08 November 2011

The New Eugenics from the Looney Left

Chris Mooney, the author and blogger who once alleged a Republican "war" on science, is going back to that well one more time with a new book (above). In it he "explores brain scans, polls, and psychology experiments to explain why conservatives today believe more wrong things."

Mooney writes:
"[T]here might be a combination of genes acting together that somehow predispose us to have particular politics, presumably through their role in influencing our brains and thus our personalities or social behaviors ..,"
Mooney promises to explain:
"[T]he real, scientific reasons why Republicans reject the widely accepted findings of mainstream science, economics, and history—as well as many undeniable policy facts."
Gee, with an understanding of the "real, scientific reasons" behind such a disability perhaps scientists might develop some sort of medicine or gene therapy for "Republicanism." The search for such a cure would not occur for political reasons of course, but for humanitarian reasons. The obvious mental impairments suffered by these misguided and genetically inferior people are of course not their fault, but perhaps aided by science we can help them.

In all seriousness, if you want to know something about the pathological politicization of science in the US, consider that Mooney (who holds a bachelor's degree in English, and is probably a swell guy) is on the Board of Directors of the prestigious American Geophysical Union and is frequently hired by the National Science Foundation to teach scientists how to communicate.

I wonder how well telling half the American populace that they are genetically/psychologically/mentally inferior will communicate?

68 comments:

  1. "...perhaps scientists might develop some sort of medicine ... for "Republicanism.""

    It's called marijuana. :-)

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  2. Think about all the possibilities this will open up for political diehards. You can for example screen fetuses in the womb by taking a DNA sample and if the poor thing turns out to be irreconcilably Republican, have an abortion or put it up for adoption.

    Or at maternity ward: In addition to "it's a boy/girl" , "it's a Republican!"

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  3. Let's hope that every Republican member of congress knows that Mooney is on the AGU board of directors and a big propagandist for global warming.

    As a member of the AGU, a global warming skeptic, and a Republican, I'm thrilled by this. What a great chance to get some reform. I think I'll buy a few dozen copies to send to Republican members of congress on critical committees.

    Trying to make conservative political thinking into a pathology has been going on for a long time. Remember the book, The Authoritarian Personality? Or Fact magazine with it's 1,000+ psychiatrists who said that Goldwater was crazy?

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  4. There's nothing new about this. American and European leftists (Progressives, Fascists, Communists, Socialists) have been saying for a long time that to disagree with them requires some form of mental illness.

    It's simply a way to delegitimize and dehumanize opposition.

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  5. The same thing happened in the Soviet Union. Dissidents were said to be mentally ill.

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  6. And the left wonders why Republicans refuse to give up their guns.

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  7. So does Mooney offer a new strategy for dealing with Republicans or is his intention to disenfranchise republicans in a manner similar to how past German-Jews were disenfranchised as being anti-nature? Who exactly is Mooney hoping to influence with his propaganda or is he just being provacative to sell books?

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  8. It's a classic logical fallacy known as poisoning the well.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poisoning_the_well

    It's used because it works and it also makes those who use it or believe the premise feel better about themselves.

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  9. Does he touch on the fact that the Union of Concerned Scientists doesn't believe in the science and safety of GM foods, or why liberals are much more likely to promote and use homeopathic quackery, no, I mean medicine, wait.... I mean "remedies"????.... Oh.... That would be off message.

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  10. There are three excellent comments on this. Two of them are classics, and one is a video

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  11. Sad to see you trot out the eugenics analogy, Roger. Does that imply that you agree with the politicized/tribal contribution of Lindzen using that analogy as well?

    "In all seriousness, if you want to know something about the pathological politicization of science in the US, consider that Mooney (who holds a bachelor's degree in English, and is probably a swell guy) is on the Board of Directors of the prestigious American Geophysical Union and is frequently hired by the National Science Foundation to teach scientists how to communicate."

    I'd like to make sure I get your point here. Are you saying that Mooney's position on the AGU board is based on no criteria other than his political orientation? Does your mention of his degree indicate that you think that one's degree (level and field) is the basis on which we should evaluate someone's input on scientific issues and/or the relationship between science and policy development?

    I have worked extensively with people who have been labeled with "disabilities" based on poorly-developed theories about brain chemistry/architecture (I believe that social, emotional, and economic factors are far more validly explanatory of behavior, on a general scale, than much of the speculation we see about arcane physiological distinctions), and based on those experiences, I am highly skeptical about associations between brain chemistry/architecture and behavior.

    That said, I think that there may be a minor degree of correlation between brain chemistry/architecture and ideological perspective, with the caveat that teasing out causation, let alone the direction of causation, is far more complicated than generally assumed. And in that vein, I didn't read where Mooney labeled anyone with a "disability." That was your term. He spoke about the detriments on both side of the divide in the distinctions he outlines.

    "I know very well that this invites controversy, so let me say (even though I expect many conservatives will ignore it!) that the book also fully documents the handicaps and drawbacks of liberal/Democratic psychology. It's a yin-and-yang kind of thing; you can’t make one argument without the other."

    Let me be clear. I am highly dubious that a causal distinction of significance exists between the brain chemistry/architecture of "conservatives" and "liberals" -- certainly when compared to the influence of sociocentric explanations for ideological differences. Perhaps there will be more to talk about there once his book is published.

    But I don't think your post is fair to Mooney's post. The reference to eugenics seems to me like more a contribution to the problems of politicization of science than it is a contribution to the solutions. The eugenics reference is red meat to the most extreme political elements in debates related to science in this country. I see it as akin to blaming environmentalists for causing more deaths than Hitler because of policies re: DDT.

