10 November 2010

Still No War on Science

The Obama Administration has again been caught out playing politics with science, according to the Washington Post:
The oil spill that damaged the Gulf of Mexico's reefs and wetlands is also threatening to stain the Obama administration's reputation for relying on science to guide policy.

Academics, environmentalists and federal investigators have accused the administration since the April spill of downplaying scientific findings, misrepresenting data and, most recently, misconstruing the opinions of experts it solicited.

The latest complaint comes in a report by the Interior Department's inspector general, which concluded that the White House edited a drilling safety report in a way that made it falsely appear that scientists and experts backed the administration's six-month moratorium on new deep-water drilling. The Associated Press obtained the report Wednesday.

The inspector general said the editing changes by the White House resulted "in the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer reviewed." But it hadn't been.
One might be tempted to conclude that the politicization of science is a bipartisan affair.

Nah, that can't be true. The politicization of science is something done only by one's political opponents. Yes, that sounds much better.

31 comments:

  1. 1) The BP oil spill cams made for great political theater.

    But, even the Uber-Progressive Time Magazine reported that the environmental damage was severely over-hyped.

    Click here for more on the misleading reporting.

    The only real disaster in this case was the eleven lives lost -- a disaster barely noticed by a nature worshipping media.

    2) Roger sez:

    “One might be tempted to conclude that the politicization of science is a bipartisan affair.”

    The usual Moral Equivalence mantra…

    Roger,
    It is intuitively obvious that politicizing science is a religious creed for the Dems. I would like to hear your views on how Republicans politicize science. It seems to me that the Republicans generally seek to take the totalitarian political religion out of science.

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  2. Oh please, SBVOR. Even to a long time registered Republican like myself, this doesn't pass the laugh test. Evolution? Stem cells?

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  3. Gerard Harbison (Thu Nov 11, 08:45:00 AM MST),

    You raise two great examples of Dems politicizing science.

    1) Evolution -
    I believe in the theory of evolution. I also believe in academic freedom to explore alternative theories in a classroom.

    Dems have politicized this issue -- in a totalitarian manner -- by eliminating academic freedom.

    2) Stem Cells -
    I am a lifelong agnostic. But, as a scientist, I know -- beyond any doubt at all -- that life begins at conception and that murder has no place in a civilized society.

    No civilized society would allow the murder of one human being even if doing so held the promise of saving the life of another human being -- I’m not at all convinced that it does. Republicans have merely sought to prevent tax dollars from funding murder. A civilized society would prohibit murder across the board.

    Dems have politicized this issue by fabricating a definition of when life begins which is absurd on its face.

    NEXT?

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  4. Roger: Are you saying that a priori, there can't be such a thing as a "war on science" by an administration? Or only that empirically, there hasn't been one in the U.S. in recent decades.

    I don't want to argue whether or not the Bush (or Obama) administration engaged in such a war. But I'm interested in what might constitute a real "war on science" and how you'd tell the difference between that and the unremarkable politicization of science that you discuss here (and have done regarding similar instances in the Bush Administration).

    Conversely, if you're saying that the very concept of a political "war on science" is intrinsically useless, could you elaborate on that?

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  5. There are no scientifically legitimate alternatives to evolution. Pretending otherwise is playing politics with science. And people who teach bad science in a science class are committing professional misconduct, which is not covered by academic freedom.

    The claim that abortion is murder is a quintessentially political claim. Science does not adjudicate questions like this. I'm sure Roger doesn't want this blog to become a venue for abortion discussions, so I won't argue your position further, other than to say I disagree with almost all of it.

    You are, ad hoc, defining your political positions as scientific, and then claiming you don't play politics with science.

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  6. -4-Jonathan Gilligan

    I think that notion of a "war on science" is largely incoherent -- which makes it a nice political catch-phrase as it is sort of an inkblot.

    But even Nixon's dismantling of the science advisors office doesn't really make sense as a "war on science." Everyone loves science so much that they wrap themselves in it;-)

    I don't think that defining a category of "war on science" does much to advance science policy discussions. Why not just talk about the outcomes we want to see and those we wish to avoid and the specific steps that might be taken to help ensure both?

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  7. Gerard Harbison (Thu Nov 11, 09:36:00 AM MST),

    1) “There are no scientifically legitimate alternatives to evolution. Pretending otherwise is playing politics with science. And people who teach bad science in a science class are committing professional misconduct, which is not covered by academic freedom.”

