November 21st, 2016

The left is at war with science, not the right

An interesting premise:

I’ve read the Left’s indictments, including Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science. I finished it with the same question about this war that I had at the outset: Where are the casualties?

Where are the scientists who lost their jobs or their funding? What vital research has been corrupted or suppressed? What scientific debate has been silenced?…

Mooney rails at scientists and politicians who oppose government policies favored by progressives like himself, but if you’re looking for serious damage to the enterprise of science, he offers only three examples.

All three are in his first chapter, during Mooney’s brief acknowledgment that leftists “here and there” have been guilty of “science abuse.” First, there’s the Left’s opposition to genetically modified foods, which stifled research into what could have been a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Second, there’s the campaign by animal-rights activists against medical researchers, whose work has already been hampered and would be devastated if the activists succeeded in banning animal experimentation. Third, there’s the resistance in academia to studying the genetic underpinnings of human behavior, which has cut off many social scientists from the recent revolutions in genetics and neuroscience. Each of these abuses is far more significant than anything done by conservatives, and there are plenty of others. The only successful war on science is the one waged by the Left…

… two huge threats to science are peculiar to the Left—and they’re getting worse.

The first threat is confirmation bias, the well-documented tendency of people to seek out and accept information that confirms their beliefs and prejudices…

Scientists try to avoid confirmation bias by exposing their work to peer review by critics with different views, but it’s increasingly difficult for liberals to find such critics…

…the second great threat from the Left…[is]… its long tradition of mixing science and politics. To conservatives, the fundamental problem with the Left is what Friedrich Hayek called the fatal conceit: the delusion that experts are wise enough to redesign society.

The article is long, but please read the whole thing. If you’re into sending friends links to articles, it might be one to send to those on your list who think the right is the group that is impeding the objectivity and progress of science.

32 Responses to “The left is at war with science, not the right”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    The 97% of all scientists believe in CAGW is a complete fiction but Obama and the other Lefties swear it is the gospel.

  2. Big Maq Says:

    CAGW is probably NOT a fiction, BUT it is questionable just how much that is the primary cause, how much GW there is or really will be, and how effective any leftist policies to address it against the costs they would impose.

    One climate skeptic who really explains this all well, and the science behind his position is Warren Meyer:

    Worth a read to thoroughly understand, rather than rejecting CAGW outright.

    What we are seeing is the result of the confluence of incentives (political and economic) along with / reinforcing the confirmation bias / group think.

  3. Cornhead Says:

    Big Maq

    But with the election of Trump, the scam is over. No more federal money to academics. More importantly, no more federal tax credits to the likes of Solar City and Tesla.

    The CAGW scam was all about deal flow and cash for management, bankers, lawyers, accountants etc. The largest industry in America is energy but it is a mature market. Forcing utilities to buy expensive windmills and solar panels created new products and deal flow. Nice fees when Solar City, etc went public. But if anyone looked, it is obvious that green energy has been a massive and expensive failure in Europe.

    Global warming is all about the money. Always has been.

  4. donkatsu Says:

    Big Maq,

    When dealing with the left it is always useful to remember that “the issue is Never THE ISSUE, THE ISSUE is the Revolution/Power”.

    As one who has labored in these vineyards for years, let me tell you the politics of this field are much the same as gay marriage or any other of the PC movements of the moment, with a patina of computer modeling to make it appear scientific. One must express wholehearted enthusiasm for the cause or one is shunned.

    This social network mean girls tactic puts not only the outright skeptics (aka “deniers” in PC-speak) in the doghouse, but also anyone who voices even a moment of doubt about one of the proposed solutions or offers an alternative. This is why the alleged remedies grow increasingly costly and bizarre. There is literally no one to say , “hey, wait a minute, have you thought of . . . ?” much less to offer a different viewpoint.

    PC has corrupted not only atmospheric science but also a lot of environmental studies and some fields of economics (o.k., I know most of you won’t consider that last one to be much of a loss). However, in the past these fields of study provided a reasonable mix of viewpoints on resolving plain old pollution, which we have mostly dispatched at a reasonable economic cost.

