02 January 2013

A New Year's Resolution for Scientists

In Nature today, Dan Sarewitz offers up a New Year's resolution for scientists:
To prevent science from continuing its worrying slide towards politicization, here’s a New Year’s resolution for scientists, especially in the United States: gain the confidence of people and politicians across the political spectrum by demonstrating that science is bipartisan.
That a call for science to demonstrate that it is not a partisan endeavor is necessary is reflective of the degree to which leading scientific institutions in the United States (and elsewhere as well) have become deeply partisan bodies. Sarewitz explains:
[S]cience has come, over the past decade or so, to be a part of the identity of one political party, the Democrats, in the United States. The highest-profile voices in the scientific community have avidly pursued this embrace. For the third presidential election in a row, dozens of Nobel prizewinners in physics, chemistry and medicine signed a letter endorsing the Democratic candidate. 

The 2012 letter argued that Obama would ensure progress on the economy, health and the environment by continuing “America’s proud legacy of discovery and invention”, and that his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, would “devastate a long tradition of support for public research and investment in science”. The signatories wrote “as winners of the Nobel Prizes in Science”, thus cleansing their endorsement of the taint of partisanship by invoking their authority as pre-eminent scientists.

But even Nobel prizewinners are citizens with political preferences. Of the 43 (out of 68) signatories on record as having made past political donations, only five had ever contributed to a Republican candidate, and none did so in the last election cycle. If the laureates are speaking on behalf of science, then science is revealing itself, like the unions, the civil service, environmentalists and tort lawyers, to be a Democratic interest, not a democratic one.
Partisanship within the scientific community shows itself not just in elections but in how the science community positions itself with respect to government. For a while now several scientific associations (especially AAAS and AGU) have taken on the role of seeing Democrats as allies and Republicans as opponents.

John Besley and Matt Nisbet documented this phenomenon in a recent paper and explain how the nature of social media serves to amplify partisanship:
With an ever-increasing reliance on blogs, Facebook and personalized news, the tendency among scientists to consume, discuss and refer to self-confirming information sources is only likely to intensify, as will in turn the criticism directed at those who dissent from conventional views on policy or public engagement strategy. Moreover, if perceptions of bias and political identity do indeed strongly influence the participation of scientists in communication outreach via blogs, the media or public forums, there is the likelihood that the most visible scientists across these contexts are also likely to be among the most partisan and ideological.
Such dynamics are found in more conventional media as well. In a 2009 paper I documented that Science magazine published 40 editorials critical of the Bush Administration during its 2 terms, and only 1 such critique of the Clinton Administration's previous 2 terms (here in PDF). I have just updated this analysis through the first term of the Obama Administration, and found no editorials critical of the Obama Administration. Instead, there were editorials with the following titles:
An approach that critiques the president when he is a Republican and cheer-leads when he is a Democrat lends itself to more than just cynicism -- it contributes to the politicization of science policy issues which by their nature can be problematic regardless of who is in office.

I have often marveled on this blog at how issues of scientific integrity -- which were so important to scientists and science connoisseurs during the Bush Administration -- largely disappeared in social media science policy discussions, and only occasionally appeared in the conventional media.

The issues, however, have not disappeared. A few weeks ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists observed in the case of genetically modified salmon:
Despite what the President might have said about scientific integrity, we’ve seen White House interference on what should be science regulatory decisions.
A list of troubling issues under the Obama Administration where science and politics meet is, well, almost Bush-like, and includes issues related to drilling safety, the muzzling of scientists at USDA and at HHS, clothing political decisions in dodgy scientific claims on the morning after pill and Yucca Mountain, the withholding of scientific information for fear of political fallout ... and the list goes on.

For those who care about scientific integrity, the selective attention of the scientific community is problematic because it reduces the issue to a matter of electoral politics rather than the nitty-gritty details of actual policy implementation.

Sarewitz finds another reason to object:
This is dangerous for science and for the nation. The claim that Republicans are anti-science is a staple of Democratic political rhetoric, but bipartisan support among politicians for national investment in science, especially basic research, is still strong. For more than 40 years, US government science spending has commanded a remarkably stable 10% of the annual expenditure for non-defence discretionary programmes. In good economic times, science budgets have gone up; in bad times, they have gone down. There have been more good times than bad, and science has prospered.

