The Republican War on Expertise

Chris Mooney has has a new article in The American Prospect about the Republican war on expertise. There are a lot of interesting nuggets, but Chris somehow manages to avoid making the really obvious point.

First, let’s set the tone:

Increasingly, the parties are divided over expertise–with much more of it residing among liberals and Democrats, and with liberals and Democrats much more aligned with the views of scientists and scholars. More fundamentally, the parties are increasingly divided over reality itself: over what is actually true, not only about hard science but also social science and simple policy facts such as the contents of the health-care bill.

One is reminded of Stephen Colbert’s maxim, mentioned in the article, that reality has a well-known liberal bias.

But in the next paragraph things start getting weird:

There’s no doubt these two divides are connected, but the relationship between them isn’t necessarily straightforward. It’s not as if all the brains are on one side, and there’s a total lack of them on the other. So before glorying in the fact that we have more facts, liberals might consider first blowing into an intellectual breathalyzer, to be sure we’re not too intoxicated by our own seeming brilliance. After all, one thing our expertise does not appear to be doing is bringing the country back from the brink of a fully postmodern and fact-free discourse. In fact, it may even be contributing to the problem.

I would say that what the other side has is not so much brains as it is evil geniuses. But seriously, we shouldn’t glory in the fact that we have more facts? I would have thought that having the facts on your side is a good thing. I assume the point here is that, in a political context, just having the facts is not enough. The facts must be presented in a way that resonates with people, which requires a certain understanding of human psychology. That’s a decent point, but I hate the style of writing that makes it sound like a criticism that liberals actually care about getting the facts right. (Blow into an intellectual breathalyzer? For heaven’s sake!)

From here the article discusses the general leftward slant of university professors, countered by the rise of think tanks. Mooney points out that right-wing counter-experts, on climate science, evolution, and gay parenting, for example, are never actually successful in placing a dent in the scientific consensus on these issues. Eventually we come to this:

We are now getting to the complicated question of why most academics today are liberal. Surely the rightward movement of the Republican Party has something to do with it, as do the repeated attacks on academia from the conservative movement over the decades. Ironically, though, one key premise of these attacks–the idea that institutions of higher education make one a liberal, through a kind of brainwashing process–is questionable. More and more evidence suggests that for most of us, our political identities are already largely determined well before we reach the point of choosing career paths, and then we select desirable life choices (a doctorate, for one) based in part on those identities. Neil Gross’ research with Fosse and Fresse, for instance, suggests that the expertise gap is likely the result of a “self-selection process,” fueled by the fact that for liberals, academic jobs hold prestige–but for conservatives, they’re not considered attractive nowadays. That’s partly because academia has been repeatedly smeared as a liberal bastion and perhaps also partly because of differing values: Ambitious and smart conservatives would rather work on Wall Street.

However, the researchers admit that their analysis can’t rule out another explanation supported by growing evidence–the idea that conservatives and liberals are just different, in aggregate, when it comes to personality types and moral systems. If true, this would surely affect liberals’ and conservatives’ career choices, too, as well as how they argue about fact-based or expertise-based issues.

There’s nothing even slightly complicated about the question of why academics tend to be liberals. We shall come to that in a moment. There is also nothing complicated about Mooney’s broader question of why experts tend to be Democrats. Here’s the explanation:

The power brokers in the Republican party are primarily Wall Street barons and other members of the super rich. On domestic policy they care almost exclusively about redistributing wealth upwards and in creating an entirely unregulated environment for corporations. The flip side is that anything that might benefit poor or middle class people they oppose. That is why they will fight tooth and nail to oppose the tiniest tax increase on millionaires, but will then turn around and accuse schoolteachers (!!) of being greedy. It is why they openly despise the public schools, and propose ludicrous, unworkable tax schemes that overwhelmingly benefit the super rich. It’s why they are so horrified by the idea that the health care system might be reformed to make it possible for millions of uninsured to obtain insurance. (It’s certainly not that they had a better idea for reforming the system. And notice that when they controlled both Congress and the Presidency from 2000-2006, they never even mentioned the health care crisis. As far as they are concerned, forty million people without health insurance simply isn’t a problem.)

The trouble is that if they actually said any of this clearly and publicly then no one would vote for them. So instead they throw around incendiary decoy issues. Behind closed doors they are perfectly happy to laugh at evangelical Christians, but in public they will toss them a little red meat, say by appointing a crazy judge or by cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood. (After all, it’s mostly poor women who are hurt by such cuts, and who cares about them?) Or they produce an endless string of boogeymen only they can protect us from. (It’s the gays! It’s the Muslims! It’s the illegal immigrants!)