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  12. #8 DeWitt,

    I would agree that 'poisoning the well' is an effective 'short term' tactic.

    In the real world almost all 'long term conflicts' are eventually settled thru accommodation.

    Almost all wars are fought to the point that the costs of continued battle exceed the costs of accommodation.

    Once 'the well is poisoned' the costs of accommodation become infinite with the result being a 'war of annihilation'.

    Chris Mooney is foolishly moving the debate in climate policy from basically whether or not we should accept additional energy costs of somewhere between 1 and 10 cents a kilowatt to whether or not Republicans should be permanently subjugated to second class citizens.

    Apparently, in his ignorance he fails to recognize that a Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck could pick up that book and wave it around on TV and produce an armed rebellion in a matter of hours. Maybe that makes his case...but it won't change the number of dead bodies.

    Hopefully Sarah Palin and Glenn Beckk will act responsibly and just dismiss Chris Mooney's book as the rantings of someone that belongs in an insane asylum because anyone who would 'set the conditions' for a war of annihilation is obviously insane.

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  13. Relevant:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/12/i-was-wrong-and-so-are-you/8713/

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  14. Andy Revkin jumped on the 'why those wacky conservatives think the way they do' bandwagon shortly after Cap and Trade collapsed. He started with a psychiatrist, and went from there. Yeah - that's the way to make friends and influence people.

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  15. I once considered myself an anarchist (though a kinder, gentler, Peter Kropotkin sort of anarchist). Now I'm a registered Republican.

    Evidently some pod person took my cool hip leftist genome and replaced it with an evil right wing one. I hope they switch it back before the Left starts sending us all to psychiatric hospitals, the way they did in the former Soviet Union.

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  16. Joshua - Roger's analogy is valid here. If people who disagree with you can be declared mentally ill, then the logical solution is to 'treat' and possibly 'cure' them. In fact, it would be inhumane not to if you can.

    As mOOm noted above, precisely this argument has been used as justification for all sorts of human rights abuses in the past.

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  17. I've been a libertarian pretty much all my life. What turned me into a political sophisticate sympathetic to Right-wing conservatives is the fact that MOST OF THE NEGATIVE LEFTIST AND MEDIA STEREOTYPES HELD AGAINST THE RIGHT ARE FALSE. At least that's what the best available social science literature says.

    I was sympathetic to the harsh and sometimes mocking portrait of the Right until I caught up with the facts in "Makers and Takers: Why conservatives work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty..." by Peter Schweizer. (Partial VIEW at google books http://books.google.com/books?id=QwbM6Z5BaEEC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ViewAPI#v=onepage&q&f=false) The title tells you the themes backed by research. It begins by reprising the media myths that Chris Mooney no doubt uncritically parrots.

    After reading this myth busting well-researched book, you can then indulge the parlor game: what negative right wing stereotypes REALLY are valid? The list is very short, as far as me and my friends can tell: more teenage pregnancy, earlier marriage, more divorce than liberals.

    Liberals cheat on taxes more, lie more, know less about how our government works, suffer more mental illness, enjoy and support their families less, are less educated, etc, than self identifying conservatives do.

    However, are these more the result of Bible Belt, where these social pathologies have long been prominent? In other words, Baptists? I haven't seen the numbers run, but does this skew the results? Maybe - but can "the Right" in America exclude Baptists? Probably not.

    Therefore I think those negatives are valid.

    But back to Mooney and his thesis, what's ad corrosive about the Left and science is the fact that the Left admires rule by "experts," and today scientists and academics are them.

    As Jonah Goldberg's revisionist intellectual history of the origins of American progressivism in "Liberal Fascism" shows, it is no accident that Tom Friedman and Paul Krugman admire and envy and believe democracy is inferior to fascist/commie lite rule of post-Maoist China. Rights and the rule of law are so inconvenient when you and your experts KNOW a crisis is nigh and solutions simply require force.

    Scratch a Leftist and you'll find a fascist screaming to crawl out. Leftists worship the Platonic Ideal that philosopher-Kings achieve the greatest social good, while the American Right derives from the more pragmatic ideal of Aristotelian government -- finding the mean between extremes. And thus they are the enemy of the Religion of state funded science and expert rule.

    Therefore, in my view, Mooney's committment is about partisan activism for another secular religion - just as progressivism has always been.

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  18. - 16 - Christopher

    Did Mooney call people that disagree with him "mentally ill?"

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  19. I'm really surprised that Pielke Jr allows commentaries such as that from "T" posted above.

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  20. Well - congratulations, Roger.

    Your contribution to de-politicizing the science debate - by comparing Mooney to eugenicists - has made Anthony Watt's day.

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  21. Roger,

    Your tone here goes beyond the pale. Your offensive knee-jerk reaction is very disappointing. Regardless of what one might think about Mooney's book, playing on his name "Looney" and then equating him with Eugenics is both juvenile and unprofessional. If you have an issue then speak to specifics, do not up the ante with inflammatory and hyperbole. This attitude of yours also seriously calls into question your claim about being an "Honest broker". As Joshua noted, you seem to interested only in feeding red meat to extreme elements and polarizing the debate.

    The solution is pretty simple Roger (and doesn't involve eugenics), Republicans and tea party just need to stop denying the science and stop being anti science.

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  22. I suppose you're going to moderate this comment also, Roger. It's your blog, it's your right.

    But I think that if you're going to compare Mooney to people who advocated the forced sterilization of minorities, you should stand up to criticism.

