Over at scienceprogress, Chris Mooney opines that the political Right is more “anti-science” than the political Left. He points to climate change and evolution as areas where the Right is anti-science, and dismisses the idea that the Left is anti-science when it comes to things like their exaggerations of the risks of genetically modified crops, nuclear power, and vaccines.
His reasoning seems to break down into two arguments:
1) Chris argues that one can’t really tag the Left as being anti-science on things like vaccines and nukes because he (and a few other environmental journalists) have done their own policing on the issues, or, at least, walked away from actively shilling them. Chris actually says that he and journalists on the Left have “chased vaccine denial out of the realm of polite discourse.” That’s going to come as a shock to virtually every social-network user, who probably sees half-a-dozen anti-vaccine posts a week.
2) Chris argues that the anti-science issues usually associated with the Left (vaccines, nuclear-danger exaggerations, GMO danger claims) aren’t really left-wing issues, but rather, are held by people on both sides of the political spectrum.
But if Chris’s first argument holds for the Left, then it holds for the Right/libertarian-Right: I have been writing about the fundamental soundness of climate science since 1997, including in a textbook I wrote for middle-school students. And I’ve taken considerable heat from conservative audiences for refusing to dismiss risks like ocean acidification out of hand. But then, I’m not the only one: I’ve read and heard Pat Michaels (usually portrayed as a climate antichrist) rip into conservative audiences for claiming the climate hasn’t warmed, and that greenhouse gases haven’t contributed to that warming. I believe that Richard Lindzen, John Christy, and Roy Spencer all acknowledge those scientific realities as well.
And if Chris’s second argument holds—that you can’t attribute anti-science to one side if it’s multi-partisan—then climate skepticism about both the risk and remedies can’t be pinned on the Right, since skeptics of either the science or policy identify as libertarian/Right (Spencer, Michaels, McKitrick, myself), Left (Nordhaus and Schellenberger), and outright socialist (Lomborg).
But as I commented at scienceprogress, the way I see the ledger, the religious Right gets a handful of anti-science points for views on evolution (and related rationalizations about the age of the earth, etc.), and for some dismissal of climate change theory, but the Left gets many more anti-science points for exaggerating the health and ecological risks of POPs; DDT; GMOs; plastics and plasticizers; pesticide residues; conventional agriculture; low-dose EM radiation; high-tension powerlines; climate change; population growth; resource depletion; chemical sweeteners; species extinction rates; biodiversity decline; and I’m sure the list could go on.
So which side is anti-science? By Chris Mooney’s standards (fairly applied), it’s either both or neither. My money, however, is firmly on the left side of the table.