    I can testify, from having been in the room with many of the leading lights, that the welfare of the world is not always foremost in their minds. When told by me that the particular approach to vehicle fuel use was not yielding an oil consumption figure low enough to meet their goals, one of these future nobelites responded: “Well, we’ll just have to get rid of vans and pickups. F*&k them, they’re not our people anyways.”

  5. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    The left is ideological in principle. Its ideology is top down and deductively arrived at. It originates with premise, then with extending logic and conclusion. So premise: ‘the world should be fair with everyone equal in value’. Extending logic: to make life fair, those with more should give to those with less, so that equality rules… Conclusion: if those with more don’t cooperate, it is just to coerce them to do so…

    The right is pragmatic in principle. Its rationale is bottom up and inductively arrived at. It originates with observations, then extending logic to concluding premises. So observation: ‘the inequality of blessings’ is a fundamental, unchangeable condition of the reality within which we exist. Extending logic: accepting that which cannot be changed is the most beneficial way to effectively deal with it. Premise: creating an environment where the individual pursuit of happiness is only constrained by its infringement upon other’s pursuit of happiness results in the maximum amount of societal fulfillment.

    That the left opposes any scientific truth that contradicts their ideology is a given, as the first sacrifice upon any ideology’s altar is truth.

  6. donkatsu Says:

    The quick and dirty version of the above comment is this:

    If your (CAGW) theory is so good, then why do you need to falsify the data, fudge the models, and punish dissenters?

  7. Richard Saunders Says:

    I’ve found this one is a sure stopper:

    “You say global warming will cause a catastrophe, right? Well, there were three major climate changes in the last millennium — the medieval warm period, the little ice age, and the warming to the present climate. What were the effects of those climate changes on humanity?”

    Haven’t gotten an answer, any answer, yet!

  8. OM Says:

    Richard Saunders:

    Correct. That’s why so much effort was and continues to be placed into trying to erase or discredit Pleistocene and recent climate data. The data are inconvenient so to speak.

  9. Big Maq Says:

    “The CAGW scam”
    “When dealing with the left it is always useful to remember that “the issue is Never THE ISSUE, THE ISSUE is the Revolution/Power””

    There certainly is a “scam” aspect related to GW, BUT, we don’t need to reject the entire proposition.

    Read the links I provided,and follow up with other posts there, rather than jump on the idea that somehow I don’t “get” what the left is doing with it.

    I have no doubt as part of that “scam” some are looking to profit (cough, t boone pickens, cough), and some are looking to use it as a lever for political power over the rest.

    Rejecting CAGW out of hand only feeds their narrative that those on the right are anti-science. There is a good solid basis to criticize their methods, models and data. We ought to point to that than just respond that it all is a scam.

    The best way to discredit it is to hit at facts that the “science” rests on. If you can acknowledge that there MAY be some truth to it, then the door is open to walk them down that path.

    Telling them it is a scam in as assertive and authoritative way possible is not going to get past ” F*&k them, they’re not our people anyways.” Confrontation rarely works at changing minds.

  10. expat Says:

    I don’t trust any science that has ignorant people marching in the streets. The other day I bought a carton of tomato juice that had a Vegan label on it. Are all these holier than thou types so stupid that someone has to tell them that tomatoes don’t contain animal products? I’m pretty sure that these are the types who march against AGW, GMOs, nuclear power, etc.
    My husband is a scientist, and neither he nor his colleagues try to get funding by sending idiots into the streets. They are content to work away at solving little bits of puzzles and are pleased when someone manages to put these pieces together in a way that opens even larger vistas.

  11. carl in atlanta Says:

    It’s easy to accept the premise that human beings are polluters and contribute somewhat to GW. What’s very hard to accept is that hysterical “C” in the abbreviation CAGW: Catastrophic.

    How and why is the warming trend since 1900 in any way “catastrophic”? Especially considering that things were much warmer during the Holocene Optimum Periods 8000, then 5000 years ago, not to mention the Roman Optimum some 2000 years ago and the Medieval Warming period from AD 800-1300?

    See this chart

    And who’s to say that the temps circa 1970 were somehow “right” or “correct”?

    If you want to contemplate a real catastrophe, contemplate the inevitability that we will eventually descend into another Ice Age: See this chart showing recurring ice ages over the last 450,000 years. As you can see from the chart, glacial periods — ice ages — are the norm and warm periods are mere interludes.

