The Liberal War On Science Is Real

4500382320_bcb1303459We all know the American right’s relationship with science is… complicated. On the right, creationism and global warming denial abound. You hear claims that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and homosexuality is a treatable disease, those sorts of thing. Scientific American’s new article points out the left also enjoys using science only when its convenient.

There is more, and recent, antiscience fare from far-left progressives, documented in the 2012 book Science Left Behind (PublicAffairs) by science journalists Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell, who note that “if it is true that conservatives have declared a war on science, then progressives have declared Armageddon.” 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.”

Whereas conservatives obsess over the purity and sanctity of sex, the left’s sacred values seem fixated on the environment, leading to an almost religious fervor over the purity and sanctity of air, water and especially food. 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.[Emphasis mine]

This article shines the spotlight on issues where I’ve had to alter my views based on new evidence; environmental issues are particularly important to me. However, to be intellectually honest, we must put aside our preconceived notions and respect evidence. One cannot berate a global warming denier for ignoring climate science while one ignores science on GMOs.

There is no such thing as ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ science. There is no ‘western’ or ‘eastern’ or ‘American’ or ‘Chinese’ science. Science cuts through culture, identity, theology, and ideology.

We must base our opinions on the best evidence available. Science provides that evidence, and we must respect it even when destroys our most cherished beliefs.

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11 Responses to The Liberal War On Science Is Real

  1. Pingback: Can Genetically Modified Food Save Millions Of Lives? | Reason and Politics

  2. Alastor says:

    Great article. Being both skeptical and liberal, I oftentimes find myself banging my head against against the nearest firm object whenever David Pakman or Sam Seder start talking about “science”.

  3. I hadn’t thought of it that way. It is easy to see the right’s anti-science. Yet it does exist on the left too. I can’t say how many times I have tried to debate with somebody over the safety of GMO foods but there is no winning. It drives me crazy yet I never associated it the idea that the left has an anti-science element also.

  4. Hmm… yet another example of a political false equivalence. On one side are right-wing conservatives who’ve essentially taken over the Republican Party and who oppose the very credibility of empirical science on a wide range of issues. On the other side is a loose collection of naturalists and environmentalists opposed to corporate domination of our food supply. And they are both equally anti-science? That is a huge stretch, in my opinion.

    The varied opposition to GMO’s are issue-specific (food labeling, seed monopolization, increasing use of – and crop resistance to herbicides and pesticides) and involve different interest groups. See:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/proposition-37-gmo-labeling_n_2090112.html

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/01/08/monsanto-antitrust-idUSN087196620100108

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/10/15/162949288/farmer-tackling-monsantos-seed-policy-gets-a-day-in-supreme-court

    • I certainly wasn’t trying to create any equivalencies. The issue of which side anti-science sentiment is more prevalent on didn’t come up in my post, or the article I linked to.

      My main goal was to point out that ideologues of all stripes use science when it’s convenient, and discard it when it contradicts their agendas.

      Did that come through when you read this? I’m still working on improving my writing, and I appreciate feedback. Thanks!

      • Your writing is fine! And yes, political agendas do selectively use supporting evidence (including science) when it is convenient. Truth is often elusive in the realm of rhetoric. As for me, I’m an overly critical SOB… lol!

  5. FLPatriot says:

    I disagree with your generalisations and miss representation of opposing scientific theories to your own, I do agree that most people only use the “science” that supports their predefined ideas.

    The hard part is that there is too much money to be made in “science”. You either get generous funding by government agencies looking for support of their legislation or you get funding from corporations with strings attached. It is hard for an honest citizen to know what is true and what is not.

    • The money doesn’t necessarily obscure the outcomes. For example, last year the the libertarian Koch brother funded a global warming study conducted by a climate change skeptical scientist. It found that man made climate change is indeed real.

      We must always be looking to prove ourselves wrong. That’s the only way to stay honest over the long term.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

      It’s good to hear from you today.

    • It is hard for the average person to understand what the science means. There are several major factors to this.

      First and foremost people don’t understand the scientific method so they don’t understand the implications of a study. Most people don’t realize the importance of replication, so people tout one study as the final answer (funny how the answer is the one they started with). People don’t get the general method of science so they couldn’t criticize a study if they wanted to. In fact many people accept science on its authority alone. It is a black box they don’t understand but accept that it speaks the truth.

      The next problem is journalism. Many science news articles demonstrate an abysmal understanding of science. They sensationalize articles by taking conclusions further than justified. They make it sound like the connect or impact is of a greater magnitude than is true. Sometimes they ignore the primary findings in favor of something more interesting in the article. Also they rarely link the news articles to the original journal article which can make it a pain to locate.

      Finally most people don’t have enough time to keep up on everything. My wife had a subscription to Cell (a journal for molecular biology), she would get it but only read a few articles here and there because she didn’t have time. By time the stack of Cell magazines got to about two foot tall she cancelled it. She just didn’t have time and that is her area of expertise. We are all constrained by time. Do I read a journal article or blog? Do I watch TV or clean the house?

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