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  23. -22-Joshua

    Not sure what you are referring to -- if you think a comment has been lost or moderated (a) ask me, here or by email or (b) just submit it to the rejected comment thread. Thanks!

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  24. Roger,

    Is it possible science missed a very significant driver of our planets circulation?

    http://jonova.s3.amazonaws.com/guest/lalonde-joe/world-calculations.pdf
    http://jonova.s3.amazonaws.com/guest/lalonde-joe/world-calculations-2.pdf

    I would think so...Velocity

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  25. Dr Pielke,

    I think my last comment(which was probably submitted right at the beginning) was too cryptic and therefore didn't make the cut?

    I was referring to Edward Vul and colleagues of MIT who have published a small but highly significant number of papers criticizing the improper statistical methods used by workers in the new area of 'cognitive neuroscience. Several of the papers upon which Mooney's confidence and enthusiasm to write a whole book, rests upon the output of these papers, which do two important things, namely: (a) purportedly demonstrate the neocortical substratum of complex human ideologic and emotional constructs (such as empathy, Republicanism etc) thereby demonstrating their *physical reality* (always convincing and exciting) (b) numericize and introduce a layer of mathematical sophistication to thus far observationally and empirically constrained disciplines (social psychology and political science).

    Reading Vul and colleagues' papers, it becomes clear that a common problem of non-independent inference plagues a host of papers in this area. If papers avoid this problem, they only seem to achieve relatively modest correlation values (~0.5) which can essentially invalidate any categorical conclusions (for eg., see Amodio et al 2007, which is Mooney's source for the 'Neurocognitive Correlates of Liberalism and Conservatism'. Nature Neuroscience, Vol. 10, No. 10, October 2007.). From my own work - image analysis - I am quite familiar with this pitfall as the basic exercise (correlation between outcomes and a specified image property) is similar.

    The instinctual 'revulsion' one feels for Mooney's conclusions comes from these functional MRI studies and their attempts to link emergent social phenomena (like support for the American Republican party) to neuroanatomic substrates. Mooney essentially has sealed his own scientific credibility with this book - it is built on the quicksand of false correlations of cognitive neuroscience.

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  26. - 22- Roger

    Apologies - the comment I thought was moderated out went through.

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  27. - 21 - unknown

    I agree that Roger's post undermines his interest in de-politicizing science, but I think that the argument that Republicans on the whole are denying science or anti-science also undermines that goal.

    Democrats are perfectly capable, as a group, of being "anti-science" when they want to be. It's hard for me to buy wide-reaching theories about which group is more "anti-science."

    I would say that Tea Partiers, on the whole, may be more anti-science than other Americans.

    Take a look at this graph:

    http://tamino.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/q74.jpg?w=500&h=325

    I think that it might be a valid argument to say that far more Partiers' believing that they don't need more information to make up their mind on climate change could, in a sense, be seen as being "anti-science." But perhaps a corollary to that would be that people on the left who reject scientific research that disproves the efficacy of alternative medicines. Such views might be similarly characterized (of course, faith in alternative medicines/rejection of western medicine is not exclusive to those on the left, but I would imagine that it might be more common on the left).

    I've begun to read some of the articles Mooney linked in his post. They are interesting (and the discussion Kuszewski article raises quite a few valid criticisms of her and Mooney's theses) - as is the topic of relating brain physiology to behavior patterns/political ideology. So I agree that a much more useful approach would be to actually discuss the issue rather than to waste energy on point-scoring.

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  28. Joshua said... 18

    Did Mooney call people that disagree with him "mentally ill?"

    The title of the book implies that somehow Republicans can't manage to get their heads around 'scientific fact'.

    I am a Republican. I completely funded my daughter's science Olympiad team two years in a row out of my own pocket.

    She now has a degree in Cognitive Science from Brown.

    The current level of knowledge in cognitive science is no where near the state where it could authoritatively state anything about 'Republicans'.

    Cognitive science is still struggling with basic questions like 'why do all asians look the same to white people and vice versa?'.

    The answer is that while the statement is kind of true for whites that don't know any asians and asians that don't know any whites it is false for asians and whites that have social contact with the other. It may have something to do with 'friend of foe' mechanisms..the science at this point is 'unsettled'.

    The title of Mooney's book tells us more about Mooney then science can possibly tell us about Republicans.

    I.E. He accepts 'unsettled science' as fact and he probably doesn't know any Republicans.

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  29. Dr. Pielke:

    Given that the book does not come out for six months, and you have not read it, your criticism seems more than a bit premature. It also seems to be based on a very different post than the one you link to. You claim that Mooney argues that conservatives are "genetically/psychologically/mentally inferior" to liberals. This is odd, given that he very clearly notes that conservative psychology is superior in many situations:

    "I know very well that this invites controversy, so let me say (even though I expect many conservatives will ignore it!) that the book also fully documents the handicaps and drawbacks of liberal/Democratic psychology. It's a yin-and-yang kind of thing; you can’t make one argument without the other.

    There’s a reason Winston Churchill was a better wartime leader than Neville Chamberlain. There’s a reason why the Tea Party got itself elected in under two years, while Occupy Wall Street is kinda all over the place. There’s a reason why we have scores of environmental groups that often can’t see eye to eye. There’s a reason, as George Lakoff and others have noted, why Democrats (and scientists!) focus too much on policy facts and details rather than winning over people’s hearts (and winning elections)."

    I don't know that I agree with Mooney's thesis (I will withhold judgement until I actually read the book), but given the information available, your commentary is clearly neither charitable nor accurate.

