tfk https://scienceblogs.com/author/tfk/feed en ID and the age of the earth https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2013/04/12/id-and-the-age-of-the-earth <span>ID and the age of the earth</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Disco. 'tute "research" director Casey Luskin is sad. <a href="http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/04/if_only_this_co071141.html">Congressional Quarterly wrote about creationism and didn't say nice things about "intelligent design" creationism</a>. Casey insists that ID shouldn't be lumped in with young earth creationism or geocentrism, asserting:</p> <blockquote><p>the vast majority of leaders of the ID movement accept the conventional age of the Earth and the universe</p></blockquote> <p>This is a tough claim to judge, and Casey's word choice here is interesting. Calling the best scientific estimates of the age of the earth "conventional" leaves Casey wiggle room: does he regard 4.54 billion years as a mere "convention," or as a well-tested and solid assessment based on multiple lines of evidence? </p> <p>If Casey's stance is ambiguous, that of his bosses (the "leaders of the ID movement") is even moreso.  Disco. 'tute fellow Paul Nelson has described the ID movement as a "<a href="http://www.equip.org/PDF/DL303.pdf">big tent</a>" encompassing young earth creationists like himself, along with creationists who are more prepared to accept the geological evidence.</p> <p>Stephen Meyer, Casey's boss and a subject of much of Casey's blog post, was asked about his age of the earth in 2005, during the Kansas kangaroo court. This was a bizarre hearing that the state board of education held, using quasi-courtroom rules, in which various people were asked to testify against the standards written by expert teachers and scientists and in favor of a creationist alternative.</p> <p><img style="float: right;" title="meyertestifies.JPG" src="/files/tfk/files/2013/04/meyertestifies.jpg" alt="Stephen Meyer testifies at the Kansas Kangaroo court, 5/6/2005 John Calvert is in the foreground and Pedro Irigonegaray appears at the right edge of the stage." width="350" height="210" border="0" /></p> <p>Meyer didn't appear in person, instead phoning in while a photo of his giant noggin was projected onto a screen. <a href="http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo8.html#p3555">Pedro Irigonegaray cross examined Meyer</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Q. I have a few questions for you first that I want to establish for the record. In your opinion, your personal opinion, what is the age of the earth?</p> <p>A. Do you want my personal-- why are you asking me about my personal--</p> <p>Q. You're here to answer my questions. First of all, what is your personal opinion as to what the age of the earth is?</p> <p>A. I understood I was being called as an expert witness.</p> <p>Q. What is your personal opinion as to what the age of the earth is?</p> <p>A. I'm unclear. I understand--</p> <p>Q. The question is simple. What is, in your opinion, the age of the earth?</p> <p>A. Well, I'm just wanting to clarify the ground rules here. I thought I was being called as an expert witness, so why are you asking me about my personal--</p> <p>Q. That's not the issue. Now, please answer my question. What is your personal--</p> <p>A. I would like to understand the ground rules first. Why am I being asked about--</p> <p>MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Mr. Chairman, if he's not going to answer my questions, I'd ask that his testimony be stricken from the record.</p> <p>A. I'm happy to answer your question. I'd like to know why you're asking about--</p> <p>Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) The "why" is not for you to determine.</p> <p>MR. SISSON [a lawyer speaking against the evolution standards]: Mr. Chairman, I understand Mr. Meyer's request to reflect some confusion about the ground rules, and it is quite appropriate for him to ask that the chair of the committee, namely yourself, speak to him concerning the appropriate ground rules. Thank you.</p> <p>CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Dr. Meyer, can you hear me now?</p> <p>A. Yes, sir.</p> <p>CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: My name is Steve Abrams, chairman of the science subcommittee. And even though these hearings have been called about the Kansas science curriculum standards and particularly how they relate to the minority report and particularly to the question of the philosophical claims and the religious claims of science and how to teach science in Kansas, we are allowing the counsel for the majority and the counsel of the minority great latitude in trying to establish their case. And Mr. Irigonegaray has elected to ask virtually every question-- every witness questions about their personal opinions about certain things. And so we have granted him that latitude, and so I would say that's where we're going.</p> <p>A. You would like me to cooperate with that?</p> <p>CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: You can either answer "yes," "no," or "I don't know," or whatever you want to do, but that-- yes, I'd like you to cooperate.</p> <p>A. It's a transparently obvious strategy to impeach the credibility of your witnesses, but I will cooperate. So my answer to your question, Pedro, is that I-- my personal opinions and my professional opinions are the same. I think the earth is 4.6 billion years old. I think the universe is--</p> <p>Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) No, just the earth. I didn't ask you about the universe.</p> <p>A. My opinion of--</p> <p>Q. Mr. Meyer, please just answer my question. I'm not asking you other opinions.</p> <p>MR. SISSON: I'd simply request to make a point here, ask the Chairman if I may make a point. Mr. Chairman, would you instruct the witness that there is no subpoena power here and that he is under no compulsion to answer and he would suffer no penalty if he chose to decline to answer.</p> <p>CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: He can answer the questions to his extent. However, we would like you to answer them.</p> <p>A. Does that mean I can say something else about the age of the earth?</p> <p>CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: Mr. Irigonegaray is going to ask the questions that he thinks important and he may repeat the question. And he will ask-- my guess is it will be a yes or a no answer or some side of an answer like that. If you feel comfortable answering that, say "yes," or if you don't know, say you don't know, whatever it is. I mean, be truthful and answer however you feel comfortable answering.</p> <p>A. Right. But may I say anything more about the age of the earth, then?</p> <p>Q. (BY MR. IRIGONEGARAY) I'm the one asking questions here, Mr. Meyer, and all you need to do is to answer my question.