it…

  6. jon_anon says:

    That article was awful link-bait Maggie, you should be ashamed to link to it. So full of straw-men it would… er… be like a lot of straw. One example: progressives don’t dislike Monsanto because they practice genetic modification, we dislike them because of their heavy-handed legal practices and attempts to stomp out small farming.

    • wysinwyg says:

      Shermer’s got a big soap box so I think it’s kind of worth calling out his bullshit.  If it was some totally unknown guy then yeah, not worth linking, but this guy has a lot of credibility despite being quite wrong about almost everything.  (Except Bigfoot and ghosts, of course.)

    • As a progressive who has a problem with Monsanto’s heavy-handed legal practices and been in MANY arguments with fellow progressives who think GMOs are inherently dangerous technology that will kill us all, I think you’re pretty wrong here. 

      • TooGoodToCheck says:

        Or, alternately, you’re both right.  jon_anon is right that (many) progressives aren’t anti-GMO, and Maggie is right that (many) are.

        I’d say, based on no actual evidence, that progressives are more likely to be anti-GMO than the general population, although that seems to be a situation that is gradually solving itself (e.g. Mark Lynas)

        • Navin_Johnson says:

          I wonder how many progressives dislike Monsanto *only* because of the GMO angle though…and isn’t the patent issue (and harassment of smaller farms) inextricable from GMO issues? I will admit this isn’t one of my pet issues…or to put it in Shermer’s terms: “I am at war with science”.

          The fact that they are both right just highlights how poor the article is. It almost seems like this is the only issue where the author is even standing within 1,000 miles of solid ground.

        • wysinwyg says:

          I only became a little bit anti-GMO when GMO advocates started arguing so stridently against labeling GMO foods.  I have trouble believing such a position comes from an honest stand on the issue.

          • jon_anon says:

            Absolutely – the same people who are all about “teaching the controversy”, re evolution etc., and letting students decide for themselves what to believe, are also (often) the ones who don’t dare let GMO products be labelled as such for fear that irrational consumers will unfairly avoid them, thus hurting the bottom line of MegaCorp Inc. So their solution is not only to try to avoid labelling their own products as GMO, but actively to lobby to make it illegal for competitors to brand their own products as non-GMO!!! How incredible that the right can endure such cognitive dissonance.

          • Jonathan Badger says:

            And you don’t see how trying to get labels put on food without evidence of any problem  (knowing perfectly well that people interpret labels as being bad) is a dishonest stand? It’s not really any different from the bible-thumpers trying to get stickers on textbooks warning that evolution is just a theory. I’m a molecular evolutionist, so I’m equally annoyed by ignorance of molecular biology and evolution.

          • jon_anon says:

            Is this for real? Did you read and understand the part about them lobbying to make it *illegal* for other, “natural” producers to label their food as non-GMO, and did you then post a comment complaining about the people who want labels to be allowed? If you are for real, please think about that for a moment.

          • Jonathan Badger says:

            @jon_anon Trying to claim some benefit from being non-GMO is also pretty dishonest unless there is evidence that there *is* such a benefit. It’s just the flip side of the forced labeling campaign.

          • GawainLavers says:

            “Suger, a lowfat food!”  If we’re worried about misleading labels, GMO is not the place to start.

            While the specifics of the CA GMO labeling proposition campaign were generally driven by hysteria, I want the right to not buy GMO food for political reasons, and since GMO is basically a solution in search of a problem, I have no trouble with Monsanto shouldering a higher burden to convince people to buy their crap.

          • wysinwyg says:

            It’s not a question of whether non-GMO foods have health benefits.  It’s a matter of giving consumers the information they need to make informed choices.  Your argument is essentially: “People are so uninformed that the labels will just be misleading.”  Well, preventing the labeling of GMO or non-GMO food isn’t actually going to help people be more informed.

            Frankly, I think my right to know what it is I’m putting in my body vastly outweighs your imaginary concerns about “dishonest labeling” (as if that would even be a change to the status quo).  Especially since I have this sense that Monsanto and ConAgra aren’t necessarily trying to feed me healthy foods or promote good stewardship of the earth.

