The Republican War on Science

I just got a review copy of the new and updated paperback edition of fellow ScienceBlogger Chris Mooney‘s book The Republican War on Science (website). I didn’t get around to reading it last time, but I’ve already started the first chapter, even though I only received the book the other day. Thus, it would be premature of me to try to review it. However, it’s worth pointing out that, although my politics lean more conservative than probably all of the ScienceBloggers with whose politics I am familiar save perhaps Razib (certainly my politics are far to the right of Bora, Mike, and PZ–which basically makes me a moderate-to-conservative), one of the things that have most driven me away from the Republican Party has been its policies with regard to opposing and denying valid science, particularly when it comes to evolution and global warming.

I’ll post more commentary as I get further into the book.


  1. #1 razib
    September 7, 2006

    my sentiments are similar. just got chris’ book too.

  2. #2 Matt
    September 7, 2006

    I am also conservative leaning, although more libertarian-like. I agree that the current forces pitted against evolution are troubling, but I am a global-warming skeptic. I have seen as much “science” against global warming as I have seen for it. The “hockey-stick” graph was less about real science as it was about making biased conjectures relating to a few tree rings and a limited amount of real data. I have trouble associating “analysis” with “science”. I won’t even go into sunspot activity, water vapor being a major contributor, human adaptability, the economic impact of so-called solutions, and the overblown hysteria created by the likes of Al Gore.

  3. #3 Julie Stahlhut
    September 7, 2006

    Disclaimer: I’m neither a Republican nor a conservative myself, so this is obviously pure speculation on my part.

    Some of the people I know who are angriest about the current Republican administration are Republicans themselves, including a normally self-controlled friend in his late 80s whose neck veins bulge out when the names of certain Republican leaders are mentioned. These people tend to be Republicans because they’re fiscal conservatives and social libertarians — in other words, a big part of the traditional base of the Republican Party, and a disproportionate number seem to be older folks who have been Republicans for a long time. Since the current administration is fiscally clueless and decidedly authoritarian, this translates into a lot of pissed-off older Republicans.

    Also, lots of entrepreneurial types (many of them inveterate techies) gravitate towards what I’ve heard called the Chamber of Commerce wing of the Republican Party, and a leadership that squelches science and can’t seem to tell a hypothesis from a prayer doesn’t go over especially well with that demographic.

  4. #4 modusoperandi
    September 7, 2006

    You wouldn’t have this problem if science lined up with the bible once in a while…

  5. #5 Davis
    September 8, 2006

    I have seen as much “science” against global warming as I have seen for it.

    I hate to start this particular discussion, but I also hate to see this statement go unchallenged. To my knowledge, there are very, very few published, peer-reviewed papers contradicting the consensus view of anthropogenic global warming. (All the issues you cite either have been refuted, or do not contradict the existence or cause of global warming.)

    If you turn to non-peer-reviewed literature, focus on a small minority of scientists taking a contradictory view, or overemphasize the uncertainties, you are playing exactly the politicization game that Chris illuminates in his book.

  6. #6 Andrew Dodds
    September 8, 2006

    Mike –

    If you are claiming that sunspot activity has a strong effect on climate, then I’d like to see the references. This particular issue has been evading climatologists like soap in the bath for the past century.

    As far as water vapour goes, you’ll notice that water vapour has a very short residence time in the atmosphere (we call it ‘rain’); hence it cannot drive climate; it can only respond to -and amplify – changes.

    The ‘hockey stick’ had been independantly replicated from several different data sets. If you have any evidence that several different authors all fixed the data to come to a pre-ordained conclusion, then either present it or shut up.

    You are right to say that humans can adapt. Adaptation costs money. In the case of coastal cities, it can cost the entire capital cost of all the buildings and infrastructure in that city. In the case of agriculture, it can cause the complete loss of output for a region. These are not cheap items.

    Perhaps the funniest thing is, though, the idea that reducing CO2 emissions would be a very expensive thing to do. Now, I hate to point out something completely obvious, but nuclear generated electric is now (slightly) cheaper than coal, let alone oil or gas fired plants, the cost of which is spiraling out of sight. We could talk about the use of large scale off-peak electricity usage in synthetic fuel generation from waste.. but I suspect you’d be so far out of your depth that the fish would have lights on.