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  30. Defining a viewpoint or a set of viewpoints as wrong, and then as a result of physiology, is pretty damn offensive to those who hold those viewpoints. Reading what Mooney himself has written about the book, it strikes me as a massive exercise in self-gratification. There's another English slang word for this, but I'd rather this comment be posted, so I won't use it.

    The vice he attributes to the Left is of being just so gosh darn thoughtful and imaginative, they can't quite summon their inner authoritarian enough to get things done. Give me a break.

    On a whole slew of issues, the Left denies established science. They reject realistic analysis of risk in areas like food, health and environmental safety. They reject even the soundest research on the heritability of certain traits. There is widespread rejection of GM foods. Remember Greenpeace's campaign to ban a chlorine, an element of the periodic table? We're at the moment experiencing a massive campaign against Keystone XL here in Nebraska, where the left continues to insist, despite reams of expert testimony to the contrary, that the pipeline endangers the entire Ogallala aquifer. I could go on.

    Conversely, while the American Right is (unfortunately) largely but not completely anti-evolution and anti-AGW, for want of a better term, the same is not true of the Right in other countries. I had no idea brain physiology was so respectful of national boundaries.

    And finally, as someone else posted above, if you think (a) the Right is wrong to the point of delusion and (b) this is a result of physiology, why wouldn't you want to cure us? We medicate delusions in schizophrenics and manic-depressives. And the Left has a documented history of forcibly incarcerating political dissidents and treating them as psychiatric patients. There's every reason to find Mooney's a decidedly sinister position.

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  31. Mooney chose to make a book to rationalize and ppromote his bizarre anti-science bigotry.
    His book is precisely the argument eugenics supporters made 100 years ago.
    Those who are offended by people reasonably pointing out that he has made the kinid of pseudo-intellectual arguemtn that eugenicists indulged in should ask Mooney why why he chose to pursue such an obviously flawed case. Blaming those who see the similarity and point it out is not at all justified.
    The question is this: Does the AGU, which employs Mr. Mooney, support his bigoted ill-informed and anti-scientific approach to public discourse?

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  32. "Unknown" (Chris, is that you?),
    This book is an obviouisly flawed anti-scientific screed that is highly inflammatory on top of being a display of selective reporting and prejudicial selectivity.
    I would suggest that any author who wrote this should have their entire body of work reviewd and called into question as to its quality, accuracy or honesty.
    Defending it by blaming those who point the book's problems and its disgusint similarity to other pseudo-science social screeds of the past is not really going to work.
    But if you are who I think you are, this would be your only shot at a possible defense.

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  33. Joshua - He doesn't say it directly, but what else would you call a natural physiological condition that leads to one rejecting reality?

    My issue isn't with the idea that people are predisposed to certain political leanings, but with the complete lack of introspection that this information should lead to. Rejecting information that contradicts one's world view is not specific to any particular ideology.

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  34. Roger... What amazes me is the fact that you ARE moderating these comments and letting ones through that are calling anyone who is liberal (i.e., anyone who thinks differently than them) a fascist.

    Above "T" says, "Liberals cheat on taxes more, lie more, know less about how our government works, suffer more mental illness, enjoy and support their families less, are less educated, etc, than self identifying conservatives do."

    I mean, come on! By allowing this through moderation you're actually endorsing this position. It's just beyond the pale. This doesn't promote any kind of intellectual discourse. This doesn't enlighten anyone. This doesn't do anything other than to breed hate.

    Look, you can certainly disagree with Mooney's positions in the book. Argue the points. Say why you think he's wrong. Promote people who can engage with those points. Please, by all means do this. I expect no less. But to allow hate to dominate the discourse does an injustice to everyone who reads your blog.

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  35. > > There's nothing new about this. American and European leftists (Progressives, Fascists, Communists, Socialists) have been saying for a long time that to disagree with them requires some form of mental illness....It's simply a way to delegitimize and dehumanize opposition.

    I know...Conservatives have been saying for a long time that liberalism is a mental disorder. It's simply a way to delegitimize and dehumanize opposition.

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  36. This explains why the "looney left" resisted, and continues to do so today, the assignment of universal human dignity. Dignity is a matter of faith and can neither be observed nor reproduced. Somethings we just have to, or should, accept as axiomatic truths.

    As for science, it is a faith necessarily constrained to a limited frame of reference. Any action taken to mitigate risk in the system should be commensurate with the intrinsic uncertainty and substantiated assessment of threat to humanity. It doesn't help to preserve integrity of the scientific field when proponents of a hypothesis resist responding to contrary argument and evidence. It is especially harmful when they rely on appeals to emotion and the democratic process (i.e., consensus). It helps no one, and retards acquisition of knowledge and skill, to prematurely end debate based on limited, circumstantial evidence.

    On the matter of brain, etc., has anyone described an experiment which is capable of distinguishing between origin and expression?

    As for the rest, the 20th century alone is the premier example of the "looney left's" scorched Earth policies. There are still many people alive who have first-hand knowledge of left-wing ideological (i.e., authoritarian) regimes and policies. As they marginalize and eviscerate competing interests, it leaves the society vulnerable to individuals who suffer from delusions of grandeur.

    Mooney should reconsider what he is promoting. It is in no one's best interest to repeat mistakes of the past. Furthermore, with our advanced capabilities to destroy life on a global scale, we cannot afford it.

    There are many behaviors that people engage in which sabotage the short and long-term viability of our species; but, there is no greater threat to humanity as a whole, and our effort to preserve individual dignity, than the normalization of a selective science. This is for a simple reason. Most people do not possess the knowledge, skill, and resources required to challenge an established scientific authority. Especially when it is exploited by authoritarian interests (e.g., government).