            And no, this is nothing like the “teach the controversy” bullshit in the evolution debate, but thanks for playing.

            Again, when you try to hide from me what it is I’m purchasing I will tend not to trust you and to oppose you in any legal and ethical way that I can. I’m pretty pro-science but if you keep conflating science and the interests of industry then don’t be surprised if you start seeing more anti-science attitudes around.

          • Jonathan Badger says:

            @wysinwyg:disqus 
            It’s *exactly* analogous to “Teach the Controversy” because the whole point of the labeling is to falsely suggest that there is a serious scientific debate as to whether GMOs are dangerous or not, just like the “teach the controversy” tries to do about evolution.

            It’s not about “conflating science and the interests of industry”; this is the same nonsense that anti-vaxxers say — that supporters of vaccination are shills of Big Pharma. They don’t get that the influence goes *the other way* — *from* science *to* industry. I, and the majority of scientists who don’t work for industry have no financial gain in supporting industry.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            Comparing GMOs to evolution is a ridiculous false equivalency. One is a potential future problem; the other is an established past fact.

          • tomrigid says:

            This is ridiculous. We can put kosher parve or halal on our food and nobody cares if such food is healthier or if the unlabeled foods are somehow suffering by comparison. And yet a gmo/non-gmo label is dishonest?

            We don’t pick our own fruits and veggies. We can’t easily know much about them, and so labels stand in for direct experience. If our preferences are rooted in a more conservative standard of risk analysis than those of Monsanto, the FDA, Congress, or you, then why should our standards not be served by labels at least as well as Jews, Muslims, and dieters?

            And if our preferences relate to anti-corporate or locavore tendencies, why shouldn’t we have access to that information as well? If such labels aren’t mandated, then at the very least they ought not be mandated against. And they certainly should not be so vigorously resisted by the companies which profit from aggressive modification; it just stinks.

          • Jonathan Badger says:

            @Antinous_Moderator:disqus 
            That’s because you don’t understand science isn’t a matter of just learning “facts” but understanding *why* we know something is true. The same knowledge of molecular biology that supports evolution by showing us that there is nothing particularly magical about human DNA and that it quite closely resembles that of other organisms, including bacteria, tells us that there is nothing “magical” about organisms created by genetic modification. Yes, in theory organism X created by GM technology could be harmful, but so could non-GM organism Y just as likely. There is nothing magical that groups all GMOs as a group as compared to “natural” ones.

          • Antinous / Moderator says:

            That’s because you don’t understand science isn’t a matter of just learning “facts” but understanding *why* we know something is true.

            That might fly if it weren’t for the fact that drugs that test well in the lab and in human studies are constantly being recalled for being dangerous once they get out into widespread use. What happens in your laboratory, let alone your theoretical models, is not even close to being 100% predictive of what happens when your controlled conditions intersect with real life.

          • Jonathan Badger says:

            @Antinous_Moderator:disqus 
            The problem with your analogy is that while it is possible for an individual drug to have problems, its not as if it is reasonable to conclude from that “all man-made drugs are dangerous” and that all medicinal herbs are somehow safer because they are “natural”. That’s what the anti-GMO hysteria is like. 

        • squirrelkiller says:

          Or…. Maggie is right that some progressives are anti-Monsanto because of GMO, and jon_anon is wrong for implying that the article said all progressives are anti-Monsanto due to GMO.

          • jon_anon says:

            Articles very rarely say exactly what they are characterised as saying. Here’s what the article says, which I believe can in good faith be interpreted as an attempt to claim that anti-Monsanto feeling is driven mainly by anti-GMO feelings:
            “Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs—genetically modified organisms—in which the words “Monsanto” and “profit” are not dropped like syllogistic bombs. Comedian Bill Maher, for example, on his HBO Real Time show on October 19, 2012, asked Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg if he would rate Monsanto as a 10 (“evil”) or an 11 (“f—ing evil”)? The fact is that we’ve been genetically modifying organisms for 10,000 years through breeding and selection. It’s the only way to feed billions of people.”