On the issues where they openly defy the scientific consensus, it is easy to see why they do so. The sorts of things we would do combat global warming might hurt certain corporate interests, so they have to oppose global warming. Evolution is quite correctly seen as menacing to religious belief, which means they must oppose it too. The power brokers couldn’t care less about science education or whether homosexual couples are given the benefits of civil marriage, but their religious supporters do, so they pretend to care when speaking publicly.

They tend to have success with these approaches first because there is a very large moron vote in this country (the technical term is “low-information voters”) that is easily scared and doesn’t actually know anything about anything. But they are also successful because on these issues they are largely telling people what they want to hear. If liberals were selling the message that you can eat ice cream all day long without getting fat, then all the right-wing think tanks in the world would not be able to defeat them. It’s just that, on the issues where science and politics tend to meet, the right-wingers are defending the more pleasant position. Liberals are the ones saying our way of life is unsustainable, conservatives are saying we can just keep doing what we’re doing. Liberals are the ones saying that we evolved from lower orders of animals, conservatives are saying the local preacher understands these subjects better than the eggheads. Liberals are saying that gay couples should have the same rights as straight ones, conservatives are saying homosexuality is icky and unnatural. In each case they are affirming what large segments of the population already want to believe.

The trouble is, global warming and evolution are real, and the evidence is that homosexual parents do just fine. Which means that if you want to find an expert who (a) will say otherwise and (b) has any integrity at all, then you are pretty much screwed. People who understand biology are not going to back creationism or ID, people who understand economics aren’t going to buy into supply-side nonsense, people who understand climate science aren’t going to back climate change denialism, and people who understand psychology and sociology aren’t going to hold any animus towards homosexuals. The trouble is that the sort of experts you tend to find in universities usually know their subjects very well indeed and are burdened with some basic integrity. Which means that if you want to find counter-experts you will need to establish pseudo-universities, that is, think tanks.

Which brings us to the question of why most academics are Democrats. Chris dangles the possibility, as though it were a daring hypothesis, that liberals and conservatives just have different personalities. It’s hard to imagine anything more obvious, though, then the proposition that the sort of person who is attracted to academic life is very rarely going to be the sort of person who finds anything appealing in modern American conservatism.

Becoming a professor means obtaining a PhD in something, which means spending several years studying a very esoteric subject in great depth, and probably living in penury while you’re doing it. Someone who finds that appealing is probably not overly motivated by a zeal to make money, is unlikely to find evangelical Christianity to be intellectually satisfying, and, most of all, is unlikely to buy into the sort of simplistic, brain-dead bromides that are the stock-in-trade of conservatism. Academics revel in nuance, details and subtlety. The appeal of conservatism, in it’s modern American form, is precisely that it reduces everything to simple black and white stories. Is it really so hard to see the tension between these views.

There’s nothing more complicated than that going on here. The powerful Republicans want to redirect money upwards and don’t care about anything else. To get non-rich people to vote for them they train up legions of pseudo-experts to lie on behalf of their cause. Academics, both by their training and general temperament, have the wherewithal to see precisely how ridiculous the right-wing arguments are, which is why they tend to vote with the other guys.

What’s mysterious about any of this?

Comments

  1. #1 Eric R
    June 15, 2011

    I would have thought that having the facts on your side is a good thing.

    It would be a good thing if people believed facts, but its become fairly obvious that facts hold little to no sway with republicans. It seems no matter how accurate you are if it doesnt fit their preconceived notions or their political ideology then facts are irrelevant.

  2. #2 Matthew Platte
    June 15, 2011

    Aaaaand those same evil geniuses pay for skyscraper ads on teh ScienceBlogs that offer to explain “HOW LIBERALISM DESTROYS PEOPLES AND NATIONS…”

    Bleh. :P

  3. #3 Roy Meredith
    June 15, 2011

    It’s even more extreme than you suggest. Most of the GOP base inhabits an alternative reality. I remember when one of my friends brought me to her church. The preacher was warning his audience that demon-worshiping Muslims were infiltrating the U.N. to outlaw Christian beliefs.