    A) I’m not surprised to find yet another “professor” who does not understand the difference between education and indoctrination. Education is the process of exploring a “diversity” of viewpoints and determining which have the preponderance of evidence supporting them.

    You might want to read Dr. Roy W. Spencer’s thoughts on Intelligent Design. Kindly note that -- at no point -- does Dr. Spencer indicate he believes in Intelligent Design. He merely argues that the theory of Intelligent Design is worthy of consideration. Only a totalitarian would argue that this is an “illegitimate” theory which should be forbidden by law from being discussed in a classroom.

    Hence, the totalitarian politicization of science.

    B) When you use a term like “scientifically legitimate” you remind me of the approach Joseph Stalin took towards Trofim Denisovich Lysenko.

    Click here for expanded comments on how the Lysenko tyranny relates to Climate Change tyranny.

    Again, the totalitarian politicization of science.

    2) “The claim that abortion is murder is a quintessentially political claim.”

    A) Who said anything about abortion? We were talking about embryonic stem cell research.

    But, so long as you raised the issue…
    Abortion is not murder, it is homicide. And, just like all other types of homicide, there is such a thing as “justifiable homicide”. In the country which our founding fathers envisioned (and which existed prior to Roe v. Wade), state legislatures would determine what constituted “justifiable”.

    Leftists pretend that repealing Roe v. Wade would make abortion on demand illegal. It would merely return to the state legislatures their Constitutional authority to legislate this matter.

    Click here for an outstanding opinion rendered in the Roe v. Wade case.

    B) The beginning of life is -- by definition -- a transformational event.

    The ONLY transformation occurs at the moment when two haploid cells merge to form an entirely unique diploid cell -- the moment of conception.

    Every event from that point forward is a transitional event, NOT a transformational event.

    Hence, life clearly begins at conception. Any definition other than that is a purely political contrivance intended SOLELY to serve a POLITICAL END! In the case of abortion on demand, the political end is barbaric beyond ANY precedent in all of human history.

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  8. The nearest thing to a 'War on Science' I can think of in recent times was conducted as part of the Cultural Revolution in China. According to Darryl Brock (I don't know the policy on links here, but you can google his article; it's open access), the Gang of Four closed 380 of the 400 Chinese scientific journals. The Theory of Relativity was condemned as being against Dialectical Materialism, as was genetics. And of course universities were closed and scientists internally exiled.

    Even so, defense related research went on.

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  9. Actually, the war has begun. And in all places, Germany: http://notrickszone.com/2010/11/11/branding-of-science-dissenters-has-begun-clearing-the-path-to-a-climate-science-pogrom/

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  10. "I believe in the theory of evolution. I also believe in academic freedom to explore alternative theories in a classroom."

    What "alternative theories" are you thinking of? Alternative scientific theories, or alternative religious faith-based theories?

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  11. Gerard Harbison (Thu Nov 11, 09:36:00 AM MST),

    1) “There are no scientifically legitimate alternatives to evolution. Pretending otherwise is playing politics with science. And people who teach bad science in a science class are committing professional misconduct, which is not covered by academic freedom.”

    A) Do you understand the difference between education and indoctrination? Education is the process of exploring a “diversity” of viewpoints and determining which have the preponderance of evidence supporting them.

    You might want to read Dr. Roy W. Spencer’s thoughts on Intelligent Design. Kindly note that -- at no point -- does Dr. Spencer indicate he believes in Intelligent Design. He merely argues that the theory of Intelligent Design is worthy of consideration. Only a totalitarian would argue that this is an “illegitimate” theory which should be forbidden by law from being discussed in a classroom.

    Hence, the totalitarian politicization of science.

    B) When you use a term like “scientifically legitimate” you remind me of the approach Joseph Stalin took towards Trofim Denisovich Lysenko.

    Click here for expanded comments on how the Lysenko tyranny relates to Climate Change tyranny.

    Again, the totalitarian politicization of science.

    2) “The claim that abortion is murder is a quintessentially political claim.”

    A) Who said anything about abortion? We were talking about embryonic stem cell research.

    But, so long as you raised the issue…
    Abortion is not murder, it is homicide. And, just like all other types of homicide, there is such a thing as “justifiable homicide”. In the country which our founding fathers envisioned (and which existed prior to Roe v. Wade), state legislatures would determine what constituted “justifiable”.