</p> <p>A. Okay. I think the age of the earth is 4.6 billion years old. That's both my personal and my professional opinion. I speak as someone who is trained as a geophysicist--</p> <p>Q. I'm not asking you about that. I just asked you for a number, and you have given it to me.</p> <p>A. Okay. That's all you want is the number?</p> <p>Q. My questions are pretty clear, Mr. Meyer.</p> </blockquote> <p>In the end, yes, Meyer endorsed something close enough to the standard scientific estimate of the earth's age, but it took several minutes and he worked mightily to avoid answering the question.  Not quite as bad as <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/11/19/im-not-a-scientist-man-is-marco-rubios-science-denial-stupid/">Senator Rubio's comments last year</a>, but still pretty awful.  That he got to the right place in the end is less interesting than his evasiveness on the topic. Other witnesses during the three days of the hearing were more forthcoming, and most did endorse something like 4.5 billion years. A few rejected that number. For instance, <a href="http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo4.html#p1808">John Sanford</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Q. And what is that personal opinion specifically as to the age? And I'm interested only in the age, not an explanation.</p> <p>A. I believe that I was wrong in my previous belief that it's 4.5 billion years old and that it's much younger.</p> <p>Q. How old is the earth, in your opinion?</p> <p>A. I cannot intelligently say how old it is except it's much younger than I think widely believed.</p> <p>Q. Give me your best estimate.</p> <p>A. Less than 100,000 years old.</p> <p>Q. Less than 10,000?</p> <p>A. Conceivably.</p> <p>Q. Conceivably less than 10,000?</p> <p>A. Yes.</p> <p>Q. Conceivably less than 5,000?</p> <p>A. No.</p> <p>Q. So it's somewhere between 5 and 10,000 years of age?</p> <p>A. Between 5 and 100,000. But I would like to--</p> <p>Q. No, I'm asking the questions.</p> </blockquote> <p>Roger DeHart took <a href="http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo6.html#p2626">the same approach</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Q. Mr. DeHart, I have, excuse me, a few questions for the record that I would like to ask you first.</p> <p>A. Yes, sir.</p> <p>Q. And I'm going to ask you first how old, in your opinion, is the world?</p> <p>A. I'm going to answer like Dr. Sanford earlier, I would say between probably a lot younger than most people think.</p> <p>Q. That doesn't say anything to me. What is your opinion in years the age of the earth?</p> <p>A. I'm fine with 5,000 to 100,000.</p> <p>Q. You're fine with 5,000 to 100,000?</p> <p>A. Correct.</p> </blockquote> <p>Bryan Leonard was <a href="http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo5.html#p2181">notably cagy</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Q. All right. I have a few questions that I want to ask you for the record. First, what is your opinion as to what the age of the world is?</p> <p>A. I really don't have an opinion.</p> <p>Q. You have no opinion as to what the age of the world is?</p> <p>A. Four to four point five billion years is what I teach my students.</p> <p>Q. I'm asking what is your opinion as to what the age of the world is?</p> <p>A. 'Um, I was asked to come out here to talk about my experiences as a high school biology teacher.</p> <p>Q. I'm asking you, sir --</p> <p>A. I was not under the impression that I was asked to come out here --</p> <p>Q. I'm asking you --</p> <p>A. -- talking about --</p> <p>Q. -- sir, what is your personal opinion as to what the age of the world is?</p> <p>A. Four-- four to four point five billion years is what I teach my students, sir.</p> <p>Q. That's not my question. My question is, what is your personal opinion as to what the age of the world is?</p> <p>A. Again, I was under the impression to come out here and talk about my professional experience --</p> <p>Q. Is there a difference?</p> <p>A. -- more of --</p> <p>Q. Is there a difference between your personal opinion and what you teach students the age of the world is?</p> <p>A. Four to four point five billion years is what I teach my students, sir.</p> <p>Q. Is-- my question is, is there a difference between your personal opinion and what you teach your students?</p> <p>A. Again, you're putting a spin on the question is-- you know, now I'll spin any answer, sir, to say that my opinion is irrelevant. Four to four point five billion years is what I teach my students.</p> <p>Q. The record will reflect your answer.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo5.html#p2380">Dan Ely was "struggling"</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Q. Welcome to Kansas. I have a few questions for the record for you. First I have a group of yes or no questions that I would like for you to answer, please. What is your opinion as to the age of the earth?</p> <p>A. In light of time I would say most of the evidence that I see, I read and I understand points to an old age of the earth.</p> <p>Q. And how old is that age?</p> <p>A. I don't know. I just know what I read with regards to data. It looks like it's four billion years.</p> <p>Q. And is that your personal opinion?</p> <p>A. No. My personal opinion is I really don't know. I'm struggling.</p> <p>Q. You're struggling with what the age of the earth is?</p> <p>A. Yeah. Yeah. I'm not sure. There's a lot of ways to measure the age. Meteorites is one way. There's a lot of elements used. There's a lot of assumptions can be used and those assumptions can be challenged so I don't really know.</p> <p>Q. What is the range that you are instructing?</p> <p>A. I think the range we heard today, somewhere between 5,000 and four billion.</p> <p>Q. You-- you-- you believe the earth may be as young as 5,000 years old. Is that correct?</p> <p>A. Well, we're learning that there's such a thing as junc --</p> <p>Q. Sir, answer --</p> <p>A. -- really has a function.</p> <p>Q. Just please answer my question, sir.</p> <p>A. We're learning a lot about micro --</p> <p>Q. Sir?</p> <p>MR. IRIGONEGARAY: Mr. Abrams, please instruct the witness to answer the question.</p> <p>CHAIRMAN ABRAMS: I think --</p> <p>Q. (By Mr. Irigonegaray) The question was-- and winking at him is not going to do you any good. Answer my question. Do you believe the earth may be as young as 5,000 years old?</p> <p>A. It could be.</p> </blockquote> <p>Nancy Bryson offered <a href="http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo7.html#p3195">a similarly broad range</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Q. I have a few questions for you that I'd like to place on the record first, please. The first thing I'd like to ask you is what is your personal opinion as to what the age of the world is?</p> <p>A. I'm undecided.</p> <p>Q. What is your best guess?