      • GawainLavers says:

        Given that the primary concern in the article (on this one point) is actually liberals’ evil and stupid legal and political concerns with Monsanto, I fail to see how this justifies recommending that I read it.  I quote:

        Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs — genetically modified organisms — in which the words “Monsanto” and “profit” are not dropped like syllogistic bombs. Comedian Bill Maher, for example, on his HBO Real Time show on October 19, 2012, asked Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg if he would rate Monsanto as a 10 (“evil”) or an 11 (“f—ing evil”)?

        Neither of these have anything necessarily to do with science, although I can’t be sure about the context of the (non-liberal) Bill Maher quote, since I don’t follow him.  I mean, I guess we all “know” that liberals are stupid about marvelous and wonderful GMO’s (and conservatives are not), but then this:

        It’s the only way to feed billions of people.

        Which is also bullshit.

      • Dv Revolutionary says:

        Forget legal heavy handedness, think of their hit parade of times past; the DDT, the PCBs, the agent orange. This company has had a record of some big misfires. The people and the earth itself injured in those misfires have not been made whole but the company goes on.

        But it’s O.K. they have a new defoliant and special plants that don’t die on contact. They say roundup ready plants and the roundup they are covered in is just safe. Spray it everywhere! Get out in the country take a walk in the spring when the fields smell like a lowe’s store. Then eat the stuff year round.

        When evolution renders the new defoliant less effective and the soil is starting to die lets make some new franken plants and bring back the old defoliant – we weren’t found too terribly liable for it. Yep 2,4-D resistant food plants are already in the works though it is DOW who has sought approval for them so far.

  7. chenille says:

    Aside the anti-science found across the board, like the YEC, this seems to be really poorly presented.  For instance, the main example of specifically liberal anti-science seems to be this:

    On energy issues, for example, the authors contend that progressive liberals tend to be antinuclear because of the waste-disposal problem, anti-fossil fuels because of global warming, antihydroelectric because dams disrupt river ecosystems, and anti-wind power because of avian fatalities. The underlying current is “everything natural is good” and “everything unnatural is bad.”

    Well, most of the complaints I have heard about wind power killing birds have been from people trying to justify why we may as well stick to fossil fuels, while liberals tend to favor wind…and solar, if he remembers what that is.

    But ignoring that, sure, liberals generally tend to oppose development that has high environmental impact. How is that anti-science, though? Most scientists familiar with biology or climate tend to be concerned about conservation; presenting it as “natural good, unnatural bad” is a cheap caricature of all but the most extreme members.

    On the other hand, it isn’t the extreme members of consevative groups who give them their anti-science reputations, it’s their mainstream representatives. And their attitude hasn’t been just been something like “industry good”, it’s been one of completely dismissing science. So no, calling this a much worse “armageddon” appears as little more than the traditional false equivalence.

    Shermer invites me to believe him or not. Well, us pro-science people usually like a reason to believe things like that, and he hasn’t given any.

    • GawainLavers says:

      So no, calling this a much worse “armageddon” appears as little more than the traditional false equivalence.

      It’s not even equivalence!  The liberals apparently hate science even more!  I’ve always read Maggie’s articles and links, but I’m pretty pissed off at being directed to this tripe.

    • TooGoodToCheck says:

      the YEC bit doesn’t deserve your exemption from indictment for poor presentation.  He conflates the belief “that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years”, with Young Earth Creationism.

      Young earth creationism is belief that the entire universe is only 10,000 years old, and that comes with a whole slew of wackiness – like, that the devil planted fake dinosaur bones to confuse believers, or that people at one point co-existed with dinosaurs.  His 41% pretty certainly includes a lot of people who would cringe at being called Young Earthers.

      • chenille says:

        @boingboing-f9fb432b73278bb1b3d13dd41f30cf8e:disqus @GawainLavers:disqus
        Fair enough. There was too much wrong here to parse in one go.