  12. donkatsu Says:

    Big Maq,

    I think you missed my point; no variation in enthusiasm is permitted. This is a theological issue.

    In a more rational world we could investigate the climate, form hypotheses and test them. Then, if policies and technical remedies were appropriate, debate their efficacy, costs, and benefits. No such luck with this crowd.

    As to the quantitative confrontation. That never happened. I was the energy systems modeling guy on the team, so I was simply telling the tale of the numbers based on the engineering inputs, not commenting on policy. This hostility toward pickups and vans was entirely unbidden and unprovoked. These guys had a political agenda of control, the energy was merely the pretext. The experience was, however, telling, and it has stayed with me for decades.

  13. parker Says:

    What comes out of the south end of a north bound horse will never be anything else but horse sh*t. It is rather simple, as in not difficult to understand. Man made global warming, extreme weather, climate change, or unicorn LGBTQXWZ has been rendered stupid, except for the stupid.

  14. J.J Says:

    Big Maq: ” If you can acknowledge that there MAY be some truth to it, then the door is open to walk them down that path.”

    Obviously you haven’t spent much time on the climate blogs. The primary warmist blog is Run by Gavin Schmidt, who is one of the chief warmists, you will never get any quarter from them, no matter how reasonable your approach. I spent over a year commenting there before I was banned. I tried the reasonable approach and became less reasonable as realized that they were ideologues who would not broach any questions about their theories.

    Don’t think CAGW is a political tool? Ever heard of Agenda Twenty One? Here’s a quick primer:

    Agenda Twenty One is a master plan to use environmental; science to create a “perfect world.” Perfect in what way? Well, I guess their idea of a perfect world is one with no fossil fuels, no cars/trucks/airplanes/trains/etc., and no central heating.

    Fossil fuels have transformed the standards of living of all humans who have access to them.

    I can point out three examples.
    1. Fanning Island. A central Pacific atoll with about 200 people, they cannot produce enough products to sell in order to buy diesel fuel for generators. They have chickens, pigs, fish, and coconuts to live on. They are able to sell enough fish and some crafts in order to buy rice and some canned meats (Spam) to supplement their diet. They live a subsistence life, much like people did 200 years ago.

    2. Further west is Samoa. Two fairly large volcanic island with enough soil to raise agricultural products. Enough that they have a surplus to sell to raise cash to import diesel fuel for generators and autos. Agriculture employs two-thirds of the labor force, and furnishes 90% of exports, featuring coconut cream, coconut oil, noni (juice of the nonu fruit, as it is known in Samoan), and copra. They also export some fish for income. Samoa’s standard of living is far higher than that of the Fanning Islanders, but much lower than that of the Hawaiian Islands.
    3. The Hawaiian Islands have an economy that is dependent on three major activities – the U.S. military, agriculture, and tourism. With income from those activities the islands are able to purchase enough fossil fuel supplies to have a completely modern standard of living.

    If the environmentalists who are behind Agenda Twenty One and CAGW have their way about banning fossil fuels, we will be living like the citizens of Fanning Island and the elite, our rulers, will be living like the citizens of Samoa.

    I don’t need computer models to show me what is on tap if the environmentalists have their way.

  15. blert Says:

    Thanks for the link J.J.

  16. Bob Kantor Says:

    It is said that conservatives tend to be anti-science, with the the Republican party serving as a prime example. The evidence adduced usually comes down to three things: opposition on moral grounds to unrestricted embryonic stem cell research, support (mainly by evangelicals) for the pseudoscientific theory of intelligent design, and skepticism about the inevitable catastrophic impact of global warming, said to be wholly or largely anthropogenic in origin.