</p> <p>A. I'm totally undecided.</p> <p>Q. Give me your best range.</p> <p>A. Anywhere from 4.5 billion years to ten thousand years.</p> <p>Q. And, of course, you have reached that conclusion based on the best scientific evidence available?</p> <p>A. Yes.</p> </blockquote> <p>Angus Menuge steadfastly <a href="http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/kansas/kangaroo8.html#p3781">refused to answer</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Q. Sir, I have a few questions that I'd like to ask you for the record, please. What is your personal opinion as to what the age of the earth is?</p> <p>A. I don't know. And that's my final answer.</p> <p>Q. Do you have an opinion as to what the age of the earth is?</p> <p>A. I'm not giving an opinion.</p> <p>Q. I didn't hear you.</p> <p>A. I am not giving an opinion.</p> <p>Q. You don't have any personal opinion as to what the age of the earth is?</p> <p>A. I have no opinion.</p> <p>Q. Do you find that to be rather an oddity since you consider yourself an expert on all of these areas?</p> </blockquote> <p>These were folks invited to testify as the voice of the ID movement, the public leaders. And while many did endorse the best scientific understanding of the age of the earth, many didn't, or were remarkably slithery in their statements. </p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Fri, 04/12/2013 - 05:52</span> Fri, 12 Apr 2013 09:52:06 +0000 tfk 103623 at https://scienceblogs.com Polls and the line between truth and conspiracy theory https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2013/04/05/polls-and-the-line-between-truth-and-conspiracy-theory <span>Polls and the line between truth and conspiracy theory</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>In <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2013/04/04/vaccines-and-the-republican-war-on-science/">the poll on conspiracy theories I mentioned a few days ago</a>, I mostly focused on the item about vaccines, mentioning in passing the fact that Democrats (and liberals) bought into far fewer conspiracy theories than Republicans (or conservatives). I didn't point out that, of the "conspiracy theories" Democrats were more likely to accept, several require a rather fine parsing to register as conspiracy theories (rather than simply an over-broad but accurate account of history).</p> <p>For instance, the <a href="http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_National_ConspiracyTheories_040213.pdf">PPP poll asked</a> whether "the CIA was instrumental in distributing crack cocaine into America’s inner cities in the 1980s." There's no doubt at this point, as even the CIA acknowledges, that contractors the CIA sponsored to bring guns to the Contras were hauling drugs back. The CIA claims to have been shocked (shocked!) that the smugglers they employing could possibly be smuggling drugs, and denies helping these smugglers evade the DEA. Whether you believe that or not, there's no doubt that the CIA was helping the folks who were moving drugs, especially cocaine, into the country. Does that make the CIA "instrumental"? Probably not, but is that a distinction you make when a pollster's recording is on the phone with you?  (For what it's worth, political Independents were the most likely to agree with that poll item.)</p> <p>These subtle shades of meaning are even more important on the question about whether "President Bush intentionally misled the public about the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to promote the Iraq war." As a simple historical matter, President Bush, his administration, and other advocates for war definitely made false claims about Iraq's WMDs; the main justification for war was the claim that those weapons – and programs to create more – existed, but they didn't. After the invasion, extensive and unhindered investigations found no evidence of active nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons programs, nor of usable stockpiles.</p> <p>To <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/04/bush-lying-about-wmds-conspiracy-theory">turn this factual assessment into a conspiracy theory liberals might endorse</a>, PPP adds a layer to the question, asking whether President Bush "intentionally misled." It's a question of mental state: did he know his claims were false, or did he craft a biased process for gathering and vetting intelligence that generated biased evidence and analysis, thus allowing him and his staff to overestimate and overstate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein? Posed with that question, 14% of Democrats felt that President Bush didn't lie (15% were unsure), while 73% of Republicans felt he didn't lie.  Quite a gap.</p> <p>A big part of that gap comes because of a counterfactual belief that's widespread in Republican circles: the belief that Saddam Hussein really did possess weapons of mass destruction.  <a href="http://www.dartmouth.edu/~benv/files/poll%20responses%20by%20party%20ID.pdf">A survey from Dartmouth</a>, conducted in late April, 2012, found that 63% of Republicans agreed that: "Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the United States invaded in 2003."  By contrast, 63% of Democrats correctly recalled that there were, in fact, no WMDs in Iraq when we invaded (15% thought there were WMDs, 22% were unsure). That partisan difference in factual knowledge shows up consistently in public opinion polls ever since the invasion.</p> <p>So, combining those polls, we learn that 63% of Republicans think there were WMDs in Iraq, and an additional 10% (give or take the margin of error) know there weren't, but want to give George W. Bush credit for having fooled himself into believing the BS he was selling.</p> <p>Combining those polls gets tricky though, since more Democrats seem to think Bush lied (per the PPP poll) than think there weren't WMDs in Iraq (in the earlier poll). I'd guess that the strong wording of the question triggered a stronger partisan, even tribal response. Republicans were more likely to try to defend Bush, while Democrats were more likely to vilify him.</p> <p>You can see this effect in the question about climate change, which 58% of Republicans in the PPP survey said was "a hoax." But that same week, <a href="http://environment.yale.edu/climate/files/Republican_Views_on_Climate_Change.pdf">a new survey</a> from the researchers who produce the "Six Americas" assessment of public opinion on climate change showed that only a quarter of Republicans or Republican-leaning Independents think climate change is not happening. Half know that it <em>is</em> happening, and more – 6 in 10 – think we should do something about it.