In the current period of dire fiscal stress, one way to undermine this stable funding and bipartisan support would be to convince Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, that science is a Democratic special interest.

This concern rests on clear precedent. Conservatives in the US government have long been hostile to social science, which they believe tilts towards liberal political agendas. Consequently, the social sciences have remained poorly funded and politically vulnerable, and every so often Republicans threaten to eliminate the entire National Science Foundation budget for social science.
For partisans, none of this analysis makes sense because their goal is to simply vanquish their political opponents. That science has become aligned with the Democratic party is, from where they sit, not a problem but a positive. Thus more partisanship is needed, not less. I have no illusions of convincing the extreme partisans of the merit in Sarewitz's view.  I do think that there are many in the scientific community who object to the exploitation of scientific institutions to the detriment of both science and decision making, and no doubt it is to this group that Sarewitz's resolution is offered.

There are promising signs that the partisan wave which has engulfed the scientific community over the past decade is receding somewhat. This is good news. But the scientific community still has a lot of work to do. Sarewitz offers some helpful advice:
The US scientific community must decide if it wants to be a Democratic interest group or if it wants to reassert its value as an independent national asset. If scientists want to claim that their recommendations are independent of their political beliefs, they ought to be able to show that those recommendations have the support of scientists with conflicting beliefs. Expert panels advising the government on politically divisive issues could strengthen their authority by demonstrating political diversity. The National Academies, as well as many government agencies, already try to balance representation from the academic, non-governmental and private sectors on many science advisory panels; it would be only a small step to be equally explicit about ideological or political diversity. Such information could be given voluntarily.

To connect scientific advice to bipartisanship would benefit political debate. Volatile issues, such as the regulation of environmental and public-health risks, often lead to accusations of ‘junk science’ from opposing sides. Politicians would find it more difficult to attack science endorsed by avowedly bipartisan groups of scientists, and more difficult to justify their policy preferences by scientific claims that were contradicted by bipartisan panels.

During the cold war, scientists from America and the Soviet Union developed lines of communication to improve the prospects for peace. Given the bitter ideological divisions in the United States today, scientists could reach across the political divide once again and set an example for all.
There is of course nothing wrong with partisanship or with scientists participating in politics, they are after all citizens. However, our scientific institutions are far too important to be allowed to become pawns in the political battles of the day.

34 comments:

Mark B. said...

It's a little late, isn't it? Think of a black person overhearing his/her white colleagues making racist jokes and statements. Now what's the 'solution?' Once I know you hate me, it matters little what you say or don't say later. Republicans now know who the enemy is - their enemies have come out and told them so. And your 'solution' is? When you live by taking sword swings at the other guy, you're going to die the same way. You don't get to take your best shot at your enemy and then go home.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-1-Mark B.

Thanks, but there is a solution, and it starts with new leadership in the scientific community. "Science" is not monolithic and there is a great diversity of views in the community.

Mike Smith said...

Roger, this is superb and I'm going to link to it on my blog on Friday.

Politicization of science is a major problem regardless of the perpetrators. Science should be based on facts and the scientific method -- period.

HowardW said...

Roger,
You wrote, "There are promising signs that the partisan wave which has engulfed the scientific community over the past decade is receding somewhat."
Could you give some examples?

Adrian said...

Roger Pielke wrote...

"Thanks, but there is a solution, and it starts with new leadership in the scientific community. "Science" is not monolithic and there is a great diversity of views in the community. "

Science needs no leadership, the problem is as you alluded to above, professional bodies using the illusion of scientific authority for their own ends.

There is no such thing as truly scientific authority (or leadership).

P.S. I agree with Napolean, I think the national academies have elected the wrong people out of "cock up" rather consipracy! lol

John M said...

This is not surprising, and frankly, I can't be optimistic that it will change. Scientists, especially academic scientists, are increasingly dependent on government funding for the their research, and in a lot of cases for their jobs period.

As such, they have an interest in larger government and higher taxes.

Even "entrepreneurs" who intend to use their publically funded research to start private companies are often dependent on government incentives.

But all this is not new. The late Rustum Roy (ironically of Penn State) created a firestorm about 20 years ago when he referred to his colleagues as "welfare queens in lab coats".