    Before condemning conservatives for their irrational opposition to “established” scientific truths, one would do well to pause and examine the record of liberals and leftists with respect to propounding and believing scientific nonsense. The following list of absurdities, masquerading as scientific certainties, which people on the Left have believed over the past 100 years will illustrate my point:

    1. The theory, first propounded by Sigmund Freud, that mental disorders which are not somatic in origin are caused mainly by the desire on the part of a child to kill its parent of the same sex and to have exclusive sexual rights to its parent of the opposite sex
    2. The widely held conviction that the scientific laws of history were discovered by Karl Marx and that these laws constitute a Master Theory explaining the evolution of every important aspect of human society, including politics, economics, and culture
    3. The belief that intelligence is either a meaningless term or, to the extent that it is meaningful, determined entirely by one’s environment
    4. The notion, first propounded in 1969 by biologist Paul Ehrlich, that the “population explosion” would doom the human race to massive starvation (hundreds of millions of deaths in the 1970s and 1980s and the 50% probability that Great Britain would be no more by the year 2000)—a prediction that has been spectacularly refuted in all its particulars without, however, diminishing the reputation of Ehrlich among his many progressive followers
    5. The belief, repeatedly expressed at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, that the disease would sweep through the heterosexual community in this country and claim tens of millions of lives (actual numbers: about 17,800 people in this country died of AIDS in 2009)
    6. The fear that biologically engineered foods, sometimes referred to as “Frankenfoods,” pose a serious threat to the human race, despite the consensus among the overwhelming majority of agronomists that such fear is groundless
    7. The fear that irradiating foods to kill their bacteria somehow makes these foods dangerous to consume
    8. The belief, despite all evidence to the contrary, that vaccines are dangerous and are responsible for the increase in childhood autism.
    9. The fear that man-made pesticides, particularly DDT, are so harmful to the environment that we were justified in not using them even if it means the deaths of millions of children in Africa from malaria
    10. The belief, based on postmodern revelation, that scientific truths are merely social constructs and not actually descriptions of reality, despite the obvious fact that these so-called constructs have given rise to technologies (e.g., email, telephones, and automobiles) that confirm these truths beautifully
    11. The theory, propounded by radical feminists, and widely subscribed to in academia, that gender differences are not inherent but (like science itself) merely social constructs, despite the overwhelming evidence in human history and of current research pointing to profound and unalterable differences

    None of the above absurdities have ever been taken seriously by the great unwashed—those easily manipulated and ignorant right-wing simpletons and churchgoers in flyover country. Over the years, they have been largely the province of self-styled progressives, people whose prejudices and ideologies often come to us dressed up as science, but who, like most of us, believe what they want to believe, regardless of the evidence of the real world.

  17. CBI Says:

    Thank you, Ms. Neo, for showcasing and linking to that article. I actually am a research scientist (physicist), and agree overall with the post.

    The anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypotheses were (and remain) worthy of investigation. However, they have not made accurate predictions and are therefore, at least to reasonable order, known to be false. Thus, they are far from”settled science” and to label them “a stretch” is to be polite.

    No surprise: computer models (AGW is basically based upon computer models) of such processes as climate are seldom accurate. The problem–a very, very major problem–is that very powerful ideologues have made AGW a touchstone of their orthodoxy. That is not only bad for science, it is bad for the citizenry.

  18. Sergey Says:

    Politicized science has a proper name in Russia: Lysenkoism. That was a period when the whole scientific disciplines, like genetics and cybernetics, were declared false and subversive, scientific schools destroyed, scientists arrested and perished in Gulag. The effects of this pogrom is felt even now. Ideology and science never mix well.

  19. Sergey Says:

    This hardly unexpected that war on science is coming from the party whose credo is that objective truth does not exist. Its existence is the main premise of the scientific quest.

  20. Big Maq Says:

    “I don’t trust any science that has ignorant people marching in the streets.”
    “I think you missed my point; no variation in enthusiasm is permitted. This is a theological issue.”

    Strangely, I get a very similar impassioned response , only in the opposite direction from the lefties when I say and reference the above.

    Well, I happen to think our side does a lot more to try to explain our positions, so maybe our passion is expressed differently, especially here vs notsobritebarf (and similar) where I received an infidel’s welcome.

    Still, that we treat this almost exclusively as a political argument says as much about this right side of the argument as of the other side’s argument.

    “Don’t think CAGW is a political tool?”

    Could it be that BOTH sides are using it as a political tool?

    Could it be “politically incorrect” to indicate that this might be something humans are, indeed, contributing to, to one side?

    And, could it, simultaneously, also be “politically incorrect” to call the predictions of catastrophe are questionable at best, and way overblown, to the other side?