    Leftists pretend that repealing Roe v. Wade would make abortion on demand illegal. It would merely return to the state legislatures their Constitutional authority to legislate this matter.

    Click here for an outstanding opinion rendered in the Roe v. Wade case.

    B) The beginning of life is -- by definition -- a transformational event.

    The ONLY transformation occurs at the moment when two haploid cells merge to form an entirely unique diploid cell -- the moment of conception.

    Every event from that point forward is a transitional event, NOT a transformational event.

    Hence, life clearly begins at conception. Any definition other than that is a purely political contrivance intended SOLELY to serve a POLITICAL END! In the case of abortion on demand, the political end is barbaric beyond ANY precedent in all of human history.

    ReplyDelete
  12. MarkBahner (Thu Nov 11, 11:20:00 AM MST),

    If Roger ever stops censoring my previous comment, you will find your answer there.

    Nobody who embraces academic freedom would be afraid of exploring the entire range of theories (some of which are entirely indefensible and lacking in evidence). Education is better served by openly exploring which theories hold up under scrutiny (as opposed to forbidding -- by force of law -- any such classroom discussion).

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  13. Oh, for heaven's sake. I've been involved in the crevo wars for getting on 20 years. I'm unfortunately familiar with Spenser's ill considered thoughts on Intelligent Design. His piece is an embarrassingly ignorant litany of dishonest creationist talking points, right down to the 'no transitional forms' whopper. Ye Gods and little Tiktaaliks! . Spenser should stick to climatology, or else actually go to the trouble to learn some biology. He clearly hasn't.

    The father of 'Intelligent Design' in its modern incarnation, Bill Dembski, has recently come out as a Young Earth Creationist, exposing his brainchild as what most of us always knew it was -- a wedge to try to insert creationism back into science. ID is not formulated as a scientific theory; it's little more than the untutored thought 'gee, this looks complicated, surely it couldn't have been produced by natural processes'. Attempts to find an algorithm to detect 'design' in some way that would exclude design by the natural selection algorithm have been fruitless.

    SBVOR's post also ignores the actual nature of science teaching. We don't really 'discuss' science in the classroom. We teach it. To the extent we use 'discussion' at all, it's a pedagogical technique, and IMO it's an over-valued and dishonest one. It pretends there is something to be debated where there rarely is. Almost nothing we teach in the K12 curriculum, and very little even at the undergraduate level, is really under scientific debate any more. It's settled science. It's firmly embedded in the consilient web that makes up the scientific picture of the universe.

    We do explore 'the entire range of theories', in the sense that usually, in K-16 education, there is only one item in that range. What remains is a set of discarded hypotheses. They are interesting to a historian of science, perhaps. They have no relevance to science itself. Science needs to fit into a democratic society, sure, but it is itself profoundly undemocratic.

    I won't discuss 'life begins at conception' here without an explicit OK from the blog host, and if I were he, I wouldn't give that OK. But your entire post is mystification, and not science. Sorry.

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  14. Nobody who embraces academic freedom would be afraid of exploring the entire range of theories (some of which are entirely indefensible and lacking in evidence). Education is better served by openly exploring which theories hold up under scrutiny (as opposed to forbidding -- by force of law -- any such classroom discussion).

    In my opinion, as a science educator who's been doing it for well over a quarter century, this is hogwash. Exploring discarded scientific hypotheses is not part of mainstream science education.

    The General Chemistry book we're using next semester has 24 chapters and over 1300 pages, plus appendices. We have 6 credit hours to devote to the material in it. If we delved into every alternative hypothesis to everything it teaches, or even 10% of them, it would take several lifetimes. The alchemists had thousands alone. We study discarded hypotheses only when they constitute a logical pedagogical route to settled science - for example, the Bohr model of the atom, or alternative models of benzene structure. But, frankly, our biggest problem in science education is that we have 9 years to get students from high-school to being able to function at a state-of-the-art level, and it's getting to be insufficient.

    To teach a student that an alternative hypothesis is viable, when it isn't, is deception, not education. Do it, if you must, in a private school. But not on my dime.

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  15. Gerard Harbison sez:

    "Do it, if you must, in a private school. But not on my dime."