Just another special interest group that votes like other similar special interest groups.

n.n said...

It is dissociation of risk which causes corruption. It is dreams of instant (or immediate) gratification which motivates its progress.

This is not strictly a partisan issue, other than it is principally concerned with competing interests. The people who exploited religion (divine faith), are the same people who exploit science (constrained faith), and they do it for the same reason. They emphasize differentials and gradients to acquire democratic (i.e. numerical) leverage in order to advance their political, economic, and social standing.

The nature of competition has not changed. Only its character has changed. Whereas before God ruled the world and his representatives offered favors, now it is mortal gods who rule the world and they selectively offer favors. Science was a victim then and it is a victim now, because everyone has a faith which gives order to their world, and which can be exploited to club their competing interests over the head. Today, it is the "rational" faith, which often relies on articles of faith (i.e. exceeding a constrained frame of reference).

It's all nonsense, but a majority of people are greedy bastards. The worst are those who contract fulfillment of their greed to an authoritarian monopoly (i.e. government). There is a reason why monopolies and monopolistic practices are considered a threat to liberty and dignity, and why monopolies processed through coercion or democratic leverage are historically the most execrable.

This is not about science. Not really. This is about competing interests manufacturing and exploiting leverage to realize their ambitions: material, physical, and ego. It's the same nonsense as before, but with a character twist. Instead of offering perceptual and post-mortem comfort to people who revel in their base nature, they now offer tangible comfort to people who revel in their base nature. They sell indulgences not in the name of God, but in the name of social justice or some other theme which denigrates individual dignity and devalues individual human lives.

It is nonsense! It's the same nonsense that has always plagued our world. That has plagued every civilization and ensures the historical periods of progress and revolution. It is because of greedy bastards by choice and by circumstance. It is because of dissociation of risk which enables their corruption.

Inkling said...

Look at the federal deficits the Obama administration is running up. Forty-four presidents, some with multiple terms, gave us a deficit of $10 trillion. In just four years of Obama, that deficit has risen 60% to $16 trillion, and it's likely to rise to $20 trillion in his second term.

Now ask yourself which the voters will choose to fund when interest rates rise to more typical levels and we need to service those huge debts.

Will they choose for their grandmother to continue to get her full Social Security paycheck or will they be eager to fund a study of the mating habits of some obscure spider?

We all know which they'll choose and what the members of both parties will then obediently fund. There's little in the budget that's easier to cut in a financial crunch than scientific research of no immediate, practical value.

And in a sense, the highly partisan nature of the scientific community in the last two elections makes those coming cuts easy to justify. Science has cast its lot with Obama, the Democrats, and all that deficit spending. Science will have to live with the consequences.

One additional remark. The real debate we're seeing isn't between smart and stupid, as I suspect many scientists would view it. It's one that's been around since the later novels of H.G. Wells (starting with Anticipations in 1901). It is between those who want top-down control by a credential elite and those who'd rather let individuals live as they see fit. Despite his many years in the nastiness of Chicago machine politics, Obama, with his Harvard law degree, is seen as a member of that credentialed elite.

The fuss that surrounds the climate change debate illustrates that conflict. If we face some apocalyptic doom, then political power must be handed over to experts. If no such doom looms, if the changes are unpredictable (negating the value of experts) and manageable (negating the need to remove freedoms), then how people live is best left to the people themselves.

Also, keep in mind that previous attempts at such power grabs: eugenics (1912-late 1920s), command economies (the Great Depression), the population explosion (late 1960s to early 1970s), and resource depletion (late 1970s), never rose to the level where the credibility of science was at issue. Eugenics led to forced sterilization (Buck v. Bell, 1927) and the population explosion to legalized abortion (Roe v. Wade). Both advanced no further. Outside China, there were no One Child agendas.

The climate change hysteria, however, isn't showing any desire to limit its demands to what the public is willing to endure. The meddling it was to do encompass all of life. It wants to control the industries that employ us and dictate what we drive and how we heat our homes. That's not something we'll so easily forget.

--Michael W. Perry, editor of G. K. Chesterton's Eugenics and Other Evils: An Argument Against the Scientifically Organized State (first published in 1922 but remarkably relevant today)

Andy said...