    IOW, each side has their “politically correct” views that shall not be challenged?

    I HIGHLY urge you all to read Warren Meyer’s information. He gives what seems to me the MOST reasonable treatment of the issue, and how the science really doesn’t provide the evidence that is being claimed to support the “environmentalists” case.

    It acknowledges that the left has largely been using this as a TROJAN HORSE wedge to implement their favored policies.

    YOUR position won’t change, BUT you will be ARMED with the WHY the left are wrong.

    And, remember, you won’t convince the hard core, but you can reach those silent few who have their ears open. We abdicate arguments, from their perspective, if we are as over-reaching and broad brushed dismissive as the left.

  21. Nick Says:

    Great article. Great discussion, too – and as usual, I’m on Maq’s side. Blanket scientific assertions from the left and the right are equally reactionary and won’t win support (or be true, for that matter).

    The article covered a lot, but should have included two areas where the left opposes biology: the fact that a human fetus is a human, and the fact that sex is genetic. The former is ignored or lied about. The latter is drowned out with talk about gender being more important than sex.

    It’s also worth noting that the when the right is “anti” science, it’s typically social science (which most people don’t think of as science).

  22. Nick Says:

    I don’t remember where I read this recently – maybe in an article about how to talk to relatives during the holidays – but the right doesn’t try to win on blanket statements and 100% loyalty. It advances by making realistic on-point observations in the face of ideology.

    That ties into a theme that’s been big on this site recently, the question of confrontation versus persuasion, the Tea versus the e. It’s interesting how often this question comes up.

  23. Ray Says:

    The late Edith Efron published a book titled The Apocalyptics, where she pointed out that environmentalism had become an apocalyptic doomsday cult. I remember in the 1970s when we were going to die from global cooling. When that didn’t happen the enviros did a 180 degree pivot and we were going to die from global warming. Now that there hasn’t been any warming for years, we’re going to die from climate change. We are always doomed.

  24. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Big Maq, we are of similar mind. I don’t have much problem with the premise that “Since the end of the Little Ice Age, the planet has warmed.” (After The Narrows, the river widens.) I don’t deny that, and I don’t deny that humans may have contributed to that – though that is not proven. But I see nothing compelling about the claims of catastrophe, and nothing which persuades me that the proposed solutions would do much even if CAGW were true. As PJ O’Rourke said “There are a billion people in China, and every man-jack of them wants a Buick.”

  25. J.J Says:

    The science linking CO2 to atmospheric warming is simple. CO2 absorbs 60% of the infra-red spectrum of energy that is leaving the Earth. No one disputes that. Where it gets tricky is how do the 400 CO2 particles within every 1 million particles of atmosphere have such an outsize effect? Even the warmists will admit this is a problem for their theory. Their solution is what they call “forcings.” (water vapor, various particulates, reduced albedo from less snow/ice, etc.) They estimate the size of these forcings and their effect on warming when they construct their climate models. As such the models are their best estimates of what can happen, not fact. Thus far the models have been wrong, leading to the conclusion that their best estimates are off by quite a large factor and favor a warming scenario because that fits their political agenda.

    When climate science can come up with an explanation for the occurrence of the El Nino, La Nina water temperature shifts in the central Pacific, then I think they will be just beginning to understand what is causing large scale climate change. Until then, we can continue to study and observe what is happening to the climate. In any case, if the warming continues, (the historical record of climate change over the centuries places doubt on a one way evolution of climate) humans’ best strategy is to adapt to the change just as previous humans did to the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age. In adapting to such change, energy from fossil fuels, hydro-electric power, and (gasp) nuclear power will be the key to maintaining continued high standards of living.

    I have seen 83 years of industrialization and climate change. During much of that time, as a pilot, I was intimately involved in observing weather and weather forecasts. Other than the El Nino – La Nina periodic shifts and the shrinkage of glaciers in the Rockies, Sierras, and Cascades, my life has been unaffected by the Global Warming proclaimed as catastrophic.