</p> <p>Again, phrasing the question in a more politicized way and in stronger terms made people more likely to reject the science. The Six Americas survey defined climate change carefully, as "the idea that the world’s average temperature has been increasing over the past 150 years, may be increasing more in the future, and that other aspects of the world’s climate may change as a result." That careful, scientific framing strips the issue of its political context: it isn't a question about economic policy or allegiance to a partisan agenda. Asking whether "global warming" (the more politicized term) is a "hoax" taps into the partisan framing. Senator James Inhofe has used that phrase as a book title and in Senate hearings, to attack both the science of climate change and the policies proposed to address it.</p> <p>While you might expect that stronger charges would attract less support – logically, the subset of people who think global warming is a hoax ought to be nested within, and therefore smaller than the subset who think it isn't happening – we see that they don't. Placing charges into a political context draws in people who know that the underlying factual claim is wrong, but still want to endorse their tribe's position. <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/11/19/im-not-a-scientist-man-is-marco-rubios-science-denial-stupid/">As I've said before</a>, it's often worth being wrong in order to maintain group membership.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Fri, 04/05/2013 - 15:12</span> Fri, 05 Apr 2013 19:12:35 +0000 tfk 103622 at https://scienceblogs.com Vaccines and the Republican War on Science https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2013/04/04/vaccines-and-the-republican-war-on-science <span>Vaccines and the Republican War on Science</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>Ever since Chris Mooney's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0465046762/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0465046762&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=thoughtsfromk-20"><em>Republican War on Science</em></a> was published in 2005, folks have been looking for a way to argue that Democrats are just as bad. The standard example for this counternarrative, one which Mooney even offered in his book, was vaccine denial – the claim that vaccines cause autism or are otherwise dangerous.</p> <p>Intuitively, this seems right. The folks and venues touting antivaxx conspiracy theories tended to be New Agey outlets, and the places facing outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases tended to be liberal strongholds, like Boulder, CO or Marin County, CA.  That must mean liberals are more likely to buy into vaccine denial, right? Unfortunately, no pollster ever seemed to include a question about vaccine denial in a survey along with questions about political party or political ideology.</p> <p>Until recently.</p> <p>Yesterday, Public Policy Polling, an outfit known for asking wacky but surprisingly informative questions, <a href="http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/PPP_Release_National_ConspiracyTheories_040213.pdf">asked people about a host of conspiracy theories</a>.  The Atlantic Wire's Philip Bump <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/04/12-million-americans-believe-lizard-people-run-our-country/63799/">summarizes the results nicely</a>, and there's much to return to here.  For our purposes, the most interesting outcome is that 26% of Republicans think vaccines cause autism, compared to 16% of Democrats (that's on p. 21 of <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/04/12-million-americans-believe-lizard-people-run-our-country/63799/">the PDF</a>).  </p> <p>Indeed, the only claimed conspiracies which Democrats were more likely to back than Republicans were: "the moon landing was faked" (D: 7%, R: 4%, I: 9%, all within the margin of error), "President Bush intentionally misled the public about the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to promote the Iraq war" (D: 72%, R: 13%, I: 48%), "the CIA was instrumental in distributing crack cocaine into America’s inner cities in the 1980s" (D: 14%, R: 9%, I: 21%), "Paul McCartney actually died in a car crash in 1966 and was secretly replaced by a lookalike so The Beatles could continue" (D: 7%, R: 4% I: 5%, inside the margin of error), "the United States government knowingly allowed the attacks on September 11th, 2001, to happen" (D: 14%, R: 8%, I: 12%). Republicans are more likely to believe in aliens and in bigfoot, that aliens crashed at Roswell and shape-shifting reptiles rule our world, that Saddam Hussein played a role in 9/11 and a secretive power elite secret rules the world, that the government adds mind control messages to TV signals, sprays evil chemicals into the air, and fluoridates water for nefarious purposes, that bin Laden is alive and Oswald didn't act alone, that pharmaceutical companies invent new diseases to make money and vaccines cause autism. They also are more likely to think President Obama is the anti-Christ and global warming is a hoax.  Republicans endorse more conspiracy theories, and with greater fervor, than Democrats (even stretching back to conspiracies of yesteryear, like McCartney's supposed death or <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CIA_and_Contras_cocaine_trafficking_in_the_US">the CIA's ambiguous role in the Contras' drug dealing</a>).</p> <p><a href="http://today.yougov.com/news/2012/12/05/public-support-vaccination-remains-strong/">According to a survey last December</a>, Republicans aren't just more likely to think vaccines cause autism, they are also less likely than Democrats to think "the schedule of vaccines recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services is safe."  At the time, Adam Berinsky, the researcher who commissioned the survey, suggested that Republicans' negative reaction might simply be "a result of the interaction between anti-government sentiment among Republicans and the mention of a government agency in the question." Yet that survey also found that Republicans were more likely to think vaccines were associated with autism, cancer, and heart disease (and less likely to link it with diabetes). </p> <p>Berinsky compared those conspiratorial beliefs with another conspiracy theory, finding that people who are less trusting of the vaccine schedule <a href="http://today.yougov.com/news/2012/12/10/birthers-and-vaccinations/">are more likely to think President Obama wasn't born in the United States</a>.  In other words, belief in one conspiracy seems to predispose you to others.  Democrats who were more dubious of the vaccination schedule were <em>also</em> more likely to doubt that the President was born where all evidence indicates he was born.  