Agree with the sentiment, but science should be "nonpartisan." "Bipartisan" science is, by definition, politicized.

Jim Leebens-Mack said...

I fully agree that science is not partisan but in my opinion scientist must speak out against politicians in both parties for ignoring data that are not in line with their world view or political agenda. Unfortunately their are currently a number of vocal Republican policy makers who reject the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, the antiquity of our planet and the fact of evolution despite overwhelming evidence. These politicians must be called out not for their political positions but for their irrational rejection of science as a way of understanding the material world.

Joshua said...

" For a while now several scientific associations (especially AAAS and AGU) have taken on the role of seeing Democrats as allies and Republicans as opponents."

Surely, Roger - you didn't intentionally completely disregard any questions of direction of causality, did you? Do you seriously think that there is no role played by Republicans in the oppositional configuration? They are just the passive victims of those bad librul scientist/activists?


From Sarewitz:

===[[[This concern rests on clear precedent. Conservatives in the US government have long been hostile to social science, which they believe tilts towards liberal political agendas. ====[[

Hmmm. I've seen data that overall, in the past conservatives expressed more "trust" in scientists than libz and moderates, but that there has been a recent trend of loss of trust. Not among moderates or libz, but among conservatives only.

Time for you to be an honest broker, Roger.

Brian said...

When I saw Sarewitz's article in Nature today, I knew you'd have some comment on it. You did not disappoint.

Your stat about negative editorials in Science is not surprising, but stunning nonetheless. The Science editorial staff criticizes Democrat presidents 60 times less than Republicans (well, one particular Republican)? It's hard to imagine stronger evidence of political bias among scientists than that. I'm sure Nature would be similar. Outrageous.

Maurizio Morabito said...

Science is big and needs public money. Public money distribution is dictated by policy. Policies depend on politics. Therefore science depends on politics. Therefore science is bound to be politicized, and it will forever slide all-Dems or all-GOP according to contemporary mores.

The only alternative is to make Science the Fourth Branch of Government.

MattL said...

-4- HowardW,

I'm open to examples from Roger, but I share your skepticism. My perception is that one simply doesn't need to be as harshly partisan when one's fellow partisans are in power.

Politicians will be politicians, and I'm at least as annoyed as (10) Jim Leebens-Mack at politicians who are so credulous to think that we can destroy civilization by with the simple lever of carbon dioxide, based on obviously unreliable computer simulations. Of course, most of the credulous politicians are predisposed to top down solutions with them playing the role of philosopher king. Motivated reasoning is everywhere.

-11- Joshua,
My recollection of the trust in scientists was that it was largely explained by cold war type stuff where science was producing tangible results (supersonic jet fighters, moon shots, computers, etc), and the more recent focus (at least in media) on mushy social science and medical science results (X is bad for your health this week, good the next!) has done a lot to reduce trust.

eric144 said...

The venomous attitudes of American liberals is truly frightening.The hatred generated in the Realclimate forum could actually be responsible for climate change by itself. AGW became a liberal campaign because it followed the environmentalism of 1960's and 1970's was a left leaning battle against industrial pollution.

The two most successful tactics of the British Empire were dividing and ruling the enemy and channelling the spoils to the wealthy. That meant more money for new adventures and a giant pool of desperate, vicious thugs from the cities to fight in the military.

The USA is a country deliberately divided into the irreconcilable Jesus camp and the cloying political correctness camp (with its origins in American academia). Academics of all varieties, even scientists, will tend to be liberals.

The division exists to distract voters from what matters in a capitalist country, money, which flows like the Mississippi into the land of the wealthy.

Modern America has been deeply influenced by one of the smartest and ruthlessly ambitious men in history, former CIA director, George Herbert Walker Bush. His son was elected by the Jesus camp.

PJB said...

The problem is not that the "smart" people think that they know better and that they can and should lead not by example but by fiat.
The problem is that the "smart" people are not as smart as they think that they are.
Transparency is the key and that creates an openness that allows for all to participate an none to be excluded.
Shining a light exposes the good and the bad. It is clear that the bad has no interest in such a proposition. The current situation is a clear example of this.

Joshua said...