  4. #4 Radge Havers
    June 15, 2011

    “Political psychologists find that conservatives are more likely to express system justification tendencies, while liberals are more amenable to critiques of the established order “

    THE POLITICIZATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE AND POLARIZATION IN THE AMERICAN PUBLIC’S VIEWS OF GLOBAL WARMING, 2001–2010

    “Stanford University social psychologist Leon Festinger coined the theory of cognitive dissonance, based on a famous case study from the 1950s. Festinger and his colleagues infiltrated a cult that was awaiting what they believed would be the imminent end of the world on December 21, 1954. When the prediction failed, rather than recognize the error of their beliefs, the cult members’ faith grew stronger, so strong that they began to proselytize. People will go to great lengths to rationalize their deeply held beliefs, even more so when exposed to evidence that challenges their worldview.”

    Is Cognitive Dissonance Fueling Conservative Denial of Climate Change?

    My two cents, authoritarian control feeds on a strict faith-based adherence to ideology (note how willing humans can be to dying and killing for an idea and on command). That’s faith-based in a generic sense, not necessarily religious– faith in the transcendent rightness of unregulated markets for example. This is at some fundamental level anti-science in spirit, as opposed to the spirit of free inquiry you’d hope to find at universities.

  5. #5 Fred
    June 15, 2011

    Exactly!
    There is economist named James K galbraith who talks about the “predatory class” instead of the wealthy class, the predators are the ones that will ALWAYS use all their existing power to get more, not like bill gates or warren buffet for instance, who are relatively reasonable people. Predators also do really not care about destroying the country, killing people etc. Maybe they are primary or secondary psychopaths (google).
    Of course one of the most annoying problems with all this is that we have to remember that it is philosophy. But they prevent any funding to do any research on the political world so we have to work with what we got.
    Also, there is no reason to assume the repugs are the only puppets of this class. Money buy power in so many ways maybe they just throw us a bone every once in a while in the form of a democrat win. Seriously, if they can hoodwink more than 50% of the population when they want to, why assume they cannot fool far more when they so choose? Maybe this whole 50/50 divide stuff is just that they are just being frugal; no sense spending more than you need to to get your way.
    My favorite solution?
    Right now it is to separate political influence from money as well as we can. Put low caps on lobbying, mass communication and campaign spending etc. That should be the first step. Do that well and then we can start making sensible policy elsewhere, without their tampering. Obviously this has first amendment concerns, but think about it: we are not telling you what you can say, only how loud you can say it. The caps should be set so that it is higher than nearly anyone in the middle class spends, maybe a bit higher. That’s fine, if you feel very strongly about something you should be able to shout 10 times as loud as everyone else. And if you want to get together into a gang and pool your money with others, that’s fine.
    But what we have right now is that just a handful of individual people in the room are shouting literally *many millions* of times louder than anyone else *possibly* could. That’s bullshit. That adds nothing to the democracy. Let’s get rid of it.
    The question is how do we change it when the preds are in control? Make some progress here, some progrees there, like moving a peice of furniture, is one way. Have some luck too, the preds can’t predict the future or plan perfectly, we know that from Egypt. Persevere over decades. Then remain vigilant. Freedom isn’t free.

  6. #6 eric
    June 15, 2011

    What I have trouble understanding is why voting for people who tell you what you want to hear seems to be an inordinately American trait. Many other countries are suffering recessions, but the public blowback against politicians who propose real spending cuts or real tax increases seems (just in my layman’s eyes) to be a lot less. Or take anthropic global warming – people in other countries may have wide differences of opinion over what to do about it, but nobody else seems seem to have such a large population that actually denies it occurs. Why is America so much more dysfunctional in this way?

  7. #7 AbnormalWrench
    June 15, 2011

    No doubt, I would agree that the left cares more about facts and science as a general rule, however, there is plenty of woo on the left that is questionably just as bad as some of the faith-based nonsense on the right. From reading message boards such as huffingtonpost, it can be extremely discouraging, what the (I hope) non-academic left waste their mental energy on.

    I think what Mooney was asking for was a reality check on the left, because I think there are some people that live in a academic bubble. A good and necessary thing, but not very accurate when trying to pole the general public.

  8. #8 Jud
    June 15, 2011

    Why is America so much more dysfunctional in this way?

    Listen well: Advertising works. It works much, much better and to more exact metrics than nearly anyone who hasn’t been in a managerial position in a large corporation can imagine. (My brother-in-law, who came from an accounting background and considered marketing more of a “fuzzy” enterprise, still remembers his first conferences in the European offices of a large multinational where he heard the marketing people talk about how much advertising spending employed in what way would generate how much of an increase in revenue, and seeing them be correct in their predictions to within a couple of decimal points time after time after time.)