This parallels findings from Australian researchers including Stephan Lewandowsky, who found that <a href="http://websites.psychology.uwa.edu.au/labs/cogscience/documents/LskyetalPsychScienceinPressClimateConspiracy.pdf">people who endorsed conspiracy theories like the CIA assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr., or NASA faking the moon landing are more likely to reject climate change</a>. (Lewandowsky's paper itself inspired such a fury of conspiracy-mongering that he was able to generate <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/03/26/1778421/denier-deja-vu-conspiracy-theories-in-the-blogosphere-in-response-to-research-on-conspiracy-theories/">another paper about the conspiracy theories spawned by the first</a>.)</p> <p>I wrote to Berinsky to ask whether he'd compared vaccine denial with other conspiracy theories, like creationism or climate change denial, and he was able to make a comparison with climate change denial. "As you would expect," he told me, "anti-vaccine people are climate change deniers."</p> <p>That's what you'd expect from the evidence that conspiracy-mongering begets conspiracy-mongering. It's not what you'd expect if you shoehorn vaccine denial into the role of a liberal counterpart to conservative science denial.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Wed, 04/03/2013 - 21:02</span> Thu, 04 Apr 2013 01:02:12 +0000 tfk 103621 at https://scienceblogs.com An evolution the GOP likes https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2013/04/02/an-evolution-the-gop-likes <span>An evolution the GOP likes</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>"The president says that the jury's out on evolution. Here in New Jersey, we're counting on it."</p> <p style="text-align: right;">–<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/21/arts/music/21bruc.html?pagewanted=print&amp;pagewanted=all">Bruce Springsteen</a>, May 21, 2005 </p> <p>"Folks in Dover [PA] aren't sure about evolution. Here in New Jersey, we're counting on it."</p> <p style="text-align: right;">–<a href="http://aclupa.blogspot.com/2008/08/boss-hearts-dover.html">Bruce Springsteen</a>, August, 2005</p> <p>"This issue [marriage equality] is in a state of evolution."</p> <p style="text-align: right;">–Hillary Clinton for Senate spokesperson Karen Dunn, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/03/18/how-hillary-clinton-evolved-on-gay-marriage/">July 3, 2003</a></p> <p> </p> <p>"I have been to this point unwilling to sign on to same-sex marriage primarily because of my understandings of the traditional definitions of marriage. But I also think you’re right that attitudes evolve, including mine."</p> <p style="text-align: right;">–President Barack Obama, <a href="http://americablog.com/2010/10/transcript-of-q-and-a-with-the-president-about-dadt-and-same-sex-marriage.html">October 27, 2010</a></p> <p>"We cannot afford to be imprisoned by politics that say your views are not allowed to grow as you gain knowledge and experience. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging you’ve changed your mind when your views have evolved. Don’t we pride ourselves on learning by living?"</p> <p style="text-align: right;">–Sen. John Kerry, <a href="http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2011/07/10/politicians_have_the_right_to_evolve_on_gay_marriage/">July 10, 2011</a> op-ed titled, "Politicians have the right to evolve on gay marriage"</p> <p>“That was my timetable, that was my home state,” Boxer said. “That’s how I evolved. Vice President Biden evolved on his timetable, and President Obama evolved on his timetable.”</p> <p style="text-align: right;">–Sen. Barbara Boxer, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/noting-personal-beliefs-reid-says-gay-marriage-should-be-left-to-states/2012/05/09/gIQAlbwDEU_print.html">May 9, 2012</a></p> <p>"I support marriage equality because it is the fair and right thing to do. Like many Virginians and Americans, my views on gay marriage have evolved, and this is the inevitable extension of my efforts to promote equality and opportunity for everyone."</p> <p style="text-align: right;">–Sen. Mark Warner, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/MarkRWarner/posts/10151583789527853">March 25, 2013</a></p> <p>“I’ve got two young sons who, when I ask them and their friends how they feel about gay marriage, kinda give me one of those looks like, ‘Gosh mom, why are you even asking that question?’ The term ‘evolving view’ has been perhaps overused, but I think it is an appropriate term for me to use.”</p> <p style="text-align: right;">–Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/03/28/lisa-murkowskis-views-on-gay-marriage-evolving/">March 28, 2013</a></p> <p>“I don’t support the gay marriage. My [gay] son is by far one of the most important people in my life. I love him more than I can say. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect, it doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with some of the issues. It just means I haven’t evolved to that stage.”</p> <p style="text-align: right;">–Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz) to KTVK, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/04/01/rep-matt-salmon-gay-son-hasnt-changed-my-views-on-gay-marriage/">March 29, 2012</a></p> <p>The <em>Washington Post</em>'s Rachel Weiner <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/04/02/why-evolution-is-a-win-for-gay-marriage/">assembled those quotes on "evolving" views on gay marriage</a>, and discusses why the term works so well there:</p> <blockquote><p>Evolution implies forward movement and change; once a politician starts to evolve, the implication is that he or she won’t stop. So for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to describe herself as “<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/03/28/lisa-murkowskis-views-on-gay-marriage-evolving/">evolving</a>” implies that she will come to one day support gay marriage. Likewise, for Salmon to say he hasn’t evolved implies some failing on his part. …</p> <p>When politicians say they’ve evolved, it not only gives them political cover; it flatters voters who have changed their views but don’t want to be told that they were ever wrong. …</p> <p>More proof: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), trying to push his party on immigration, suggested they “<a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/280207-paul-gop-needs-to-evolve-on-immigration">evolve</a>.”</p> </blockquote> <p> Rand Paul, of course, is has been squirrelly about his views on evolution itself, <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2010/06/29/rand-paul-doesnt-know-how-old/">refusing to even tell a group of home schoolers how old he thinks the earth might be</a>. I doubt you'd get any more of an endorsement of evolution from Sen. Murkowski or Rep. Salmon.  It's still nice to know that, however much they may be unsure about evolution, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/04/02/the-republican-partys-gay-marriage-catch-22/">the GOP is counting on it</a>.