- 14- Matt

Not sure how you're getting where you've gone. I would think causality is quite complicated.

I think that describing it as what scientists (or science) has done to reduce trust is too one-way, too simplistic.

For example, the rate of technological change (which we could, no doubt, attribute ultimately to the work of scientists) has only accelerated. Wouldn't that suggest that the tangible results (the Internet, cell phones, more efficient cars, etc.) are manifest in our daily lives that much more deeply?

I think that you're distinguishing jet fighters from today's non-"mushy" achievements doesn't really hold up.

IMO, what is being ignored here is a directional aspect of the causality. The gap between "conservatives" and trust in science is bi-directional. Any analysis that argues that it is one-directional seems ill-founded, to me.

MattL said...

-15- Joshua,

That was largely my recollection of the study findings. I would agree it's a simplification.

But you've also ignored a part of what I said, namely the fact that "science" contradicts itself over short time spans. It's not a matter of new theories eventually overturning old theories, but people hearing news stories within weeks or days of each other that are contradictory.

Sure, technology has been marching on, but I think that the popular perception of science has widened to include more of the mushy stuff, so the picture is muddied. Of course, if the mushy stuff confirms something you already believe, you're going to trust more and vice versa.

Could you expand on what you're getting at with "bi-directional?" My (probably ill-founded) guess is something along the lines of, conservatives distrust academia, including many branches of science, which enhances the confrontational relationship between conservatives and academia, vicious circle, etc.

Harrywr2 said...

!! joshua
"I've seen data that overall, in the past conservatives expressed more "trust" in scientists than libz and moderates, but that there has been a recent trend of loss of trust. Not among moderates or libz, but among conservatives only. "

Until very recently, moderates and independents were the least trusting of science.

BernieL said...

It is curious that the term 'bipartisan' is used in this discussion but never a term such as 'disinterested.' I wonder whether this reflects a hopelessly polarized US context.

I agree with Andy above: '"Bipartisan" science is, by definition, politicized.'

Has anyone thought of returning to an old ideal that scientific inquiry should strive in every way towards 'disinterest'? ...a disinterested evaluation of the evidence...and this even after, and despite, our interest (motivation) in making the inquiry in the first place.

Could it be possible that Science institutions permit themselves to continue to campaign for funds but restrain themselves, as a body, from holding opinions on any particular issue of controversy? If, indeed, there is a wide difference in Science policy/funding between political parties in an election contest then there should NOT be any prohibition on scientific institutions (or their office holders or journalists) pointing to this in the science press. The great and grave concern is when normal processes of politics (and campaigning for gov funds) gets mixed up in issues of scientific controversy.

There is no easy answer on any particular issue of judgement in this regard. However, it looks to me that, especially with Climate Change, scientific institutions have completely lost sight of the principles upon which such judgements should be made.

Mark said...

-10- Jim Leebens-Mack

Unfortunately their are currently a number of vocal Republican policy makers who reject the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, the antiquity of our planet and the fact of evolution despite overwhelming evidence.

You did this to prove Roger's point? Because you did, whether you like it or not.

Why not mention Democrat politicians who are resolutely opposed to the scientific consensus on GM crops? That's considerably more clear cut than climate change.

You cannot just provide one anecdote and assume it proves a whole. You need to show that one party is considerably more pro-science than the other. Which, of course, you cannot do. Because as Roger says, the Republicans aren't anti-science at all.

Joshua said...

- 15 - MattL

==]] But you've also ignored a part of what I said, namely the fact that "science" contradicts itself over short time spans. It's not a matter of new theories eventually overturning old theories, but people hearing news stories within weeks or days of each other that are contradictory. [[==

I agree with you there. I think it's a good point I haven't considered directly. I have noted that the increased access to scientific reporting is certainly a factor that influences public trust in scientists, but haven't considered the more specific point you underlined.

Yes, increased access to contradictory information might erode trust - but then the question would be why has it eroded trust only with "conservatives?" Perhaps it might be related to the echo-chamber effect of where people get their information...and the reason why there has been movement among "conservatives" and not moderates or libz is because of the explosion of rightwing mainstream media (Fox, krightwing talk radio...)