    If I had my way, there would be no government run indoctrination camps -- you just reminded me why.

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  16. "Education is the process of exploring a 'diversity" of viewpoints and determining which have the preponderance of evidence supporting them."

    You mean like the viewpoint that the earth is 6000 years old, and a guy named Noah, his family, and the animals aboard his boat were the only earthly survivors of a Great Flood?

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  17. "Education is better served by openly exploring which theories hold up under scrutiny..."

    The problem is, scientific theories are what should be explored in science classes.

    Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It is unfalsifiable, and has no predictive power.

    Evolution is a scientific theory. It is falsifiable and does have predictive power.

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  18. "Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It is unfalsifiable, and has no predictive power."

    If it is that simple, why not say so in the classroom? What are you afraid of?

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  19. If it is that simple, why not say so in the classroom? What are you afraid of?

    There is an infinite supply of nonsense. Why choose this particular piece?

    I make a point of not talking about religion or politics in my class. If I were forced to discuss religion in science class, believe me, it would be the religious who would be the first to object. As Jefferson pointed out, the separation of Church and State protects religion as much or more than secular institutions.

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  20. I don't understand SBVOR's point. What is he asking for? To debate creationism in schools? That's preposterous. Why not debate alchemy? Or Astrology and its predictive ... ahhh ... whatever?

    And then let the kids decide for themselves whether if homeopathy works or not! Heck, why not? I mean, don't we live in a democracy? Isn't truth a thing to be polled?

    I really don't get his point...

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  21. Gerard Harbison,

    1) I gather you teach chemistry. Chemistry is far more black and white than the question of the origins of life. Earlier (as now) you offered the straw man argument that if alternative theories regarding the origins of life are discussed in the classroom, then we must give equal time to the alchemists. Straw man argument -- simply not true.

    2) Like most, you have a fundamental misunderstanding of Jefferson’s comments on the separation of church and state. There is ONE letter from ONE founding father which the secular Left have used to support their war on religion. Their war on religion is spelled out in the formal academic doctrine of Cultural Marxism.

    In Jefferson’s ONE letter, he made it abundantly clear that the ONE brick necessary to construct his “wall of eternal separation” was the establishment clause in the First Amendment -- nothing more and nothing less.

    Quoting Jefferson directly (the keyword here is “thus”):

    “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;’ thus building a wall of eternal separation between Church & State.”

    So, what we are left with is ONE and ONLY one Constitutional restriction on the free exercise of religion. The ONE restriction is that:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”

    PERIOD! EVERY restriction short if that which has ever been imposed upon the “free exercise” of religion is -- like most of the “Progressive” agenda -- utterly, totally and completely unconstitutional.

    P.S.) Kindly remember -- I am a lifelong Agnostic (who believes in the religious freedoms guaranteed by the United States Constitution).

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  22. "Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It is unfalsifiable, and has no predictive power."

    "If it is that simple, why not say so in the classroom? What are you afraid of?"

    Oh, I'm not afraid of anything, SBVOR. Except large wasps. And tall ladders. And especially large wasps when I'm on tall ladders. Also, high-voltage electricity... ;-)

    I've written here on RP's blog (or in its previous incarnation) that if I were a 4th-7th grade science teacher and could not be fired, I would absolutely teach the Biblical Genesis (6000 year-old earth, Great Flood, Adam from clay, Eve from Adam's rib) as an alternative to real science (a 4 billion year-old earth, all life descended from single-cell organisms, humans and chimps sharing a common ancestor).

    I can pretty much guarantee that whatever percentage of literal Biblical Genesis believers existed before I started, fewer of them would exist when I finished.

    And as I mentioned previously, I have no doubt that many of those children would go home and tell their parents how the Biblical Genesis story doesn't stand up to rational thought. Some of those parents would come to my classroom...probably very angry. I'd welcome them. (As long as they kept their guns holstered at all times. ;-))

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  23. This thread is a very troublesome example of the extent to which the academic doctrine of Cultural Marxism (as practiced by the Secular Left) has succeeded in demonizing religion -- Christianity in particular.

    Such hate -- where does it come from? Sorry, I already answered that question.

    Okay…
    The tyrannical majority has ruled -- academic freedom is passé. I get it -- the “Progressive” agenda is all that matters. The United States Constitution is officially null and void -- in the eyes of the Secular Left. Scary times.