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Tue, 04/02/2013 - 08:01</span> Tue, 02 Apr 2013 12:01:21 +0000 tfk 103620 at https://scienceblogs.com Social movements and science denial https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2013/04/01/social-movements-and-science-denial <span>Social movements and science denial</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>The University of Notre Dame's Center for the Study of Social Movements is hosting a dialogue on science and politics, and I'm rather pleased with my contribution: "<a href="http://mobilizingideas.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/will-climate-change-denial-inherit-the-wind/">Will Climate Change Denial Inherit the Wind?</a>" Do check out <a href="http://mobilizingideas.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/4952/">the other essays in the dialogue</a>, especially <a href="http://mobilizingideas.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/the-problem-with-the-conflict-thesis/">Jeffrey Guhin's discussion</a> of some results from his observations of creationist Muslim and evangelical Christian schools in New York, and <a href="http://mobilizingideas.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/five-myths-about-science-politics-and-social-movements/">Kelly Moore's debunking</a> of 5 myths about science and politics.</p> <p>I've been noodling around with the ideas in my essay for a while, ever since reading Michael Lienesch's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/080786191X/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=080786191X&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=thoughtsfromk-20">In the Beginning</a>, which uses the Scopes trial and the rise of creationism and fundamentalism to introduce the methods of social movement theory.  In reading the book, I was struck by the power of those tools, and by parallels between the rise of creationism as a movement and what's happening now with climate change denial.  When the folks from Notre Dame wrote looking for an essay, I was glad to have an excuse to finally get those ideas down on paper (or in electrons).</p> <p>Creationism doesn't persist just because of some quirk of human cognition, nor because of religion, nor because reporters mishandle science, nor because of poor public school science classes. Creationism is a movement, and can't be understood outside the context of that movement. Creationism originated in the United States, in a particular historical milieu, and persists because the early creationists were able to link their movement to the broader rise and spread of the fundamentalist movement. By linking antievolutionism to a core part of a certain group's religious identity, and by forging strong political and cultural ties, the movement was able to establish a permanent foothold in American society, and to shape how evolution is perceived even by those outside that movement.</p> <p>It didn't have to be that way. American and British <a href="http://evolvingthoughts.net/2013/04/god-and-evolution-1/">religious communities didn't reject Darwin's ideas <em>en masse</em></a> when they were first published. Even in <em>The Fundamentals</em>, the collection of essays that established and lent its name to fundamentalism in the 1910s, many essays accepted evolution. Some accepted it entirely, others rejected common ancestry while accepting natural selection, others rejected natural selection while regarding common ancestry as obviously true, and a few rejected evolution outright.  It took the Scopes trial, the death of William Jennings Bryan (not himself a fundamentalist), and a shift in the demographics of fundamentalism for creationism to become a defining trait of fundamentalism. Once that link was established, we can trace a shift in the perception of evolution, from a scientific idea to an idea competing in the religious sphere. You see evidence of that link in public polls and in <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2011/07/15/how-well-do-miss-usa-contestan/">impromptu comments by Miss USA pageant contestants</a>.</p> <p>I think the same thing is happening with climate change, and I trace out the evidence for that process in the essay for Notre Dame. You can see it in public polling, as liberals become notably more accepting of climate science while conservatives become notably less accepting. You see it in the behavior of politicians, as many of the 2012 GOP presidential candidates had endorsed climate science and climate action in their previous public service, but during the primary felt obliged to disavow those policies, declaring them "a mistake," "clunkers," etc. Indeed, Senator Lindsey Graham, who helped write and sponsor the climate bill in 2009 wound up declaring himself unsure about climate science a year later, while Senator McCain, who pushed climate bills throughout the Bush years and in his presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2008, has opposed any such action through the Obama years.</p> <p>If it is true that climate change denial is becoming a defining trait of conservative politics in America, that would be tragic. Fortunately, I think there's cause for hope, and that's where I end <a href="http://mobilizingideas.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/will-climate-change-denial-inherit-the-wind/">the Notre Dame essay</a>, and where I'll end here.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Mon, 04/01/2013 - 07:12</span> <div class="field field--name-field-blog-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field--label">Categories</div> <div class="field--items"> <div class="field--item"><a href="/channel/social-sciences" hreflang="en">Social Sciences</a></div> </div> </div> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 11:12:58 +0000 tfk 103619 at https://scienceblogs.com Rubio walks back comments on the age of the earth https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/12/12/rubio-walks-back-comments-on-the-age-of-the-earth <span>Rubio walks back comments on the age of the earth</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>A month ago, I had <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/11/19/im-not-a-scientist-man-is-marco-rubios-science-denial-stupid/">a bit of fun at Senator Marco Rubio's expense</a> over his "I'm not a scientist, man" response to GQ's question about the age of the earth.</p> <p>I brought up his comments again in my talk last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting, to much audience amusement. It served as a perfect example of the Pillars of Science denial, and the geologists were especially intrigued by his view that the understanding the age of the earth "has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States." Accurately dating rocks and knowing how that fits into geological history is a big part of oilfield geology, not to mention hydrology and seismology, topics with fairly obvious economic relevance.