    The "looney left" (in America and around the world) has become extraordinarily obstinate in their defiance and denigration of individual dignity in recent years. They may be winning converts as they manufacture vulnerable individuals and families, and among their base who dream of instant gratification, but their actions and policies have not gone unnoticed.

    In the meantime, unfettered corruption in the exception continues to undermine the stability of our society, and is similarly capable of destroying whole civilizations.

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  37. A quick note on blog moderation ...

    I have a very liberal policy on comments (sorry, it is part of my DNA, apparently;-). I don't like substance free and I don't like personal comments about individuals. Sometimes these get moderated, rarely.

    Anyone who feels that their comment has been unfairly rejected has full access to the "rejected comments" thread where it will appear.

    My posting of any comments is not an endorsement of that comment. The only arguments on this blog that I endorse are the ones I make ;-) If you want to know my views on a topic however, just ask.

    Thanks all!

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  38. Roger: if one were to average the confirmation bias on this posting, then the average would be close to zero bias.

    But only because everyone seems to be equally and diametrically opposed.

    Good article from the Atlantic.

    Have you seen Mooney's response? You could start a new Olympic sport; the Pielke walk back. It would be a new pentathlon.
    1. Jump to conclusions.
    2. Boxing against straw men.
    3. Rapid side stepping.
    4. Heavy bluster.
    5. Walking back without making it look like you are walking back.


    Mooney and Rahmstorf would be early front runners. Romm could be a contender, but he has not gotten the last event down pat yet.

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  39. Mooney responds by ... suggesting I am a conservative ... ouch;-) I guess that means my arguments can be discounted because "science" says that conservatives have some sort of genetic/psychological/mental condition that prevents then from believing science.
    http://www.desmogblog.com/conservatives-attack-and-misunderstand-book-they-haven-t-read-book-about-flawed-conservative-reasoning

    News flash for Chris -- I am pro-choice, anti-gun, pro-civil unions, believer in a bigger stimulus package and higher taxes on the rich, who thinks climate change is real and deserves our action, who will again vote for Obama. I also like arugula and used to drive a Volvo to my job as an environmental studies professor here in Boulder, where I occasionally drink wheatgrass lemonade at Alfalfa's while wearing my Brikenstocks (OK, I do wear Birks but I've never had wheatgrass lemonade, I stole that from Leftover Salmon;-)

    Sorry Chris, you deserve all the mocking you are getting, and will continue to get, for advancing such utter nonsense -- though it may help to sell books, I'll give you that!

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  40. - 28 - harry

    The existence of exceptions, of course, does not in itself disprove the generalizations.

    Once again, I don't really buy the generalizations. I don't rule out the possibility that there might be, in general, physiological differences in the brains of Republicans/Democrats or conservatives/liberals, etc., but I suspect the differences: (1) would likely be very small, (2) would be very difficult to assign causal attribution to (including direction), (3) would be vastly outweighed by social, emotional, psychological, cultural, economic, etc. variables.

    But none of that, IMO, justifies overreactions to Mooney's thesis. Even if you feel strongly that his thesis is driven by his biases, and easily dismissible out of hand, it is a long stretch to say (not directed at you, specifically) that he feels that Republicans need to be "cured," or certainly that they should be forcibly sterilized (which is just one implication of comparing him to eugenicists). Godwining does little to advance any debate.

    I'll leave you with this comment from one of the articles Mooney linked. I don't agree with it entirely, (I think it is clearly one-sided, politically) but I think that it is close enough to the mark to provide interesting fodder for consideration:

    "I think this is an excellent explanation. It has me convinced on several issues. The most fundamental thing that needs to be highlighted are the four points at the end. To paraphrase, people change, people defy definitions, political parties are optional, and people often prefer social networks over political ideologies. Those points should be emphasized heavily so we don’t fall into this ‘victim’ mentality where a persons political party is thrust upon them.

    I do disagree with the label used above for change-accepting individuals. Liberalism does not equal accepting of change, but a support for individual liberty. A conservative can be liberal when the conservative is fighting against greater tyranny. I don’t know what term would be better for change-accepting individuals, but it may be better to avoid political terminology with more than three centuries of definitions behind them. Perhaps innovating thinkers and preserving thinkers. I’m sure some word smith can do better than I can.

    It should also be noted that the change/stasis dichotomy is not at the center of any political ideology of the left. Conservatives, at heart, are about protecting things the way they are, so their ideology is centered in the stasis side of that dichotomy, but no single political ideology of the left is all about ‘change for changes sake’. Liberals are about removing tyranny. Progressives are about preventing hardship and ill-behavior. Socialists are about providing freedom from insecurity and want. Communists are about providing freedom from class distinctions and the exploitation of labor. It’s all change for something.

    What happens when one of those groups gets the change they want? Do they suddenly become conservatives? I mean, usually, they become mass-murderers (even my liberalism), but brainwise, do they change? Is there some neuroscience behind why revolutionary movements have been so deadly?"

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  41. News flash for Chris -- I am pro-choice, anti-gun, pro-civil unions, believer in a bigger stimulus package and higher taxes on the rich, who thinks climate change is real and deserves our action, who will again vote for Obama. I also like arugula and used to drive a Volvo to my job as an environmental studies professor here in Boulder, where I occasionally drink wheatgrass lemonade at Alfalfa's while wearing my Brikenstocks (OK, I do wear Birks but I've never had wheatgrass lemonade, I stole that from Leftover Salmon;-)

    Oh, good grief, Roger, you're a walking cliché. :-)

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  42. 33 - Christopher -

    "He doesn't say it directly, but what else would you call a natural physiological condition that leads to one rejecting reality?"