        Perhaps someone should let Shermer know strawmen are supposed to be disguised as little opponents. As it is, he’s making a big show of punching a haystack.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

       Pointing out and hyping NIMBY “liberals” is a favorite activity for think tanks and astroturfers. The most famously hyped NIMBY opposition to a wind farm case: “Cape Wind” was actually the work of a Koch brother’s front group “Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound”

      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/10/11/993651/trick-or-treat-a-koch-brother-dresses-up-as-an-environmentalist-in-his-fight-against-cape-wind/?mobile=nc

  8. Purplecat says:

    Sadly,this sort of misguided polemic is becoming more and more popular, as websites realise that inbound traffic is still inbound traffic, even when the readers are disagreeing vehemently with the article. It’s clickbait for the advertising servers.

  9. grimc says:

    Ten bucks says this guy is a Ayn Rand fan.

    (googles)

    Yep.

    Why Liberals Should See (And Like) Atlas Shrugged Part 1

  10. lknope says:

    Yep, because completely denying scientific facts is the exact same thing as wanting to curtail climate change and keep our air safe to breathe, water safe to drink and food safe to eat.

  11. googoogjoob says:

    “Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs—genetically modified organisms—in which the words “Monsanto” and “profit” are not dropped like syllogistic bombs. Comedian Bill Maher, for example, on his HBO Real Time show on October 19, 2012, asked Stonyfield Farm CEO Gary Hirshberg if he would rate Monsanto as a 10 (“evil”) or an 11 (“f—ing evil”)? The fact is that we’ve been genetically modifying organisms for 10,000 years through breeding and selection. It’s the only way to feed billions of people.”

    Let’s conflate “science” with the applications of particular scientific advancements, then conflate THAT with business ethics, and then conflate being opposed to a particular corporation that happens to use these applications with being anti-science.

    Michael Shermer can be a good writer when he’s debunking pseudoscience or the cult thinking around Objectivism or Scientology, but this is really disappointing (and makes me wonder if he has any sort of relationship with Monsanto). Along with the recent sexism fiasco he was involved in (he said something sexist on camera, and when he got called out on it, instead of admitting he said something sexist, he compared being called on sexism to a “McCarthy-like witch hunt” and the Nazis’ hounding of intellectuals- see http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/01/shermer-responds-again/ ), this really makes it impossible for me to take him seriously anymore.

    • Navin_Johnson says:

      “Bill Maher!!!???”

      For the love of god, I can’t believe I missed that in the article. It’s even worse.

      He’s basically a pop-libertarian that belongs with other similarly minded, Randroid, assholes/entertainers (professional trolls) like Joe Rogan, and Adam Carolla. Unbelievable.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Let’s conflate “science” with the applications of particular scientific advancements

      God forbid that we should take real world consequences into consideration when stirring the cauldron in the lab.

  12. len says:

    That glass is 59% empty!

    This article is promoting a particular ideology - one that believes that those who identify as libertarian are the only ones who are rational, and that those other guys, well, they are are both equally not rational – on the issues where they disagree with libertarians.

  13. JProffitt71 says:

    Maggie, I love ya, but this article is a real stinker. Though I guess it’s spurring some neat discussion on exactly WHY it’s a stinker.

  14. Christopher says:

    “41 percent of Democrats are young-Earth Creationists.”

    And all Democrats are automatically liberals, the same way all Republicans are only interested in smaller, more efficient government.

    That argument doesn’t fly very far before it gets knocked down by a big wind turbine of facts.

    • GawainLavers says:

      Haha!

      Alas the poor glibertar-eagle, soaring on the warm winds of smugness and straight into the wind turbine of facts!

    • memoid says:

      This has been said before, but: “Liberal” to my understanding more or less incorporates a desire for free market economy and a small, unintrusive government. As long as this discrepancy in terms has not been cleared up, any kind of serious discussion seems impossible. What am I missing?!

      • wysinwyg says:

        You are probably not from the US.

