Daniel Sarewitz has a post at Nature in which he decries the trend among many scientists of acting as shrill Democrat partisans:
The US scientific community must decide if it wants to be a Democratic interest group or if it wants to reassert its value as an independent national asset. If scientists want to claim that their recommendations are independent of their political beliefs, they ought to be able to show that those recommendations have the support of scientists with conflicting beliefs. Expert panels advising the government on politically divisive issues could strengthen their authority by demonstrating political diversity. The National Academies, as well as many government agencies, already try to balance representation from the academic, non-governmental and private sectors on many science advisory panels; it would be only a small step to be equally explicit about ideological or political diversity. Such information could be given voluntarily.
To connect scientific advice to bipartisanship would benefit political debate. Volatile issues, such as the regulation of environmental and public-health risks, often lead to accusations of ‘junk science’ from opposing sides. Politicians would find it more difficult to attack science endorsed by avowedly bipartisan groups of scientists, and more difficult to justify their policy preferences by scientific claims that were contradicted by bipartisan panels.
One of the more depressing aspects of the age in which we live is the prostitution of what is called Science for political ends, by people who claim to be scientists. The pursuit of truth is a noble endeavor. At its best that is precisely what Science is. Too often currently what is called Science is politicized junk with a clear agenda at its core. Andrew Ferguson in The Weekly Standard examines this phenomenon in regard to the attempt by liberal academics to claim that those holding conservative political views are irrational, selfish or just plain stupid.
Earlier generations of leftists knew the power of Science to discredit their political opponents. Most famously, in the years following World War II, Theodor Adorno and his fellow sociologists developed the F scale—“F” for fascism—to identify the “authoritarian personality” that so often gave rise to political and cultural conservatism. They discovered that conservatives suffered (unconsciously!) from “prefascist tendencies” like “intolerance of ambiguity” and “moral rigidity.” They acquired this scientific knowledge by reading questionnaires filled out by 180 respondents during the last year of World War II. Among the respondents were Rotarians, patients at mental hospitals, San Quentin inmates, students at the University of California, and members of the Lion’s Club.
You don’t hear much about Adorno anymore. As a political figure he was too extreme, and as a social scientist he was too transparently political, to remain in good repute with scientists who have persuaded themselves that they have no ideology. In time it became clear that in pretending to plumb the authoritarian personality, Adorno and his “investigators had arrived at their conclusions in advance” through a “set of self-validating procedures,” as the great sociologist Christopher Lasch put it.
Our generation of Democrats, in and out of the press, have now rediscovered Adorno’s methods, and put them to the same purpose. Edsall himself has become a booster of a series of “studies” that together form, in his words, “an extensive academic critique of the right.” The studies are boring, which is why the few people who bother to look them up rarely get beyond the one-paragraph summary. But they’re worth studying for an insight into the way Adorno’s heirs, our own psychopundits, continue his work.
The studies rely on the principle that has informed the social sciences for more than a generation: If a researcher with a Ph.D. can corral enough undergraduates into a campus classroom and, by giving them a little bit of money or a class credit, get them to do something—fill out a questionnaire, let’s say, or pretend they’re in a specific real-world situation that the researcher has thought up—the young scholars will (unconsciously!) yield general truths about the human animal; scientific truths. The scientific truths revealed in Edsall’s “academic critique of the right” demonstrate that “the rich and powerful” lack compassion, underestimate the suffering of others, have little sympathy for the disadvantaged, and are far more willing to act unethically than the less rich and not so powerful.
How do we know this? A paper called “Power, Distress, and Compassion: Turning a Blind Eye to the Suffering of Others” describes a study put together by a team of social psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, a few years ago. Graduate assistants managed to collect 118 undergraduates, most of them under the age of 21. The kids agreed to participate in the experiment because they were given $15 or class credit for a psychology requirement. A skeptic might point out that the sample of participants was thus skewed from the start, unnaturally weighted toward either kids who badly need $15 or psych majors. And all of them, by definition, were the kinds of kids who want to go to college at Berkeley. Almost half of the participants were Asian American; only 3.5 percent were African American. Caucasians made up less than 30 percent. Continue reading
In these days we are accused of attacking science because we want it to be scientific. Surely there is not any undue disrespect to our doctor in saying that he is our doctor, not our priest, or our wife, or ourself. It is not the business of the doctor to say that we must go to a watering-place; it is his affair to say that certain results of health will follow if we do go to a watering-place. After that, obviously, it is for us to judge. Physical science is like simple addition: it is either infallible or it is false. To mix science up with philosophy is only to produce a philosophy that has lost all its ideal value and a science that has lost all its practical value.
G. K. Chesterton
One of the more pernicious follies of our time is the mixing of politics, science and religion. The Global Warming scam is a prime example of what a noxious brew can result from this. Among many of the elites in Western society, environmentalism has taken on all the aspects of a religion. The religious left has been eager to climb on to this new religion. Based upon very dubious science, and fired with the faith that has traditionally been given to religion, powerful forces throughout the West are eager to implement revolutionary changes in our society, most involving a radical expansion of government control over industry. Continue reading
As freezing temperatures continue to grip the nation and the world I thought this political cartoon apropos to the many climate change proponents that continue to peddle this pseudoscience.
Which is why I am promoting the possibility of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution for the Separation of Science and State. The new law would make it possible to separate the radical environmentalists and their socialist allies from imposing their false faith in scientism upon Americans.
A follow up to my initial post here on what is becoming known as Climategate. Now news comes from New Zealand about massaging of data by global warming proponents.
The New Zealand Government’s chief climate advisory unit NIWA is under fire for allegedly massaging raw climate data to show a global warming trend that wasn’t there.
The scandal breaks as fears grow worldwide that corruption of climate science is not confined to just Britain’s CRU climate research centre.
In New Zealand’s case, the figures published on NIWA’s [the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research] website suggest a strong warming trend in New Zealand over the past century.
A fascinating insight into the world of scientists who are advocates of the theory of man-made global warming was given by hackers who stole a huge amount of data and e-mails from the Climactic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England. To my complete non-surprise, in many of their e-mails the scientists seem to be much more concerned about advocating the “party line” of the reality of man-made global warming instead of engaging in disinterested science. John Hinderaker at Powerline has a fascinating look at some of the e-mails here. Ed Morrissey at Hot Air is on top of the story. A good overview is here.