    I'm not sure that "rejecting reality" is a fair characterization of Mooney's thesis. If you see evidence to support that claim, provide it. He describes it as a "yin-and-yang" kind of thing.

    He also says the following:

    "I know very well that this invites controversy, so let me say (even though I expect many conservatives will ignore it!) that the book also fully documents the handicaps and drawbacks of liberal/Democratic psychology."

    What's interesting about that is that in fact, it does seem that some "conservatives" are very willing to "ignore" that aspect of his book. (And I'd say just as in a flipped situation, some "liberals" would ignore a reversed argument).


    "Rejecting information that contradicts one's world view is not specific to any particular ideology."

    I completely agree. Couldn't possibly agree more. I think that is the single biggest fallacy I see in a huge % of blog posts and comments.

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  43. - 39 - Roger

    Actually, there was more to his response than what you noted:

    "All of this is completely without foundation, and in fact, contradicted by my own book announcement, which discusses the many strengths (as well as weaknesses) of the conservative psychology, and describes the left-right difference as a kind of necessary yin and yang. "

    That aspect of his response (if not the others) seems at least partially accurate to me (I'm not sure that your reaction is "completely" without foundation - although I do think that it is not well-thought out, and antithetical to your goal of de-politicizing science).

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  44. Roger... I'm all for free speech but my own opinion about blogs is, they're a little like a person's living room. If you come to my house you can say pretty much anything you like. I'm always open to hearing opposing viewpoints. I enjoy a good heated debate. I like to be challenged on my perspectives and believe listening to others is a great way to better understand, not just the world around me, but allows me to better understand myself. That's what I expect when I read a blog as well.

    But if someone comes over to my house and starts saying some group of people (I don't care who it is) is stupid, cheaters, incapable of rational thought... I kick them out of my house. "I'm sorry buddy but you have to leave now."

    If I visit someone else's house and that same guy is there spouting hateful nonsense then, if the person who lives there doesn't kick him out... well, my only choice is to leave.

    If you don't set some basic ground rules for your place then eventually all the "thinking folks" leave and you're only left with the hater and all his buddies.

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  45. -40- Joshua,

    You can ignore history regarding similar arguments to what Mooney seems to be advancing, but don't expect everyone to do that.

    Your description of liberal and conservative ignores the modern realities of the labels as used in American politics, which is the frame of reference of this post (and is, of course, an over simplification).

    To give some rebutting oversimplifications, American conservatives are certainly for "preventing hardship and ill-behavior" and "removing tyranny." However, they mostly agree with Hayek that humans cannot have enough knowledge and understanding to bring about those outcomes through deliberate planning and command of society or the economy. And certainly not without some rather drastic unintended consequences.

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  46. - 39 - Les

    "Mooney and Rahmstorf would be early front runners. Romm could be a contender, but he has not gotten the last event down pat yet."

    Interesting list, Les. I would suggest that you re-read the last sentence of Christopher's (#33) post.

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  47. -44-RobH

    Lots of rooms in this house;-) Overall, I think you'll find pretty informed and respectful discussion on this blog ...

    -45-Joshua

    It will be interesting to see if/how Mooney tries to dig himself out of his hole. He did the same thing on his RWOS, see Sarewitz's review.

    I sure hope Sarewitz gets a crack at the Stupid Republican book;-)

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  48. - 45 - Matt

    First, you should take care to distinguish between what I said were my views, and where I quoted someone else for the sake of discussion.

    Second, more specific to your comments:

    "However, they mostly agree with Hayek that humans cannot have enough knowledge and understanding to bring about those outcomes through deliberate planning and command of society or the economy. "

    This is a broad generalization which, IMO, falls into the same kinds of traps that Mooney falls into. As an example, the Tea Party is a very influential "conservative" group in the parlance of "labels as used in American politics." As you can see from the graph I linked above, there is reason to believe that they, as a group, are much more likely than other Americans to assert that they have enough knowledge about an incredibly complex topic to form definitive opinions. Your characterizations about "conservatives," IMO, are no less biased than Mooney's.


    Such an opinion is entirely consistent with those I often see voiced by not an insignificant number of "climate skeptics," who don't feel that they need more information to reject the theory of AGW, or that AGW islikely to be harmful, or that mitigation strategies might be economically beneficial, or that AGW theory ISN'T a "hoax" perpetrated by a socialist/communist/statist/eco-Nazi cabal that use using fraudulent science so they can destroy capitalism AND line their pockets with complete indifference to the deaths of millions that will result from expensive energy.

    You and I can both create strawman over-generalizations and then take turns knocking them down. What's the point in that?

    I'm not "ignoring" history. We can draw any sorts of parallels between any particular groups that we might like, and concurrently ignore all the differences, to support all kinds of analogies. When someone analogizes someone else to a group of people who advocated the forced sterilization of minorities (as one example of eugenicist ideology), there is a point for doing so. I call such analogies Godwining, and it is counter-productive, IMO. It is a different thing, entirely, from arguing the merits of Mooney's thesis - which in balance I reject.

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  49. - 77 Roger -

    If you take the time to weed through the comments on his posts and those he linked, there are some (IMO) interesting counterarguments made.

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  50. -48- Joshua,

    I can only go by what you wrote, such as, "Conservatives, at heart, are about protecting things the way they are..."

    I have no idea what you think about the Tea Party, but it seems pretty clear to me that the core principle of it is removing some of the centralized control exerted through the federal government. If you are able to contort that into the belief that the participants think they know how to direct the economy or society, then you are much more mentally flexible than I am.