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  24. Like most, you have a fundamental misunderstanding of Jefferson’s comments on the separation of church and state. There is ONE letter from ONE founding father which the secular Left have used to support their war on religion. Their war on religion is spelled out in the formal academic doctrine of Cultural Marxism.

    I don't think so. Jefferson frequently discussed the relationship between religion and the states, not just in his letter to the Danbury Baptists, to which I think you're referring.

    http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff1650.htm

    By the way, I'm a member of the secular right. And you are a very strange sort of agnostic, in that you seem to regard the word 'secular' as a pejorative.

    You are also wrong about the constitution, which also (even prior to the Bill of Rights) forbids religious tests as a requirement of office. That is two restrictions.

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  25. 1) SBVOR sez:
    So, what we are left with is ONE and ONLY one Constitutional restriction on the free exercise of religion.”

    Gerard Harbison sez:
    “You are also wrong about the constitution, which also (even prior to the Bill of Rights) forbids religious tests as a requirement of office. That is two restrictions.”

    Article VI states:
    “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”

    Article VI is a restriction upon the state, NOT a restriction upon “the free exercise of religion”

    Ergo, as usual, you are incorrect.

    2) “Jefferson frequently discussed the relationship between religion and the states”

    The word “separation” appears in one and only one quote in your entire citation (the one I previously cited).

    So, unless you can cite some other specific quote to rationalize the Secular Left false interpretation of Jefferson’s concept of “separation of church and state”, you are, as usual, incorrect.

    3) “you seem to regard the word 'secular' as a pejorative”

    Not at all.

    The phrase “Secular Left”, on the other hand, is -- indeed -- intended as a pejorative (as well it should be to any tolerant freedom loving person).

    4) What is most “impressive” (in a really sinister sort of way) about how the academic doctrine of Cultural Marxism has been implemented is the manner whereby the pawns among the Secular Left have been conned into believing their hatred and intolerance towards Christianity was the result of their own independent thought (absent any puppet masters pulling their strings).

    Very, very “impressive” (and very, very scary).

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  26. Of course Article VI is a restriction on free exercise. It says a religion, even via democratic means, cannot restrict non adherents from holding public office.

    You think the State, being agnostic like yourself - pardon my skepticism -- would impose such a restriction arbitrarily, having no connection to the favored religion?

    Jefferson's entire opus evinced concern about the noxious influence of organized religion on the state. If you're reduced to insisting on the appearance of the particular word ' separation', you're in desperate straits.

    I'm terminating this exchange now, because I think it's more than apparent where you're coming from here.

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  27. "Such hate -- where does it come from?"

    What hate? Where has someone expressed hate? (Other than possibly your rants about "Cultural Marxism" and the "Secular Left".)

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  28. Gerard Harbison (Fri Nov 12, 08:53:00 PM MST),

    1) To the best of my knowledge, in their feeble attempts to justify their war on religion, nobody on The Secular Left has EVER cited ANYTHING other than the ONE letter from Jefferson which I previously cited (and thoroughly busted).

    It appears you have conceded that:

    A) This one letter does NOT support the Leftist interpretation of “separation of church and state”.

    B) There is no other evidence of any sort which would even come close to supporting the Leftist interpretation of “separation of church and state”.

    2) “I'm terminating this exchange now, because I think it's more than apparent where you're coming from here.”

    It is said that those who have the facts on their side argue the facts and that those who do not have the facts on their side attack the messenger.

    Rest assured…
    I am a lifelong agnostic who simply values the freedom of religious expression guaranteed by the United States Congress. Like all who embrace Classical Liberalism, I also value freedom (and tolerance) in general -- including religious tolerance. Freedom, of course, is anathema to “Progressives”. So, I completely understand your desperate decent into the ad hominem.

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  29. markbahner (Fri Nov 12, 09:56:00 PM MST),

    If I have to explain it to you, you wouldn't understand it (or see it) anyway.

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  30. "If I have to explain it to you, you wouldn't understand it (or see it) anyway."

    Brilliant. You can't back up your statements, so you blame me for your failure.

    P.S. I probably cast my first Libertarian vote before you were old enough to vote. Possibly even before you were born.

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  31. "I probably cast my first Libertarian vote before you were old enough to vote. Possibly even before you were born."

    Highly unlikely.
    But, thanks for the compliment.

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