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Illogical Sarewitz December 12, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in Uncategorized.
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Like many people, I read the Slate article on lack of republicans in science by Daniel Sarewitz. And like many people, my reaction was to facepalm.

Sarewitz implies that there is some sort of mass effort to keep republicans out of science because only 6% of scientists are republican. Further, the reason global warming has become a partisan issue, from the Sarewitz’s perspective, is that because scientists are democrats. He says it looks awfully suspicious that most of the people putting forward the issue are democrats. Obviously you can’t take science seriously unless it’s being presented by a bipartisan group.

The whole article was an example of non-scientific thinking and baseless assertions. In fact, I think it points exactly to why there are so few republicans in science. And it ignores the fact that the people denying much scientific inquiry are those who would profit from it being ignored and have paid a lot of republicans to fight against it.

Throughout the whole article, Sarewitz is beginning with the assumption that the intention of scientists is to exclude republicans. My observation (somewhat along the lines of what I wrote about engineers) is exactly the opposite. Scientists predominantly choose to be democrat or independent because the republicans or even both parties don’t tend to fare well under the assault of logical questioning. In fact, global warming is one of those issues that many scientists look at and say, “Why would I be a republican when they have made a wholesale denial of an entire scientific field?” Why in the world would a scientist be a republican when the republicans have been spreading messages of anti-intellectualism, shutting down science programs and science funding, and advocated curtailing personal freedoms, all of which are issues that have been and will continue to be very important to scientists?

In fact, Sarewitz bolsters this argument himself, apparently not realizing it:

Imagine if George W. Bush had tried such a stunt—every major newspaper in the country would have run an op-ed piece by some Nobel Prize winner asking how the guy who prohibited stem-cell research and denied climate change could have the gall to appear on a program that extols the power of scientific thinking.

Precisely! The Bush administration attempted to shut down active science and changed the reports of several scientific panels and committees. It favored curtailing spending on NSF and NIH, two groups responsible for science in the US. And Bush, not coincidentally, was a republican.

The only ‘science’ that republicans seem to believe in is economics or political science. Everything else is viewed as optional. If the ‘cure’ for global warming is that the government must create and enforce laws that restrict the production of greenhouse gases, then that flies in the face of the (wholly unscientific) notion of laissez faire capitalism. (You know, the same thing that led to this whole recession thing to begin with.) Of course they can’t support that! They would rather put in place voluntary restrictions which probably will not result in any change and will ultimately not stop the problem. They would rather sacrifice our children’s future, as well as the future of every other living creature on the planet, to their pocket books and their adherence to an unscientific principle.

So they follow their dogmatic principle by making changes that have no enforcement and have traditionally not worked. In other words, they would believe in something irrational and ignore evidence about the solution.

It logically makes no sense, which is why most scientists, along with a whole lot of other people, don’t buy it. In fact, it’s downright terrifying that they have completely denied the science until very recently, when they have instead chosen the tack that it isn’t anthropogenic in nature despite evidence to the contrary.

Sarewitz needs to realize that scientists actively choose a political affiliation that coincides with its beliefs and values. If he really wants more scientists to be republicans, then republicans need to stop worrying so much about how to spin the results of scientific inquiry and start taking scientists seriously. They need to apply logic to their results and examine the evidence that their solutions will work. I’m not saying the democrats do that all the time (which is probably why so many scientists are independents), but they seem to do it on some crucial issues. As long as the democrats do this more consistently than the republicans, the evidence indicates that scientists will still continue to win over more scientists than the republicans.

Frankly, Spock (and Leonard Nimoy) said it best:

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