    It is no accident that the USA has the world’s largest economy and about the lowest savings rate (i.e., we have all been “educated” to consume within an inch of our financial lives), and also displays so much greater penetration of counterfactual opinion among its citizens.

    Republicans, being business types, understood this long ago, and set about applying it to fund-raising and politics in a huge way back in the Reagan era. It took the Democrats until Obama to come up with anything even close to comparable.

    When the right wing opinion machine hears things like “We have the facts, that’s a good thing!”, they rightly hear it as the left feeling the facts should be enough to prevail in a just world. And they laugh their asses off. That’s like saying if you have bigger players you should win all your football games. It’s primitive and mistaken thinking. Factual expertise is nothing more than a beginning.

  9. #9 StaticMotion
    June 15, 2011

    Mooney blogs about this article on the Intersection, too.
    Based on his first 4 (iirc) installments, I predict an appeal to accommodation in his last post to come; I might be mistaken but I guess we’ll see at least some veiled hint at accommodating.
    But it’s strange that he’s pretty straight in the comments when answering conservative critics. Oh, well.

  10. #10 Mark Erickson
    June 15, 2011

    I noticed that you didn’t mention one study, cite any theory or even drop a name. You must hate expertise. Are you a crypto-Republican?!?

    Mooney can write a sentence and read a study, but he should blow into the intellectual breathalyzer himself. He’s too smart by half.

  11. #11 H.H.
    June 15, 2011

    I heard Mooney has a few more articles in the works such as “Slavery: A Matter of Personal Preference?” and “Historians vs. Holocaust Deniers: Both Sides Make Good Points.”

  12. #12 SC (Salty Current)
    June 15, 2011

    The trouble is that the sort of experts you tend to find in universities usually know their subjects very well indeed and are burdened with some basic integrity. Which means that if you want to find counter-experts you will need to establish pseudo-universities, that is, think tanks.

    You know, Chris, like the ones the Templeton Foundation, who gave you your fellowship, funds directly and through Atlas. The ones that win the Templeton “Freedom” Awards. Like that.

  13. #13 SC (Salty Current)
    June 15, 2011

    Mooney can…read a study,

    The evidence (e.g., his recent post about the study of college students’ perceptions of the science-religion conflict, among many others) suggests otherwise.

  14. #14 SLC
    June 16, 2011

    Rather interesting that Mr. Mooney becomes rather less accommodating in confronting global warming denialists. I doubt he will be attending any Nationals’ games with Marc Morano.

  15. #15 Mike
    June 16, 2011

    If you swap global warming denialism with food science denialism, you could write the exact same article about liberal hatred of science and experts. Ideology blinds both the left and the right. Pushers of organic quackery have learned that liberals’ ideology predisposes them to ignore food science and reality regarding food.

  16. #16 eric
    June 16, 2011

    Jud: Listen well: Advertising works. It works much, much better and to more exact metrics than nearly anyone who hasn’t been in a managerial position in a large corporation can imagine.

    But this does not explain the uniqueness of the American response, because similar advertising occurs everywhere. Your example even admitted this; your brother’s experience was with the advertising of a multinational corporation meeting in Europe.

  17. #17 Norwegian Shooter
    June 16, 2011

    I said he can read a study, not understand it.

  18. #18 Steve Greene
    June 16, 2011

    Hi Jason,

    Having more facts doesn’t make you smarter, and being smarter doesn’t mean you have more facts. But here’s the worse problem: A lot of smart people with a lot of knowledge have the tendency to think they’re smarter and more knowledgeable than they really are, to “know” what they don’t really know. Which doesn’t become a huge problem until they become politicians and use their power to shove it down the throats of everyone else. In economics, these concepts have to do with how so much information is “dispersed” (fragments of information that are related are not in one place and are very difficult to acquire and piece together) and “unarticulated” (information that isn’t “on paper” and that is very difficult, if not impossible, to acquire). This is where “liberals” (i.e., “leftists”) – and a lot of atheists – go wrong. (Of course, this problem of thinking you “know better” when you really don’t is certainly a problem for a lot of Republicans as well.) In his relatively recent book The Black Swan the economist Nassim Taleb talks about many economists and government policy makers – all very smart people with a lot of knowledge – having the problem of thinking they know more than they really know and making recommendations and policies based on their artificial models.