        The US government was founded on purely liberal principles so essentially every mainstream US political movement has been liberal in the classical/European sense.  Because of this, using the term “liberal” in its original/European sense to describe a US political faction would be redundant. (Otherwise we would have to admit to having a “liberal conservative” movement.)

        In the USA, “liberal” now means basically the same as the European “social democrat” — someone who favors a strong social safety net, strong civil society, and proactive industrial and environmental regulation for the most part.

      • Navin_Johnson says:

        That is the classical meaning indeed. Unfortunately in the U.S. it has come to basically mean politically centrist/moderate and little else in reality. I prefer the traditional “progressive” or “left” to refer to actual progressive political views. And “neoliberal” suits those conservatives that believe in classical “liberalism” just fine.

      • Ummm… yeaaaaaaaah.  That’s a fair definition… when you’re discussing Enlightenment-era politics, and the alternative to small government and a free market was the divine right of kings.

        I can only imagine that you’re trolling, because the alternative is that you got your “understanding” from reading histories of the French Revolution, without regard to how the word has been used for the last hundred years.

        • wysinwyg says:

           Psst, “liberal” is still used in the classical sense pretty much everywhere but the US.  Can you try a little harder not to make us look so parochial?

          • Sir, we are parochial.

            You make this claim. And yet, when I google “liberal site:guardian.co.uk” every single link I follow appears to use the word “liberal” as a virtual synonym to “left-wing” or “progressive.”

            Further, the British “Liberal Democrat” party is described as follows by Wikipedia:

            The Liberal Democrats (often abbreviated as the Lib Dems; in Welsh: Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol) are a social liberal political party in the United Kingdom, supporting constitutional and electoral reform, progressive taxation, environmentalism, human rights laws, banking reform and civil liberties.

            Are the Brits a bunch of parochs too?

            At least the Aussies have your back: http://www.liberal.org.au/the-party/our-beliefs But I wouldn’t put too much stock in any definition from a country that declares an egg-laying duck creature to be a “mammal.”

            I’d research other countries, but I don’t speak Furriner.

          • memoid says:

            Not trolling. I wont deny that other people know a lot more about it than I do, but this has always made me wonder and I figured this is as good a place to ask as any.

            I do speak furriner, and I can tell you that the definition is a different one elsewhere. Also this side of the Enlightenment.

            Thanks for filling me in though!

          • wysinwyg says:

            But I wouldn’t put too much stock in any definition from a country that declares an egg-laying duck creature to be a “mammal.”

            Amniote to be precise.

            As memoid notes, the classical definition is in widespread use outside the English-speaking world.  You can keep arguing with this fact but maybe you should just admit that you’re wrong on this one and let it go.

  15. Daniel says:

    This article isn’t supporting the headline very well. The Republican/Right platform is anti-science, the Democrat/Left platform is not (as much). What individuals within the party believes is probably useful data, but I’m more concerned with what they are actually doing with those beliefs.

  16. Frank W says:

    How are the Democrats “the Left”? There is no american Left. You can’t vote for a party that serves your own interests.

    • TimRowledge says:

      Exactly. There is RabidRight and… BatshitinsanelunaticohmygoodessRight. That’s your choice in the USA. Not much better in, what was that delightful insult for Canada? Ah yes “soviet cunackistan”. In the UK you can also get your insanity in delicious crunchy UKIP flavour, with added wingnut.

      Actual leftiness? Not so much.

  17. LordInsidious says:

    It could be just me but I don’t see this as a  ‘war on science’, this seems more like a lack of education in general on both sides.

  18. Steve says:

    The SA article is nonsensical – just a long string of straw men. You can think Monsanto is “f’ing evil” without being against GMOs: their business practices give plenty of cause for complaint. Also, it conflates those on the left who are anti-nuclear with those who are anti-hydroelectricity, etc: you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who was against EVERYTHING on that list. Just because we disagree on the exact way forward for new power sources doesn’t mean there isn’t a need to find one. And I’ve yet to meet someone on the left who believes that”Blank Slate” rubbish, so I’d love to know where he’s getting that from.