</p> <p>A couple days after my talk, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org.feedsportal.com/c/34726/f/638927/s/264aa4ab/l/0Lthinkprogress0Borg0Celection0C20A120C120C0A50C12847910Cmarco0Erubio0Ethe0Eearth0Eis0Eat0Eleast0E450Ebillion0Eyears0Eold0C/story01.htm">Rubio clarified his view in an interview with Mike Allen</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>RUBIO: There is no scientific debate on the age of the earth. I mean, it’s established pretty definitively, it’s at least 4.5 billion years old. I was referring to a theological debate, which is a pretty health debate. And the theological debate is … how do you reconcile with what science has definitively established with what you may think your faith teaches. Now for me, actually, when it comes to the age of the earth, there is no conflict. I believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And I think that scientific advances have given us insight into when he did it and how he did it, but I still believe God did it…. I just think in America we should have the freedom to teach our children whatever it is we believe. And that means teaching them science, they have to know the science, but also parents have the right to teach them the theology and to reconcile the two things.</p></blockquote> <p><iframe src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/TgkyOnnFXPA" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>Now, I think his answer is still problematic.  He doesn't seem to have changed his view about whether knowing the age of the earth has any economic value, and he still is treating science and theology as equally valid ways to answer the question "how old do you think the Earth is?"</p> <p>That's a problem, and, despite what he and <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/11/21/rubio-and-obama-compare-and-contrast/">a certain reporter at Slate</a> seem to think, it marks a clear difference between him and President Obama<span style="font-family: 'Lucida Grande';">.</span></p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Wed, 12/12/2012 - 13:34</span> Wed, 12 Dec 2012 18:34:34 +0000 tfk 103618 at https://scienceblogs.com Marriage, children, and tradition https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/12/04/marriage-children-and-tradition <span>Marriage, children, and tradition</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a href="http://thinkprogress.org.feedsportal.com/c/34726/f/638927/s/2644bd40/l/0Lthinkprogress0Borg0Clgbt0C20A120C120C0A40C12834710Cnom0Egay0Ecouples0Earent0Emonogamous0Ebecause0Ethey0Ecant0Ehave0Echildren0C/story01.htm">ThinkProgress reports</a> on an interview with Jennifer Roback Morse of the National Organization for Marriage [sic].  The explain:</p> <blockquote><p>Jennifer Roback Morse of the National Organization for Marriage’s Ruth Institute <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/10/03/952061/nom-endorses-potential-of-ex-gay-therapy/">has</a> <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/10/10/984491/nom-doubles-down-on-ex-gay-therapy-lifetime-celibacy-for-gays/">been</a> <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/11/08/1164691/nom-surrogates-marriage-equality-will-destroy-societys-future/">particularly</a> <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/11/26/1233911/nom-now-warning-against-young-people-having-gay-friends/">vocal</a> over the past few months, promoting ex-gay therapy and suggesting that young people <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/11/26/1233911/nom-now-warning-against-young-people-having-gay-friends/">not have gay friends</a>. In an interview published in Salvo Magazine in September, she was <a href="http://www.ruthblog.org/2012/12/03/to-make-a-family-an-interview-with-dr-jennifer-roback-morse/">quite candid</a> about the archaic stereotypes about same-sex couples that inform her anti-gay positions:</p></blockquote> <p>Morse tells Salvo:</p> <blockquote><p>MORSE: If you look at same-sex couples, both at what they say and their behavior, neither permanence nor sexual exclusivity plays the same significant role. In other words, if you’re in a union that’s intrinsically not procreative, sexual exclusivity is not as important. Once you start thinking like that, you’ll see that everything people offer as reasons why same-sex couples should be “allowed” to get married—all of the reasons are private purposes. Sometimes it’s nothing more than how it will make them feel. It’s not the business of law to make people feel a certain way. When you see that redefining marriage is going to, in fact, redefine the meaning of parenthood, removing biology as the basis for parenthood and replacing it with legal constructions—then you see that there is quite a lot at stake in getting the definition of marriage right.</p> </blockquote> <p>Set aside this gross mischaracterization of the monogamous capabilities of same-sex couples, and her naive claim that marriages are now or ever were, as a practical matter, sexually exclusive. It should be noted that, despite Morse's protestations, what she's proposing is actually a dramatic redefinition of marriage, not a defense of marriage as it has been practiced in living memory.  </p> <p>Consider: My grandmother was widowed after all her children were grown, and she remarried before I and some of my cousins were born, and well after her reproductive years were over.  Her second husband had his own children and grandchildren from a previous marriage, and in time those families merged fairly completely.</p> <p>By Ms. Morse's account, Grandpa Herb wasn't really my grandfather.  She's arguing that I've redefined marriage by calling him my grandfather, and that I've redefined grandparenthood and parenthood, too.  She's arguing that because my grandparents' relationship was "intrinsically not procreative," they were probably not sexually exclusive, and that my grandparents should not have been "allowed" (her scare quotes) to get married.  Their marriage was just about "how it will make them feel," not about popping out babies, so it was somehow not worth it.  I don't agree.</p> <p>Similarly, she seems to hold that the marriages of friends of mine who are intentionally childless are worthless, as are marriages where one or more partner is physically incapable of conceiving a child.</p> <p>This justification, which is incredibly common from the marriage segregation camp, simply doesn't hold together.  It is not a defense of any modern marriage tradition.  It vaguely resembles Henry VIII's view on marriage, but to find a version of marriage that really matches what Morse describes, you may have to go back to Genesis, and <a href="http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=221672175">the story of Abraham and Sarah</a>.  