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The new barbarism: Keeping science out of politics – How the World Works – Salon.com

I pretty much agree with this. We need more science driving policy, not less. More rationality, less superstition. More reason, less dogma.

The new barbarism: Keeping science out of politics – How the World Works – Salon.com

Keep science out of the political process? Science? I thought it was supposed to be the other way around; that the goal was the keep politics out of science. I can understand, albeit disagree with, categorizations of anthropogenic global warming as bad science, but I’m afraid I just can’t come to grips with the notion that we should keep “science” from influencing politics at all. What is the point of civilization in the first place if we don’t use our hard-won understanding of how the universe works to influence our decisions on how to organize ourselves?

Watching one Republican candidate for office after another declare outright that they do not believe humans are causing climate change is befuddling enough. But to flat-out reject science as a guide to policy is beyond medieval. It’s a retreat to pure superstition, a surrender to barbarism. We might as well be reading omens in the entrails of sacrificial animals. Our wealth as a country, our incredible technological wonders — the Industrial Revolution! — were built upon scientific discovery.

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4 Comments

  1. Our wealth as a country…

    … and the wealth that contributes to your campaign coffers!

    Incredibly short sighted for corporate America to back candidates against science. Sure, science is calling for some corrections that’ll be inconvenient to the corporate bottom line in the medium term. But, science develops the products they get to sell. Put a strangle on science, you kill profits in the long term.

  2. *sigh* Write a lousy poll, get a lousy conclusion. 🙂

    If you go look at the question that got the 42% response in favor of “keeping science out of the political process”, you’ll find this set of choices:

    Which policy options do you support?

  3. a carbon tax
  4. cap and trade (with a description)
  5. increased government funding of energy-related technology research and development
  6. cap and dividend (with a description)
  7. keeping science out of the political process

    This was apparently a question where you could choose multiple items, so the results don’t sum to 100%. The totals were respectively:

    33.5, 18.8, 59.6, 12.7, 42.1

    So what you had were four answers that called for government intervention. You had only one answer that did not call for government intervention. If you’re skeptical about any of:

  8. whether we’re experiencing significant anthropogenic global warming
  9. whether any of the proposed fixes will solve it if it is a problem
  10. government intervention in general

    then you’ve only got one place to go, no matter how stupid the answer looks.

    Poll-wise, this question is the equivalent of “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

    So, yes, rationality is good, but so is honest polling. 🙂

  • I agree 100%, and the linked article even pointed out this wasn’t remotely a scientific poll.

    Having said that, there does seem to have been a…disturbing trend towards anti-rationality and anti-intellectuallism in recent years, and I personally don’t think that’s anyway to run a country, a business, or much of anything.

    • Understood. I’ve got a problem with anti-rationality — although I have a specific carve out for discussions that turn on unprovable matters of faith, because I don’t want to get into arguments that end up being “Can you prove that’s true?” vs. “Can you prove that’s not true?” and who owns the burden of proof in such a situation. They’re usually really unprofitable discussions at that point. 🙂

      I think that the anti-intellectualism that you’re seeing may be more a case of anti-elitism though. I saw an article that asked recently, “When did elite get to be a bad thing?” And my thought was “When you declare yourself elite and therefore capable of running my life for me, because I’m obviously not elite.” More so, when the “elite” person fails to take their own advice.

      The fact that you’ve managed to obtain a credential from an elite school demonstrates that you’ve had some level of opportunity and (presumably) been able to handle the work. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your arguments are correct. (Personally, I have an MBA from an elite business school. It’s nice, but not dispositive in most discussions. 🙂 ) That depends on a lot of things, including your postulates.

      But I never was big on argument from authority. 🙂

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