    I can’t explain why 41% of Dems are Creationists, but there are plenty of Christians with left-wing views based on compassion and charity as dictated by their form of the religion, so it’s not a huge discrepancy, and certainly doesn’t mean that the left are as big a problem for science as the right. An “Armageddon”? Ridiculous, hyperbolic lies.

  19. The 41% stat is misleading.  You can believe that *humans* were created separately, 10,000 years ago, while still believing that evolution took place and that the Earth is billions of years old.  That’s how I thought the world worked as a teenage Mormon.

  20. OldBrownSquirrel says:

    I think there’s a difference between some of the criticism of evolutionary psychology, much of which is coming from within the scientific community and is representative of the traditional scientific method’s processes of self-criticism, and conservative criticism of evolution etc. which boils down to more fundamental matters of epistemology and rejects the scientific method wholesale.  The latter is a war on science; the former is science.

  21. Michael D says:

    I’m just going to insert a really generic comment here: I’m pretty sure the reason there’s a social rule against discussing religion or politics in polite situations is because as soon as people start opening their mouths on these issues it rapidly becomes crystal clear how many people we thought were normal are actually idiots.

  22. Snig says:

    58% is significantly greater than 41%, and it was just one study.  Also, I’m more concerned about who they elect to choose as leaders.  Kucinich is anti nuclear, and doesn’t believe GMO’s will end life as we know it, but that they should be labelled, and he’s about as liberal as the US has in office (and he’s left it now).  The late Ted Kennedy had his NIMBY wind issue.  I think think that these science issues are pretty minimal compared to the Republican unscientific consensus on evolution and global warming, “drill baby drill” as the foundation of our energy policy vs. investment in renewals, and they generally seem to oppose pollution control, despite studies demonstrating savings in health care due to smart pollution control. 
    He mentions liberal craziness on food issues, but doesn’t mention BSE
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovine_spongiform_encephalopathy
    If BSE becomes as endemic in the US beef industry as it did in Britain, it could be catastrophic, from a health aspect primarily, but also would cost the US billions every year in lost exports. 
    I think he’s got it in his head the liberals support hippy dippy nonsense, and there are certainly nonsensical hippy dippy types out there, but we don’t elect them to congress.

  23. Stephan says:

    That article getting slammed on a blog frequentend mostly by liberals? How come?

  24. Shinkuhadoken says:

    So we’re agreed? Science must be destroyed!

    Let’s have a giant burning of electronics, chemicals, medicine, housing, transportation, defense, and space technology, and revert to mud-huts and loincloths… until we all die of tuberculosis and starvation!

    We’ll show science who’s boss!

  25. mightytrilobite says:

    To be fair to him re. Monsanto, what he actually wrote is: ‘Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs—genetically modified organisms—in which the words “Monsanto” and “profit” are not dropped like syllogistic bombs.’ What he’s saying here is this: if he talks about GMOs, then the “liberal progressive” with whom he’s talking counters with “Monsanto is an evil profit-hungry monster” as a way to discredit GMOs. (And that GMOs in general are tainted by the existence of Monsanto.)

    • GawainLavers says:

      The fundamental problem to me with GMOs is the power over farmers that it gives to the major corporations.  You don’t have control over your own seed anymore because instead of it being corn it’s MegaJellyfishToxMutaGrow™ and Monsanto has a patent on it.  And if your neighbor plants it, guess what you’ll have in your field next year.  These issues are with the notion of GMO products themselves, Monsanto is just an excellent example of how any biotech corporation (which is doing it’s fiduciary duty to it’s shareholders!) will behave with that kind of power.

      To be fair his discussion is about the Liberal “Armageddon on Science” (however you do that), he fails miserably to demonstrate anything approaching that, even if you grant him that Liberals are being mean and unfair to Monsanto and the politics of the GMO industry at large.