    Personally, I haven't seen good evidence to accept AGW. Most people are neither interested nor capable of evaluating the information. I agree that there's a lot of confirmation bias on both sides. Whatever the problem, when the solution aligns exactly with one side's policy preferences and against the other's, you'll have a similar situation. Extraordinary results and extraordinary proof, and all that. Still, why bother rejecting something that doesn't merit approval in the first place?

    You can call the analogies anything you like, and try to shut down debate any way you prefer. I'm just saying that it won't always work. No analogy is perfect, but there is ample history regarding eugenics to call out Mooney. Of course, maybe his book really is totally nuanced and balanced and whatever, and it's just the cover that's misrepresenting the content.

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  51. - 50 - Matt

    Those weren't my words. The were in quotes. I indicated that they were from comments on another blog, and that I disagreed with them to a certain extent (I said they were one-sided, obviously indicating that they weren't my views).

    The poll I showed indicates that Tea Partiers, as "conservatives," and as a group, are more likely than other Americans to think that they have enough information about an incredibly complex situation to reach definitive conclusions about what actions are merited (whether because of environmental or economic outcomes). It doesn't take a lot of "flexibility" to say that the poll reflects a general attitude on their part, as a sub-group of "conservatives" WRT needing knowledge to reach certainty on a particular issue. I'm not generalizing about that to all "conservatives" or even to Tea Partiers on all issues - I raise the point to provide you with contradictory evidence to the generalization that you have drawn.

    "Still, why bother rejecting something that doesn't merit approval in the first place?"

    I don't understand that sentence.

    "You can call the analogies anything you like, and try to shut down debate any way you prefer."

    I'm not trying to "shut down" any debate. If you're going to attribute (false) motivations to me, then we will have a hard time enjoying a fruitful exchange of viewpoints.

    "Of course, maybe his book really is totally nuanced and balanced and whatever, and it's just the cover that's misrepresenting the content."

    That, IMO, is a non-sequitur WRT what I've said. I doubt that the title is a "total" misrepresentation of the content (although I think he did say something about potential change in the title). I have stated, repeatedly, that I disagree in a general sense with his thesis. If you're interested in discussing in what ways we both may or may not agree with his thesis, let's have at it (although I'll have to pick it up later).

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  52. -51- Joshua,

    OK, I see now that you omitted the opening quotes on the following paragraphs, so I retract the assertion that you agreed with that statement.

    I guess my point about rejecting vs approval is that you were talking about people rejecting AGW, which seems to imply that the burden of proof is on the skeptical side.

    Perhaps you have a different definition of what "Godwining" is about, and especially the corollary that the first to mention the Nazis loses the argument. But sometimes the analogies to Nazis are correct.

    My biggest disagreement with you (in this thread :-) is how you appear to be denying that it's legitimate to compare the apparent thesis of the book to historical examples of eugenics and mental illness. Fine, perhaps there is other content in the book. We can't know until it comes out. That wouldn't invalidate the point of Roger's post.

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  53. Joshua: your

    I would suggest that you re-read the last sentence of Christopher's (#33) post.

    Only one in my list is political, and that is Mooney (though he tries to disguise it in psycho babble). Rahmstorf is about science and the misuse of statistics, and Romm is over a bet that he would not take with Roger.

    The common denominator is that each had taken a position, then backed off that position when confronted by Roger. Hence the "Pielke walk".

    I am uncertain if your post was criticism or agreement with my list.

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  54. What I find remarkable is that almost nobody has commented on Mooney's AGU position. There is an almost limitless supply of liberal blog sites out there on Republicans rejecting science so I'm left to conclude you singled this guy out for a reason. I happen to agree with you on this point because I wouldn't want Ann Coulter or Rush on the AGU board either.

    However, when you use language such as "eugenics" and mix in a description of "mental illness" the point is lost completely and we are then left to debate Mooney's thesis rather than what appears to be a legitimate AGU bias...

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  55. - 53 - Les,

    It was neither a criticism or disagreement, per se, with your list. It was an observation that it seemed to me that the common denominator was people that fell on one side of the debate as opposed to the other.

    If the only people that have backed off a claim after being confronted by Roger (as you clarified as the common denominator), that leads to a couple of conclusions:

    (1) Roger only confronts people on one side of the debate (even though people on both sides of the debate make overstatements).

    (2) People on one side back off when confronted by Roger, but not people on the other side

    (3) Only people on one side of the debate overstate claims (and thus people on the other side aren't confronted by Roger).

    (4) You selectively note when people on one side back off when confronted by Roger, but not when people on the other side back off when confronted by Roger.

    My guess is that neither 2 or 3 are likely explanations. That would leave 1 or 4 - which I think would then bring us back to Christopher's observation.

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  56. Joshua

    Roger is fully capable of defending himself. However, let me defend a hypothetical person who acted according to (1). There is a copious supply of people who can and do confront climate 'skeptics' on their scientific errors, which are more numerous and varied than the stars in the firmament. (Though it does very little good, IMHO). However, there are far fewer people who can confront AGW people in an intelligent way on their errors, which are not scientific, on the whole, but misplaced policy, over-politicization of the science, and exaggeration of the peripheral effects of AGW. And it is important that they be confronted by someone who does not dispute the basic science.

    It's a common fallacy that if one does not apply one's critical faculties equally to everyone, one is adopting double standards. Rather, it simply means one has decided to direct one's energies in the most productive or needed direction.

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  57. - 56 - Gerard

    "It's a common fallacy that if one does not apply one's critical faculties equally to everyone, one is adopting double standards. Rather, it simply means one has decided to direct one's energies in the most productive or needed direction."

