Last Friday, I pointed out that claims that the political Right is anti-science are exaggerated, selective, and hypocritical. I argued that, even acknowledging science blind spots on the right, when you look at the gyrations of environmental NGOs and agencies, the political Left is far more anti-science than the Right.
My post spread modestly around the blogosphere, here, and here, and elicited responses from both Chris Mooney and environmental journalist/blogger Keith Kloor. Aside from the uninspired personal attacks Mooney seems to find irresistible, the responses to my argument come down to five counter-arguments:
1) We of the Left police ourselves effectively.
2) We all have our nuts, but Right-nuts are nuttier than Left-nuts.
3) Left-nuts are just “out there,” they aren’t really associated with Leftist political parties.
4) Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Right-wing anti-science dominates the news so it must be true that they’re more anti-science.
5) Don’t argue with us, just internalize our critique and be ashamed.
Let’s take the first one. Mooney says: “On the left, we eat alive our own allies when they make false claims. That’s precisely what happened on vaccines and autism.”
This is actually comedy-club material when you consider that the Left still worships at the altars of Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich, Al Gore, and David Suzuki, who have declared the End of Days virtually every day for 40 years now. White House Science Advisor John Holdren is infamous for his extreme doomsday views and solutions, while Gore, who has a climate-footprint larger than some entire countries, just held a Climaggedon Telethon and still gets around $150K per speech from Left-leaning audiences pining for his non-existent presidency.
Now, to the second argument, that Right-leaning anti-science people are more dangerous than those on the left. Mooney says: “There is no force in American politics generating anywhere near so much unreality, in science or in other spheres, as this one. It is not just evolution, or the age of the Earth, as Green seems to think. When it comes to science, it is also anything having anything to do with abortion, reproductive health, and sexuality.” In another post, Mooney says “But it [science-abuse on the left] has relatively little mainstream influence today—and can hardly compare with the sweeping denial of huge bodies of knowledge (e.g., all climate science, all evolutionary science) that we see on the right.”
As I already wrote, I know of virtually nobody on the right who denies the core of climate science (that greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere). I am also completely unaware of anyone (on the Right or anywhere else) who argues about the science of birth control, how abortion works, or how humans have sex and reproduce. As for denying “all” evolutionary science, does Mooney really think that Right-leaning farmers and animal breeders don’t understand the idea of random mutation and selective retention of traits? I suppose Mooney thinks that Chihuahuas and Irish Wolf Hounds just happened by accident, or that all animal breeders are politically of the Left. Perhaps Mooney is just confused between people who argue over scientific findings and those who argue against the misuse of scientific information in promoting a political cause. There probably are more of the latter on the right, mainly because the Left has wrapped itself in a cloak of scientism to justify social engineering for decades now.
On to the third argument, that only the anti-science types on the right are associated with the major political parties. Mooney says: “But the fringes aren’t very relevant—unless the inmates are running the asylum. That’s what you have today on the right, where Republicans and Tea Partiers overwhelmingly reject mainstream knowledge in key areas and these views are also endorsed by elected representatives and even presidential candidates.”
So let’s see who is running the asylum under Obama. As I pointed out in 2009, Obama’s science team is composed almost exclusively of environmental radicals, and until recently, Carol Browner, Gore’s disciple (and yes, a card-carrying socialist), was part of Obama’s team as well. Her disciple, Lisa Jackson, has unleashed an unprecedented tidal surge of environmental regulations into the teeth of an economic downturn second only to the Great Depression. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, apparently, has nightmares about hydrocarbons, but was apparently firmly behind funding Solyndra, the solar-cell manufacturer that just ate half-a-billion dollars in tax subsidies. Big checkbooks in the asylum, these days.
The fourth counter-argument is basically an assertion that media coverage of science abuse by the Right is so extensive it must be true. To that argument, I would point out what should be screamingly obvious: Left-leaning journalists have made environmental issues a litmus test, to be asked about in every political discussion. Right-leaning journalists ask left-wing politicians about a giant grab-bag of issues: taxes, the size of government, taxes, gun control, gropeland security, pre-marital sex, taxes, gay marriage, and taxes; asking about DDT, plastics, vaccines, and climate change science are pretty far down on the list of what’s important to them. In other words, the Right seems more interested in climate and evolution skepticism because the Journalist-Left constantly asks and writes about it.
Finally, let’s take the fifth counter-argument, by Kloor: “It’s also understandable that Green and other science-respecting conservatives don’t like this label, but their beef should be more with the direction the Republican party has chosen.”
I have to say, I really love this one. Let’s say that person A criticizes person B for the way she dressed, implying that her clothing style justified her ill-treatment. Let’s speculate that person B might respond by calling her critic a patriarchal oppressor. And let’s further assume that Person A’s response to that objection was “You shouldn’t object to the names we’re calling you, you should just feel shame.” Oh, wait, that happened, and the response was Slut Walks. While I might not agree with the tactics on that one, I certainly agree with their refutation of the idea that one should internalize shame in the face of groundless criticisms. Down with skeptic-shaming!
Chris Mooney and others on the left argue that the Right draws a “false equivalency” when it points out the anti-science shenanigans of the Left, but their arguments are riddled with emotional thinking, logical fallacy, and claims that are so outre they are laugh-out-loud funny. While the Right does have its share of those who reject scientific findings that don’t align with their philosophical orientation, the idea that this is unique to the Right is simplistic and almost entirely political.