    One thing that has always puzzled me is how so many atheists – who to my mind should know better because of the fact they’re atheists – treat government entities and policies like religious people treat their religious beliefs. It’s almost as if these atheists have substituted one religion for another. Yet government entities are just other human beings doing things and government policies are regulations and laws made up by other human beings, subject to the same human problems and foibles as any other enterprises engaged in by people, the distinction they have being the considerable amount of compulsion power behind what they do that we grant them.

    Leftist liberals think they’re so smart about how to control aspects of society, yet how many are even smart enough to successfully run the social microcosm of a private business? Even a small one? Thus demonstrating the wisdom of how to efficiently and effective handle resourses (including personnel resources)?

    Business enterprises – or other non-government organizations – have to deal with the consequences of what they do. They can’t force people to buy from them and give them money. Politicians who make poor or ineffective regulations and laws don’t have to deal with the consequences because the “customers” – citizens – have to toe the line and pay for everything (taxation) no matter what. Which automatically creates a huge disconnect between allegedly “having more facts” and really having more facts.

    This is a fundamental point I think you’ve overlooked in that part of your discussion.

  19. #19 Patrick
    June 16, 2011

    Mooney is using this tactic:

    1. Lay out a conflict between two sides. To provide an example, lets imagine Michael Jordan and my dachsund.

    2. Note that everybody in his likely audience favors one side. In our example, everyone thinks Jordan is a better basketball player than my dachsund.

    3. Throw down a bunch of bromides that everyone will agree with, and which subtly put down the favored category. In our example, note that Jordan may be good, but he isn’t perfect. He misses free throws here and there, loses games once in a while, and so on.

    4. Impugn the motives of those who support the favored side in such a way that, by context, it is implied that they don’t even believe those vague generalities from step 3. In our example, suggest that Jordan’s fans see him with rose colored glasses, implying that his fans think he’s actually perfect, and concealing that the conversation was really about whether Jordan was a better basketball player than a dachsund.

    5. Point out that the disfavored side isn’t completely and totally worthless. In our example, note that my dachsund tries very hard to play basketball, runs all over the court, and is very excited whenever he gets the chance to play. Surely these things count for something.

    6. Then quickly and quietly move to an equivalence between the two sides. Perhaps merely suggest it instead of stating it outright. In our example, suggest that we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that Jordan is a better player than my dachsund, and that Jordan’s fans have a lot to think about.

  20. #20 SC (Salty Current)
    June 16, 2011

    If you swap global warming denialism with food science denialism, you could write the exact same article about liberal hatred of science and experts. Ideology blinds both the left and the right. Pushers of organic quackery have learned that liberals’ ideology predisposes them to ignore food science and reality regarding food.

    Yes, those leftist loons at the IAASTD and UN with their quack “reports” based on the “scientific literature.”

    ***

    I said he can read a study, not understand it.

    Ah. Point taken.

  21. #21 eric
    June 16, 2011

    Steve Greene: A lot of smart people with a lot of knowledge have the tendency to think they’re smarter and more knowledgeable than they really are, to “know” what they don’t really know.

    Actually, no. The Dunning-Kreuger studies show that people with more knowledge on a subject tend to have a better grasp of just how knowledgable they are about it. That’s the flip side of the more often paraphrased, ‘the less you know, the worse your grasp on how much you know.’

    One thing that has always puzzled me is how so many atheists – who to my mind should know better because of the fact they’re atheists – treat government entities and policies like religious people treat their religious beliefs.

    Can you give us an example of an atheist treating government policy like a religious belief? Well, aside from that stone monument to 40CFR265* I have sitting in my front yard.

    * “Interim Status Standards for Owners and Operators of Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities”

  22. #22 TTT
    June 16, 2011

    Mike @15: Liberal food-science denialists have no institutional or political power whatsoever. I *wish* you could fairly compare them to right-wing eco-denialists.

  23. #23 LDave
    June 16, 2011

    It is simply untrue to say or imply that science has proven that man made climate change is occurring or will occur. Many scientists are in disagreement. Science requires peer review and proven conclusions, and this particular issue is by no means settled scientifically. So, don’t cast all non-believers as ignorant.

    The best example of liberals’ dismissal of science is that concerning human embryogenesis. We’ve known about DNA since 1950, and accordingly have known that a human being – with unique DNA – is created at conception. Abortion proponents ignore this fact, and have succeeded in convincing people that the definition of life is a matter of opinion.

  24. #24 Timmah
    June 16, 2011

    “They tend to have success with these approaches first because there is a very large moron vote in this country (the technical term is “low-information voters”) that is easily scared and doesn’t actually know anything about anything.”

