Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Be Liberal Or Be Branded “Anti-Science”


Scientific American is an ideological magazine more than a science journal. In a current column, Shawn Lawrence Otto throws the “anti science” canard at those who disagree with the Science Establishment’s ideological views.  From, “Anti Science Beliefs Jeopardize U.S. Democracy:”

Indeed, in this election cycle, some 236 years after Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, several major party contenders for political office took positions that can only be described as “antiscience”: against evolution, human-induced climate change, vaccines, stem cell research, and more. A former Republican governor even warned that his own political party was in danger of becoming “the antiscience party.”

Well, let’s see: The term “evolution” can mean many things. Few deny natural selection, but most in America also deny some neo-Darwinists’ assertions that the theory proves the truth of materialism and the absence of God. Young Earth Creationism is religion, I agree, but my colleagues at the Discovery Institute are pursuing a heterodox scientific theory of intelligent design. It may be incorrect, but it isn’t anti science to hypothesize and investigate it. Indeed–as just one example–fellows at the DI predicted early on that “junk DNA” wasn’t ”junk,” for which they were ridiculed by some. Yet, so it isn’t.

Human induced climate change is scientifically controversial, particularly since there has been no statistically significant warming in the last 16 years and some of the computer models that alarmists used to try and panic the population have proved wrong. I could be snarky and say, garbage in, garbage out: But the truth is climate is too complex for the kind of predictions we are supposed swallow whole and then, in reliance thereon, turn our economies heads over heels about.

Stem cell research is an ethics debate, not a science debate: Hence, it is as about as accurate to say that anti embryonic stem cell/cloning research advocates are anti science as it is to say that the pro side is anti ethics. Opposing vaccines because of the supposed danger they present, I think, is hysterical and wrong–and dangerous–but anti science? Perhaps.

I do think the animal rights movement’s false claim that we do not benefit from animal research is anti science–but Otto doesn’t mention it. However, it is not anti science to say that we shouldn’t do it despite the benefits we receive. Dangerously wrong, in my view. But an ethics issue, not a science one.

And the following assertions seem a classic example of what psychologists call projection:

It gives me no pleasure to say this. My family founded the Minnesota Republican Party. But much of the Republican Party has adopted an authoritarian approach that demands ideological conformity, even when contradicted by scientific evidence, and ostracizes those who do not conform. It may work well for uniform messaging, but in the end it drives diverse thinkers away—and thinkers are what we need to solve today’s complex problems.

If any group around today seeks to stifle diverse thinking it is the Science Establishment, which not only refuses to countenance counter arguments to its beliefs and convictions–but actively seeks to stifle them–to the point that they (in my view) are undermining the public’s trust in science by conflating it with policy or ideology; the very phenomenon they bemoan.

Otto’s agenda becomes crystal clear when he goes after pro lifers, based on Todd Akin’s idiotic statement about “legitimate rape.” But the anti science advocates in that debate–if we want to throw that epithet around–are pro choice types who deny a gestating fetus is a human life and that we begin as unique human individuals at the completion of fertilization.

So, how do these disputes jeopardize our democracy?  Pretty weakly stated:

In an age when science influences every aspect of life—from the most private intimacies of sex and reproduction to the most public collective challenges of climate change and the economy—and in a time when democracy has become the dominant form of government on the planet, it is important that the voters push elected officials and candidates of all parties to explicitly state their views on the major science questions facing the nation. By elevating these issues in the public dialogue, U.S. citizens gain a fighting chance of learning whether those who would lead them have the education, wisdom and courage necessary to govern in a science-driven century and to preserve democracy for the next generation.

In other words, agree with our (liberal) policy prescriptions or be deemed an anti science rube. What rubbish.


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