  26. Sergey Says:

    “The science linking CO2 to atmospheric warming is simple.” No, it is not. Absorbtion as such will not make surface hotter. Only backscattering will. If excited CO2 molecule would radiate in infrared, this will provide some backscattering, but if it calms down by collision with other molecules, not CO2, this energy would simply dissipate to heat and would convected higher without reaching the surface. Nobody knows probability distribution of such events. The corresponding calculations involve quantum mechanics and are so cumbersome that no today supercomputer is up to the task. Direct measurement of backscattering is also impossible for lots of reasons. So the very existence of greenhouse effect of CO2 for such tiny concentrations of it is quite doubtful.

  27. J.J Says:

    Sergey, thanks for that insight. I had no idea about that part of the problem.

    Another complex problem is measuring the true surface temperatures on a world wide basis. When I see the NOAA data, I often wonder if they have ever asked themselves why they think measuring temperatures at highly unstandardized weather stations which are located on the 29% of the Earth that is land can provide the global information they seek, Yes, they do get air temperatures in the oceanic areas, but blessed few compared with what would be needed to arrive at a world-wide surface temperature measurement.

    The warmist philosophy seems to be that accuracy doesn’t matter if they can use data to prove their narrative.

  28. AesopFan Says:

    I don’t know when Glenn Reynolds debuted this meme,

    “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who tell me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.”

    but here’s a current compilation of items on the climate topic and some corollaries.

    ” Leonardo DiCaprio the ‘eco warrior’ flew on a private jet from NY to LA SIX times in SIX weeks, Sony hack documents reveal. I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who keep telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.”

    “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who keep telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis. 1700 Private Jets Fly To Davos Discussion On Global Warming.”

    “Greenpeace executive flies 250 miles to work: Environmental group campaigns to curb growth in air travel but defends paying a senior executive to commute 250 miles to work by plane. I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who keep telling me it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.”

  29. Sergey Says:

    The problem with CAGW hypothesis is not just it has gaps in it. Many accepted scientific theories has this problem, but if their predictions are in good agreement with observational reality we can hope to work out these details in future. But CAGW is not in a good agreement with observations, and the gaps in it are so huge and so persistent in last 25 years that no real progress was made to close them. One is the almost total ignorance of mechanisms and amplitude of natural variation of climate without anthropogenic forcing. The world ocean is a tremendous heat reservoir, with the heat capacity about 1000 times bigger than that of atmosphere. And it is not in thermal equilibrium with atmosphere being at least 13 C colder than near-earth air over the land. That means that there is a systemic heat pump operation transferring heat from the ocean to the land. One of such mechanisms is, of course, evaporation, cooling the ocean surface, and condensation of the water vapor over land. But even more potent is overturning ocean circulation bringing hot water from tropics to polar regions where its heat is used to warm the land. The ratio of heat capacity of the ocean and atmosphere 1000:1 means that to warm the land by 3 C we need to cool the ocean only to 0.003 C, an immeasurable quantity. Nobody knows exactly how variable this overturning circulation is and to which extent these variations influence climate. And the time of full ocean mixing is about 800 years, that is, for how long the missing heat can stay undetected in the ocean depth. So all radiation balance models are applicable only to the averages over times of the order of thousand years, and in shorter time intervals no radiation balance is needed. So the null hypothesis that all observable climate variation is natural can not be disproved.

  30. Big Maq Says:

    Assisted VI – yes, pretty much.

    You might like George Carlin’s take on CAGW:

  31. Ymarsakar Says:

    J.J Says:
    November 22nd, 2016 at 1:19 pm
    The science linking CO2 to atmospheric warming is simple.

    That’s like thinking quantum mechanics is simple or that photons are just waves.

    As others might be able to parse out, the heavens and the earth are more complicated than most people realize. Far more than the models of the scientific methodology can parse out at this time. The problem is that science becomes obsolete, truth does not. The textbook explanations of things even 100 years, even 10 years ago, is considered obsolete on many many fields now. Equal to witch craft and satanic rituals even.

  32. Big Maq Says:

    “The textbook explanations of things even 100 years, even 10 years ago, is considered obsolete on many many fields now. Equal to witch craft and satanic rituals even” Ymar

    Wouldn’t quite go that far (witchcraft), but would agree to the bigger point.

    One example, Pluto no longer is considered a “planet”, now that we have telescopes outside earth’s atmosphere, and recent satellite observations of that locale that bring tremendous amounts of new information.

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