==]] Could you expand on what you're getting at with "bi-directional?" My (probably ill-founded) guess is something along the lines of, conservatives distrust academia, including many branches of science, which enhances the confrontational relationship between conservatives and academia, vicious circle, etc. [[==

I'm not entirely sure that it's about; your speculation seems fairly close to my thinking. I have to think that it is likely that the increased extremism associated with the "conservative" side of the political spectrum (a trend I think is fairly robustly evidenced) may be a factor somehow. But why have "conservatives" become more distrustful of academia over time, why do academics tend towards liberal ideology? Interesting questions - not well served by the answers I've seen proposed (such as that one group or another is "anti-science," or that there is a conspiracy amongst academics, or that specific brain physiology is causal for political ideology )

But I think that to some degree it is usually fairly random. For one reason or another, people associating with one ideology or another begin to coalesce around a particular viewpoint on a particular subject. I think it is often problematic to attribute that to any particular rational analysis on their part or specific ideology. My favorite example is how "conservatives" did a 180 on a fairly fundamental issue related to the "fairness" of the healthcare mandate. (I'm not trying to suggest that such random patterns of association are unique to "conservatives." There are similar contradictions and 180s seen with libz. Moderates maybe less so in a political realm as they are less identified with a political ideology?) Think of how the value of stocks can soar or plummet for no rational or specific reason other than popular sentiment. I think it is analogous.

At any rate - again, I think that to place the responsibility for the gap between scientists and Republicans only at the feet of scientists or scientific institutions flies in the face of what we see more generally about how the public reasons in the face of controversy. It is as if to completely ignore what we know about the cognitive and psychological aspects of how people reason.

Joshua said...

- 17 - harry

I am missing your point. The level of trust among moderates and libz hasn't changed. The level of trust among conservatives has gone down. Yes, conservatives have gone from the most trusting to the least trusting. Although still, the movement among conservatives has not been huge, and it is constrained to a minority of conservatives IIRC.

Casaubon said...

In my view part of the problem is that scientists tend to think that their expertise implies the proficiency to understand and create policies or, more broadly, the ability to provide a vision on how society should be organised. Perhaps worse, this feeling is reinforced by the party that benefits most of it - which, btw, is the preferred party of the cultural industry. I often see scientists advocating their self-interests as if it were a matter of scientific reasoning. This sort of thinking is a reflex of the early XX century view that government should be run on scientific principles, as alluded to in the comments.

Part of the solution is to make the academic establishment less insular. Many researchers only interact with government to apply for grants, being completely unaware of the hurdles of, e.g., running a company.

Anyway, nice article, thanks for posting and commenting on it.

Raindog said...

There are more issues that just politicization of science. Corporate interests produce just as much bad science as does politically motivated research. What I see all too frequently by viewers of anti-AGW blogs and sites is that as soon as some corporate backed research is published, they immediately accept it at face value, however any government backed research is immediately discounted as invalid or politically motivated.

I have news for you! Most research is conducted to "prove" a predetermined outcome for either financial or political gain. Any research not demonstrating the desired outcomes is either not published or the undesireable traits are statistically manipulated into nonexistence. The EXACT SAME tricks used by the AGW crowd to manufacture global warming are used by every research field to support their predetermined outcomes. I think the most obvious fields this applies to is climate research, sports nutrition/supplementation and pharma, but it happens in every field dealing with the interactions of multiple complex systems.

Harrywr2 said...

#23 Joshua,


"I am missing your point. The level of trust among moderates hasn't changed"

Correct...moderates traditionally had the lowest level of 'trust' in science. In the last 30 years conservative 'trust' in science has drifted towards the 'moderate/independent' level of trust and is now slightly lower then moderates.

Actual study here -
http://www.asanet.org/images/journals/docs/pdf/asr/Apr12ASRFeature.pdf

So what exactly does the fact that one group of people that are supposedly 'ideologically blind '(conseratives) has adopted the same view as the 'least ideologically blind'(moderates/independents)group tell us?

MattL said...

-22- Joshua,

I think that the recent increase in conservative media has actually done quite a bit to change the way conservatives tend to think, in the sense that there has been more talk / analysis about why conservatives believe what they believe. I'm not saying that every hour of radio is a graduate seminar or that the typical Republican is a 21st century Russel Kirk, but still a big part of a Hannity or Rush show is them talking about why they disagree with something. For all of his conspiracy craziness, Glen Beck actually talked about and promoted study of things like Hayek's writings and other historical works that were a lot more than simply Us vs Them.