    Hmmm. Summary: More money in your pocket. Less Money in terrorist’s pockets. Keep your cars and AC. Problems?

  7. #7 James
    September 8, 2006

    I myself had been somewhat sceptical about global warming, I did not realise the hockey stick had been corroborated, your point is noted. Of course the problem is that as I am not a climatologist I have to rely on the media for my information, which on global warming basically means the environmentalist NGOs. Now I’m pretty sure they are exaggerating, porbably by taking possible but unlikely scenarios and presenting them as the most likely.

    Now to my area of expertise, economics (including environmental economics). Kyoto and its successor will not work. They won’t work because governments cannot form binding agreements. This means that for a Kyoto-type agreement to work there would have to be a near-universal international political consensus on global warming for about 100 years. That will not happen.

    The solutions to global warming are technological. Nuclear power is good (though visciously opposed in my country) and I’ve heard that Thorium reactors could even reduce the waste problem. If a sufficiently efficient biomass fuel could be developed that would also solve the problem. Honestly I doubt global warming will be a problem simply because technological progress will stop it in plenty of time, especially if Western governments abandon Kyoto and put the money into more research. Following this idea the Republicans could oppose Kyoto on a pro-science basis if they wanted to.

  8. #8 linnen
    September 8, 2006

    Here is a starting point for your hockey stick discussions.

  9. #9 Lance Harting
    September 10, 2006

    Mann’s hockey stick has been shown to be meaningless and most if not all of the other studies that give similar results use many of the same proxies as MHB 98.

    Climate variability is the norm not a dangerous aberration. The fact that climate change is so emotionally defended by people that do little more than read the popular press shows that politics are at play, not scientific sensibilities.

    No causal link between increased CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and increased average global temperaure has been conclusively demonstrated. That is a plain and simple fact.

    The modest one degree increase in mean global temperature over the last 100 years is hardly reason for drastic concern. Claims of huge increases over the next century are based on climate models that have not proven accurate when compared with the climate history of the past two decades.

    A computer model is only as good as the equations and parameters that are used to create it. No serious climate scientist would claim that the mechanisms that determine the climate for the next 100 years are known to any degree of accuracy.

    That only leaves the “precautionary principle”. This is pretty much the idea that if some one makes a claim that what you are doing is dangerous, but can’t back it up with proof, that you have to yeild to them “just in case” or you are reckless or even immoral. Then they usually throw in “the future of our children” for a below the belt emotional punch.

    While this is unfortunately effective from a political stand point it hardly stands up to the scientific method or even logic for that matter.

    If you visit Mooney’s website you will find he and his cronies, poised vulture-like, eagerly awaiting the next “killer storm” hurricane to blame on anthropogenic climate change. They have been deeply disappointed in the so far meager hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin. They tracked Loke in the pacific for a while hoping he (she?) would clobber a major Asian city so they could blame Bush and the oil companies for destroying our planet.

    I guess it’s possible that Mooney is an avid amateur tropical storm enthusiast. After spending quite a bit of time in discussions at his site I get the impression that his true interests lie in blaming republicans for bad weather.

    I have no argument with the main premise of Mooney’s book I just think he and the “progressives” are just as likely to misrepresent or ignore science if it conflicts with their politics. A case of the pot calling the kettle black I’m afraid.

  10. #10 Orac
    September 10, 2006

    Mann’s hockey stick has been shown to be meaningless and most if not all of the other studies that give similar results use many of the same proxies as MHB 98.

    Really? Not exactly. I suggest that you take a look at Deltoid and Real Climate for a while.

  11. #11 Lance Harting
    September 10, 2006

    Hi Orac,

    I stumbled in here from a link at Chris Mooney’s blog. I know absolutely nothing about you or this blog. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are a reasonable and unbiased scientist. I consider this high praise and aspire to it myself.

    If you are basing your opinion of MHB 98 and MHB 99 on what you have read at Mann’s own Real Climate you have made a serious mistake. This is akin to going to the Aryan Nation website to check to see if those boys are a fair and evenhanded bunch.

    Ofcourse Mann and his band of merry men are going to poo poo any criticism, even if it comes from unimpeachable experts from the science of statistics, like Wegman et al, or the National Science Foundation.

    Deltoid is primarily a political blog. Of course, from what I can tell, so is Seed. Which is fine but you shouldn’t base the scientific validity of a study on what you read at a political blog.

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