    I'm not sure that your conjecture there fully plays out. Just because A is not necessarily true does not mean that A isn't true.

    Not that I equate my own critical faculties to Roger's, I tend to engage them somewhat more wrt one side of the debate than the other, and I like to think that it doesn't, necessarily, mean that I apply a double-standard.

    Then again, I am aware that focusing on one side more than the other can very easily be evidence of a double-standard. As such, I think it is important to always double-check against a double-standard.

    But in reality, I was actually leaning much more towards #4 rather than suggesting bias on Roger's part.

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  58. Joshua:

    I was sloppy. I should have written. "It might simply mean" rather than "It simply means".

    I think we are in agreement.

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  59. Joshua: Other possible reasons:

    1. The list is chronological, and is simply a Poisson cluster.

    2. The sample is too small to be statistically valid.

    3. Perhaps the list is of people who do not wear Birkenstocks, and have angered Roger on this fashion statement.

    4. Any of a possiblly infinite number of "unkown unknowns".

    But, lets go with 1, as Roger has castigated "skeptics", and other "warmists" in the past.

    You might also want to read the first part of that post. (Where I take shots at both sides for the bias)

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  60. I would no more buy this book than Jonah Goldbergs "Liberal Fascism" regardless of what might be inside the covers. Both (and many of similar ilk on both sides) are clearly intended to reaffirm prejudices. It is a great shame that such overt piffle will sell well while cleverer works on political/pseudo-scientific dogma will remain unsold. But then, the same is true for the science surrounding anthropogenic global warming itself and the entire self-serving bandwagon following it.

    What could be true is that if we put aside our desire for conflict and concentrate on actual facts more than conjecture or spurious correlations then we could find policy that satisfied the majority. However, for the most vocal fanatics it is the conflict that attracts them; well that and the self-righteousness.

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  61. Has anyone else noticed that the Left tend to disbelieve science from multinational companies, while tending to believe government funded science? Vice versa for the Right.

    But I couldn't manage to write an entire book about this phenomenon as it seems perfectly consistent with believing exactly what you want to believe based on your pre-conceived dogma.

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  62. -60- jgdes,

    I don't see the connection that you draw between Liberal Fascism and The Republican Brain The first is mainly the history of 20th century American Progressivism, and how it was very similar to European fascism and communism. The second is apparently a recounting of shoddy science (see comment 25 above).

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  63. Les - 59 -

    Yes, the other possibilities you mentioned are valid.

    I see them as being improbable - perhaps confirmation bias at play.

    I assume you considered the 4th possibility I mentioned earlier and rejected it?

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  64. Christopher (#33): "Rejecting information that contradicts one's world view is not specific to any particular ideology."

    jgdes (#61): "Has anyone else noticed that the Left tend to disbelieve science from multinational companies, while tending to believe government funded science? Vice versa for the Right."

    Both good points.

    For example, much of the opposition to eating GM foods comes from what we would traditionally call the "Left" of politics. Similarly, many of the people refusing to have their children vaccinated against pertussis and other preventable childhood diseases are not (to extend Roger's ideological stereotypes) some kind of redneck, rightwing, gun-totin' conservatives, but rather from the Prius-driving, NPR-listening, New-York-Times-reading, leftwing portion of the ideological spectrum.

    The best available science says GM foods are safe to *eat* (setting aside any ecological risks that may be associated with *growing* them), and that the benefits of immunization against diseases like pertussis and measles hugely outweigh any risks posed by the vaccines themselves. If you asked many of the same people who refuse to eat GM foods or have their children immunized what they think about global warming, would they say, "the science is in"?

    And at the "Right" end of the ideological spectrum, how many people are willing to buy into a lot non-scientific ideas like creationism and "intelligent design"?

    The point is that regardless of ideological proclivity we have contradictory attitudes toward science, and especially toward risk. The *science* on smoking risks to health, notwithstanding industry campaigns to play up doubts and uncertainties, has been well established for decades. So if "the science" should be our guide to behavior and policy, why do so many people (including health professionals, who are hardly ignorant of the science) still smoke? If human beings acted on the basis of science, no one would ever smoke a cigarette again.

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  65. Joshua: your

    I assume you considered the 4th possibility I mentioned earlier and rejected it?

    As the people listed were in chronological order, yes, I rejected your 4th possibility.

    You are spending an inordinate amount of time on a flippant, offhand paragraph.

    Especially one that supports your contention of bias. Again, re-read the first few lines.

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  66. jgdes:
    You said:
    "What could be true is that if we put aside our desire for conflict and concentrate on actual facts more than conjecture or spurious correlations then we could find policy that satisfied the majority. However, for the most vocal fanatics it is the conflict that attracts them; well that and the self-righteousness."

    I completely agree with you; however conflict is entertaining and sells newspapers,books, etc.

    To you and others:

    What could we do to foster that joint fact-finding that might lead us to majority-satisfying movement forward? A movement toward a common vision.

    A not-for-profit called A Common Vision? Perhaps structured something like Keith Allred's Common Interest around climate? Here's the link to that organization.http://www.thecommoninterest.org/v2/Default.aspx

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  67. - 65 - Les,

    "You are spending an inordinate amount of time on a flippant, offhand paragraph. "

    It hasn't been that much time, really.

    If you're satisfied that you've addressed the questions sufficiently, then so am I. I was just checking.

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  68. "you deserve all the mocking you are getting, and will continue to get, for advancing such utter nonsense -- though it may help to sell books, I'll give you that!"

    oh the irony :)

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