    One of my friends sent me a link to this essay so I obligingly tried to read the whole thing. This quote above cracked me up because it’s true there is a very large moron vote, but, and I hate being the one who breaks this news, Democrats overwhelmingly carry the vote in the places we can clearly say are the poorest and most ill-educated areas of the country. For example you might note it’s been a while since we’ve seen a Republican mayor in Detroit.

  25. #25 eric
    June 16, 2011

    It seems LDave has decided to provide us with an object lesson of Jason’s post. Okay, very briefly:

    -science doesn’t require ‘proven conclusions.’

    -not all humans have unique DNA

    -not all humans arise out of conception. Some are clones of others.

    -life does not begin at conception because both sperm and egg are, by pretty much any definition of life, clearly alive before that happens

    -there are multiple definitions of life because it’s a surprisingly tricky topic. Opining that everyone else’s definition is merely ‘matter of opinion’ (and implying yours isn’t) just makes you sound silly.

  26. #26 NJ
    June 16, 2011

    Timmah @ 24:

    I hate being the one who breaks this news, Democrats overwhelmingly carry the vote in the places we can clearly say are the poorest and most ill-educated areas of the country.

    There are different definitions of ill-educated, sport. People who have first-hand knowledge of how rich, predominantly white Republicans have worked to make their lives more difficult might have good reasons to support someone who isn’t a Republican.

    On the other hand, people who get their information from Vulpine sources (the aforementioned low-information voters) will continue to support these same rich, predominantly white Republicans that have worked to make their lives difficult. They’ll just believe Rush Limbaugh rather than their lying eyes.

    That’s probably why you were sent the link to the essay. Too bad you are too low-information to understand…

  27. #27 SLC
    June 16, 2011

    Re LDave @ #23

    It is simply untrue to say or imply that science has proven that man made climate change is occurring or will occur.

    In his very first sentence, Mr. LDave shows that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I have a flash for Mr. LDave. Never in the history of science has a theory been proven. The concept of proof does not exist in science; it’s a concept in mathematics and symbolic logic. There is only evidence that either supports a scientific theory or falsifies it. Thus far, the experts in the field of climate science almost all agree that the earth is getting warmer and that human activity, namely burning fossil fuels, is, in part, responsible. The fact that a few scientists disagree is of little consequence. A few scientists disagree that tobacco smoking is a cause of lung cancer. A few scientists reject the big bang theory. A few scientists reject evolution. A few scientists reject the connection between HIV and AIDS.

    Just as the tobacco companies lied and mislead the public about their products and paid shills to trumpet their lies, so their global warming counterparts, particularly the Koch brothers, major investors in fossil fuels, have paid shills in outfits like the Heartland Foundation and the George Marshall Foundation (the general undoubtedly has turned over in his grave multiple times over the hijacking of his name for this fraudulent foundation) to trumpet their lies.

  28. #28 GeoJim
    June 16, 2011

    Yes LDave, in addition to what SLC correctly wrote, you can not just drop an ignorance-bomb like that & not supply something to try to back it up. The evidence at this point supporting anthropogenic global warming is so overwhelming the burden of proof claiming otherwise lies directly with you.

  29. #29 Rieux
    June 16, 2011

    Patrick @19:

    It’s “dachshund” (in German dachs means “badger” and hund means “dog”), but that was a terrific comment. Kudos.

  30. #30 kermit
    June 17, 2011

    LDave – perhaps you could list the other fields of science (besides climatology) in which you are more knowledgeable than 97% of the scientists working in that field?

    As for your comment on embryology, it may surprise you to know that most scientists are aware that the complete genetic code for a person is found in the zygote. People who support women’s reproductive rights including abortion rights do so for a number of cultural, religious, moral, and political reasons, not because of biological ignorance. Did you know, for instance, that the Bible doesn’t consider the embryo to be a child, not a person until he or she draws his first breath? Also, science (social statistics) shows that cultures, cities, and regions that have ready access to birth control materials and information, have young people that have less sex, are less likely to get pregnant if they do, and are less likely to have an abortion if they get pregnant. So why aren’t most folks who want to reduce the number of dead fetuses, strong supporters of birth control for young people?

  31. #31 tomh
    June 17, 2011

    @ #25
    not all humans have unique DNA

    Seems silly to think it has any relevance to whether a fertilized egg is a person or not, but according to a recent study we each have about 60 new mutations in our genome. Personally, I’ve eaten many a fertilized egg in my time, (I raise chickens), and they never taste like chicken. That’s my test.