  26. Heevee Lister says:

    This does not seem to be the Scientific American magazine I remember from a few decades ago.  American it may be, but Scientific?  Hmm.

  27. timquinn says:

    Shermer is a CIA plant, COINTELPRO, his mission is to discredit the skeptics movement by going overboard and bringing out the loonies. 

  28. Bruno Leonardo Neves Machado says:

    The worst thing of this article is believing that the democrats are to be considered left. 

  29. jon_anon says:

    Also, too! No one has mentioned the facile fetish of “both sides do it” in this rotten article, in regards to climate change: he talks about “reining in the extremists on both sides”!! Good God, one side puts outright denialists on the House Science Committee (apologies if I got the name wrong)–people who claim to believe it’s all a hoax by arrogant scientists–and the other side very timidly suggests we might perhaps start to think about eventually trying to mitigate the potential effects of climate change, very mildly of course and with no threat at all to “growth”. I would be very interested to know who Michael Shermer thinks are the climate change extremists in the Democratic party, or even the progressive movement in general, or even environmental groups.

  30. Mr. Winka says:

    “The fact is that we’ve been genetically modifying organisms for 10,000 years through breeding and selection.”

    Not the way they’re doing it now.

    “It’s the only way to feed billions of people.”

    This is a lie.

  31. Cowicide says:

    In my experience, about 60-80 percent of the general public is of lesser intelligence and therefore also misinformed on many issues.  So the numbers don’t really surprise me.

    But, if this is yet another idiotic attempt at false equivalency, then the author of this article belongs within that 60-80 percent bracket as well.

  32. tickticktick says:

    This is false equivalence at its finest. Certainly, there are people on the left who believe unscientific notions, but there does not exist there a concerted effort to turn those private idiocies into public policy.

  33. HubrisSonic says:

    I am awful late to this party but I have to call bullshit on the 41% of Democrats are Young Earthers. That’s just complete bullshit. 

  34. anthrodiva says:

    “19% do not believe the earth is getting warmer” is not precisely a ‘war on science’– in fact, 19% of any group of Americans is invariably crazypants. 

  35. JeffF says:

    That was an extremely fair and balanced article.

  36. JeffF says:

    Really this reads like an attempt to excuse self professed science supports for voting republican.  It says “it’s ok to vote republican despite their anti-science agenda because the democrats do it too”.

    The idea is to negate all issues except those few you want people to vote on (eg dislike for taxes).

    Science magazines are a great place for such articles because they hit the target audience very specifically. You would definitely not want something like this to run in an evangelical christian interest magazine, they get the article about what a great job the party is doing fending off the godless scientists highfalutin baloney.

    IMO this kind of message targeting has been a key strength for the right in the US over the past few decades. Evangelicals have had an entire parallel distribution network for newspapers, magazines, books, music, and movies for decades which doesn’t mix with the mainstream much at all and they tend to willfully wall themselves up in it. Going forward this is getting easier to do for other groups due to new communication media.

    • JeffF says:

      “the target audience”
      That being prosperous middle aged men interested in science.

      A strong republican demographic, with a problem area.

  37. Tim in SF says:

    I’m not sure where people are getting the idea that the anti-vaccination movement is a liberal, progressive, left-wing or a leftist* idea. It’s not. The anti-vaccination is a plague on both houses, liberal and progressive. 

    Most of their “reasoning” (if you can call it that) overlap between groups. What’s really interesting is the divergence – how the different sides occasionally split on different vaccines. (e.g. Gardasil)—— at risk of using a really stupid term

  38. Petzl says:

    That’s whats great about polls.  Knowing nothing about the methodology or how exactly the question was couched, you can just run with the results– if they fit your purpose.  

    Serge Lange, a math professor at Yale, wrote an interesting book about how a poll he received in the late ’70s that was claiming to be sampling the American professoriate had poll questions that were skewed to show professors had a conservative bent.

  39. expansivemango says:

    i have this pet peeve when they talk about “believing” in science the same as “believing” in religion, because there’s a fundamental difference between fact and faith…. just thought i’d share that

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