And a big part of conservative thought over the last few decades is a skepticism in expert skill. This definitely goes for political economy issues, and I think gets them primed to react to things like contradictory studies. Most certainly don't understand the statistics or why so many studies get them wrong, but, like I mentioned earlier, the reported contradictions confirm pre-existing beliefs.

I'd say, "Trust, but verify," is less trusting than, "Trust." :-)

Mark said...

What I see all too frequently by viewers of anti-AGW blogs and sites is that as soon as some corporate backed research is published,

What "corporate backed research"?

I call you out on this. Name this research. Name these researchers. Show – properly mind you, not guilt by association – some direct funding of such research.

I can show plenty of research funded by the likes of Greenpeace and WWF that has made its way into the IPCC. Can you find a tenth of that – no make that a hundredth – of direct funding of opposition to the IPCC?

eric144 said...

I posted on an AGW thread a few days ago. I received a number of very nasty replies, each of them telling me I was a moron or worse. Assuming I was a Republican and therefore anti science.

Guardian tactics to promote AGW largely involved ridicule of opponents as being connected to the Republican Party, The Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Fox News, Glen Beck, creationism and fundamentalism of various kinds. All American references, ready made for the purpose. All implied to be anti science.

"one of the most significant transformations of American domestic politics over the past three decades since the early 1970’s, when George H.W. Bush was head of the CIA, has been the deliberate manipulation of significant segments of the population, most of them undoubtedly sincere believing people, around the ideology of ‘born-again’ evangelical Christian Fundamentalism to create something known as the Christian Right."

http://www.globalresearch.ca/christian-fundamentalism-permeates-the-republican-party-sarah-palin-s-links-to-the-christian-right/10167

It was this Christian right that Karl Rove mobilised to elected G W Bush.

The Right Wing Professor... said...

I'm late to the party here, but let me weigh in on the side of 'incompetence' vs. 'malice.'

Scientists are, in my experience, astonishingly politically naive and unsophisticated. Most of them view of Republicans as monolithic bible-thumping creationists and, more recently, global warming denialists. They simply don't pay enough attention to political news or commentary to realize that there really isn't a 'good party' or a 'bad party' when it comes to science and politics; both parties politicize science, and both parties incorporate a fair measure of denialism in their consensus viewpoints.

I know it sounds odd to dismiss the National Academy of Sciences as a group of ignorant illiterates, but when it comes to politics (not science, of course) most of them are.

Mark said...

BTW I'm still waiting for the list of "corporate backed" research against global warming.

Do I take it you can't actually find any then?

Amusingly my boast I could find lots of Greenpeace or WWF literature in the IPCC was made rather easy by the leak at Donna Laframboise's blog.

http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2013/01/08/the-secret-santa-leak/

So much for only the best peer reviewed evidence!

Max said...

This was misleading:
"I have just updated this analysis through the first term of the Obama Administration, and found no editorials critical of the Obama Administration. Instead, there were editorials with the following titles:
Helping the President"

Here's the abstract:
"President Obama's early strong statements about science, underscored by the outstanding team of scientific experts he has assembled and big bucks in the stimulus package, have been a breath of fresh air. Understandably, there is some temptation to rest easy and not worry about happenings in Washington, comforted by the thought that U.S. science and science policy are in good hands. This would be a huge mistake."

Max said...

Mark,
Global Warming skeptic Dr. Willie Soon admitted to being paid more than $1 million in the past decade by major US oil and coal companies.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/28/climate-change-sceptic-willie-soon

One Geek in Gradschool said...

It's possible that scientific knowledge production could become bipartisan (like most substantive questions of security policy) with little difference between "establishment" political parties, but not possible that it could become non-political. Science can only be non-political if it has no (perceived) effect on any political concern.

Science involves a lot of money, much of it public, and produces knowledge which is (often) considered authoritative on questions relevant to political issues. It was always political, even when two team politics didn't consider it partisan.

This would even be true if science were a disinterested pursuit of facts about the objective world, and nothing else.

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