  32. #32 Ruth
    June 17, 2011

    Jason, OT, but are you aware that the side ad currently showing is for a free creationist publication : ‘Creation or Evolution – Does it matter what you believe?’, from the United Church of God.

  33. #33 AL
    June 18, 2011

    Jason, OT, but are you aware that the side ad currently showing is for a free creationist publication : ‘Creation or Evolution – Does it matter what you believe?’, from the United Church of God.

    Yeah, dubious ads do pop up from time to time on scienceblogs. There was some controversy a while back when scienceblogs featured something like a mail order bride ad, and PZ explained that ads are bundled and they sometimes get weird ads in the bundle. Probably not much they can do about it.

  34. #34 genel blog
    June 19, 2011

    thank you so much,
    greetings.

  35. #35 Dan L.
    June 20, 2011

    @LDave:

    From:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10297561

    This piece describes abortion practices in use from the 1600s to the 19th century among the inhabitants of North America. The abortive techniques of women from different ethnic and racial groups as found in historical literature are revealed. Thus, the point is made that abortion is not simply a “now issue” that effects select women. Instead, it is demonstrated that it is a widespread practice as solidly rooted in our past as it is in the present.

    Abortion was frequently practiced in North America during the period from 1600 to 1900. Many tribal societies knew how to induce abortions. They used a variety of methods including the use of black root and cedar root as abortifacient agents. During the colonial period, the legality of abortion varied from colony to colony and reflected the attitude of the European country which controlled the specific colony. In the British colonies abortions were legal if they were performed prior to quickening.

    Emphasis mine. The quickening is the movement of the foetus, about 18-20 weeks in. That’s right: Massachusetts Bay Colony puritans, some of the most conservative Christian maniacs in history, had legal second trimester abortions.

    @someone else:

    Leftist liberals think they’re so smart about how to control aspects of society, yet how many are even smart enough to successfully run the social microcosm of a private business? Even a small one? Thus demonstrating the wisdom of how to efficiently and effective handle resourses (including personnel resources)?

    This is incredibly wrong-headed.
    a) First of all, many liberals DO run small and large businesses.
    b) More liberals than DO run small businesses probably COULD run them if they wanted. For instance, any physical scientist who runs a lab and spends all his or her time applying for grants is probably capable of running a business, but not motivated to. This is related for the self-selection tendency of conservatives towards business and liberals away from business mentioned in the OP. On the other hand, if there’s any conservatives who COULD run businesses and aren’t, one would have to wonder “why not?”
    c) Very few liberals think that they, themselves — personally, and all by their lonesome — have the prescription for heaven on earth through government control. This is the premise of your entire “tu quoque” from what I can gather — “liberals think they’re SOOO smart, but they’re really not!” What liberals actually think is that experience and expertise trumps ideology — I don’t think I personally know what should be done to regulate oil companies, but I know there are petrogeologists, ecologists, and miners out there who DO have a good idea of how oil is mined and what can go wrong with the process, and thus what parts of the process need to be legislated and monitored. What I don’t get is why this isn’t obvious to conservatives. Capitalism is all about trusting experts to do what they do better than anyone else can.

    Business enterprises – or other non-government organizations – have to deal with the consequences of what they do. They can’t force people to buy from them and give them money. Politicians who make poor or ineffective regulations and laws don’t have to deal with the consequences because the “customers” – citizens – have to toe the line and pay for everything (taxation) no matter what. Which automatically creates a huge disconnect between allegedly “having more facts” and really having more facts.

    Business enterprises and other non-government organizations are private. They don’t have to tell people what they’re up to, so they can HIDE from consequences and TRICK people who otherwise wouldn’t give them money into doing so. Boycotts don’t work for very simply supply/demand reasons: elementary economics explains why boycotts are not effective at regulating private businesses even when those same private businesses control the information environment. Consumers have no access or control over who is in charge of a private company. In fact, the stock market ensures that in publicly held companies, even the OWNERS don’t have control of the people running the company. Only the board of directors has that control and that usually consists of the same people who are already running it.

    Ineffective politicians DO have to deal with consequences of their decisions because they have to run for office once in a while. This is the whole idea behind democracy. Let me guess, you went to a private school with no civics courses?

    Try thinking about what a corporation IS for a second. It’s a profit-motivated legal entity that cannot feel pain or empathy. If torturing puppies helped the bottom line, corporations would implement puppy-torturing policies (those that didn’t wouldn’t be competitive). Do you really want to live in a society dominated by legal entities without a) moral scruples or b) limits to their power?

  36. #36 Collin Brendemuehl
    June 21, 2011

    There is a significant issue in leftist politics, and one which many philosophers and historians consider dangerous: historicism. Of course there are the many varieties of English and Continental historicism and lengthy discussions can evaluate those for an extended period. But there is also practical historicism — willfully ignoring the history of error and trends of a persuasion in order to make a point.

    In the case of climate issues — the “expertise” of the 70s and 80s, not that long ago and accepted as expertise, was that the world would shortly be uninhabitable. Masses would be starving and engaging in cannibalism. The earth would be burning up. (Just ask Al Gore!)

    The scope of “expertise” becomes equally questionable. Do leftists have any economic expertise? They’ve bankrupted the US and Europe. Bankruptcy collapsed the USSR. The PROC seems the only seriously liquid nation, though perhaps India and some others fall close behind. But the PROC is leaching off the US. Keynesianism ends instagnation. French socialism is worse. Spain and Greece? No need to comment Liberal economics does not work.

    When you bring out prejudicial material which purports expertise but which is entirely encapsulated in the anti-captialist movement then your “expertise” in the field becomes questionable. Stick to math and chess. You do both quite well. But in philosophy and politics your material reads with less than an expert study.

    The supposed “war on expertise” reads more like hackery.

    Then again, you said, re PP funding:

    (After all, it’s mostly poor women who are hurt by such cuts, and who cares about them?)

    What you have done is provide empirical proof of something quite important: The targeting of the poor for population reduction. That’s the ugliest of eugenics. And it lies in the domain of the progressive left. You have just given permission to kill the inferior.

    The appeal of conservatism, in it’s modern American form, is precisely that it reduces everything to simple black and white stories.

    Going back to the beginning, conservatives like history. That’s one reason why Christianity is so appealing over, say, Mormonism. Christianity has a provable history — nations and cities and people whose existed is documents. (Not like the Garden of Eden being in St. Joseph, MO.)

    The simple b&w story of the left is one of class exploitation. Solve that issue, reduce all to a single class and so make everyone equal, is the most simplistic theorum of all.

    The conservatism of Whittaker Chambers was to expose the Left and the movements of radical liberalism toward totalitarianism. It was his opinion that, without the moral restraint of the Christian metanarrative, liberalism (with its enlightenment influences) would tend toward totalitarianism. To be certain, that was the case very quickly in France, followed not long thereafter by Germany, then Russia, PROC, Cuba, and others. The enlightenment proved to be so dangerous that it killed 1 of every 100 people who even lived in the 20th century.

  37. #37 Science Avenger
    June 23, 2011

    Timmah said: Democrats overwhelmingly carry the vote in the places we can clearly say are the poorest and most ill-educated areas of the country.

    You can’t lump “poorest” in with “least educated” as if they are synonymous. They are two different groups with different motives.

    The poor, especially among minorites vote Democratic no doubt because many of them see it as their meal ticket, or at least, as the side NOT ripping them off. They are just voting their pocketbooks, the same as the tax-averse businessman votes Republican.

    But the least educated who vote due to that trait vote overwhelmingly Republican. Red states have lower education levels than Blue states on average, and one doesn’t have to look too hard at the electoral map to see who dominates in the sticks and who dominates in highly educated areas.

    And Democrats dominate among the upper academics.

  38. #38 Composer99
    June 23, 2011

    @ 36:

    A distressing number of prominent conservatives, as ably documented by Ed Brayton over at Dispatches (also in the Scienceblogs network), show an astonishing disdain for factually-accurate history, preferring distorted myths, half-truths, and outright lies (e.g. Barton, Santorum, D’Souza, Limbaugh, Coulter, Bachmann, Palin, &c &c).

    Your rant gives the reader little reason to believe you are not engaged in the same behaviour.

  39. #39 Science Avenger
    June 23, 2011

    Colin said: Going back to the beginning, conservatives like history.

    Right, that’s why so many powerful conservatives like Bachman and Palin can’t ever get their history right. What the Right likes is stories that have morals similar to their’s. History? Not so much.

    If conservatives were truly interested in history, they’d realize that most of the idealistic positions they support over existing government programs have already been tried, and the disastrous results are the reason the government solution exists in the first place. To hear conservatives talk, you’d think if we just abolished government sanitation departments, we’d have no garbage.

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