God promises Abraham that he'll have a son, but the years drag on and his wife offers a suggestion:</p> <blockquote><p>Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, ‘You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived for ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived.</p> </blockquote> <p>The baby is named Ishmael, and Hagar – the slave who Abraham's first wife gave him as a second wife (traditional marriage!) – gets all uppity.  So Sarah, the first wife, gets angry and tries to kill her slave/co-wife (traditional marriage!), but God intervenes and Sarah relents. Then Sodom and Gomorrah get destroyed (in a passage much beloved by NOM), and Abraham and Sarah get even older, and Abraham lets King Abimelech steal Sarah away after claiming she's his wife, not his sister but God warns Abimelech not to mess with her and Abraham points out that she's his wife, but also his half-sister (traditional marriage!). They go on a while longer before, lo and behold!, she gets pregnant and gives birth to Isaac and starts hating on Ishmael all over again:</p> <blockquote><p>Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.’</p> </blockquote> <p>Abraham starts to object, but God tells him it's OK to go along with it because it'll all work out. Then, to quote Dylan, "God said to Abraham, 'kill me a son.' Abe said, 'man, you must be putting me on.' God said, 'no.' Abe said, 'what?' God said, 'you can do what you want, Abe, but the next time you see me coming, you better run.' Abe said, 'where you want this killing done?' and God said," well not actually "Highway 61," but you get the gist.  Tradition!</p> <p>If we hold up Abraham as a model of traditional marriage, which seems to be what NOM wants, then we have to grant that procreation seems to be essential to the enterprise, but we have to acknowledge the tradition of plural marriage, arranged marriage, and incestuous marriage, and we have to forcibly annul a bunch of loving, heterosexual marriages which cannot produce offspring.</p> <p>All this from a group which claims to be "for marriage."</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Tue, 12/04/2012 - 11:52</span> Tue, 04 Dec 2012 16:52:33 +0000 tfk 103617 at https://scienceblogs.com Happy Thanksgiving https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/11/22/happy-thanksgiving-2 <span>Happy Thanksgiving</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a href="http://www.demimonde.com/2012/11/happy-thanksgiving/">M.K. Hobson describes a very happy Thanksgiving</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>I want to share the story of a very interesting Thanksgiving had by 46 members of the <a href="http://www.demimonde.com/2012/05/the-wobblies-a-brief-history/">Industrial Workers of the World</a> (IWW) in Washington State. Having been arrested in North Yakima during a large street meeting intended to persuade apple pickers to ask for a better wage, they were taken to the decrepit Yakima City Jail, which was crawling with lice. The incarcerated men, apparently believers in due process, first voted to condemn the jail before proceeding to demolish it from the inside out.</p> <p>In response, a vigilante squad composed of 200 local businessmen armed themselves with pick and ax handles, and marched in a body to the city jail. They herded the strikers (who all were soaking wet, having gotten the business end of the local firefighters’ hoses) through the freezing winter cold to the train depot. At the depot they forced the strikers into two refrigerated railcars and ordered the train crew to remove them from town. The train crew refused.</p> <p>The impasse was ultimately solved when a representative of the State Labor Council, Edward Maurer, noted that if the IWW were prevented from organizing, then other unions (those he represented, for example) wouldn’t be able to organize either. And so, Wobbly organizing among agricultural laborers continued in the Yakima valley, with a fair amount of success, though the one big union never obtained control of area industry.</p> <p>But the end of the story for the 46 strikers was that the IWW hall, which had been closed by police, reopened in time for a Thanksgiving Day feast to be served. The repast included Direct Action Duck, Chicken a la Sabotage, Rebel Cranberries, and Liber-Tea.</p> <p>Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!</p> </blockquote> <p>Gobble gobble.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Thu, 11/22/2012 - 05:18</span> Thu, 22 Nov 2012 10:18:32 +0000 tfk 103616 at https://scienceblogs.com Rubio and Obama, compare and contrast https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/11/21/rubio-and-obama-compare-and-contrast <span>Rubio and Obama, compare and contrast</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p><a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2012/11/rubio_and_obama_and_the_age_of_earth_politicians_hedge_about_whether_universe.single.html">Slate's Daniel Engber is upset</a>.  People are making fun of Marco Rubio's "<a href="http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/11/19/im-not-a-scientist-man-is-marco-rubios-science-denial-stupid/">I'm not a scientist, man</a>" response to a question about the age of the earth, and he wants to insist that "Willful ignorance of science is a bipartisan value."  As evidence for this claim, he contrasts Rubio:</p> <blockquote><p>Q: How old do you think the Earth is?<br />A: I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.</p> </blockquote> <p>with 2008's candidate Obama, from <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kxDfJU4z2E&amp;feature=youtu.be&amp;t=9m">a speech at Pennylvania's Messiah College in 2008</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you—and maybe they already have—“Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,” what would you say?<br />A: What I've said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that's what I believe. I know there's always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don't, and I think it's a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I'm a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don't presume to know.</p> </blockquote> <p>Engber thinks these two statements are "exactly in agreement." He thinks: "Both senators refuse to give an honest answer to the question, "They both go so far as to disqualify themselves from even pronouncing an opinion," and "they both profess confusion over whether the Bible should be taken literally."</p> <p>He's wrong.</p> <p>The most important difference is the question being asked.  Rubio was asked about the age of the earth and waffled; Obama was asked about his religious beliefs and was forthright.  Rubio jumped from a geology question to the divergent views of theologians, an odd choice. Obama answered a theological question by citing theology and declining to wade into a theological dispute, a wise choice.</p> <p>Rubio chose to make an empirical question (in a secular forum) into a religious question; Obama treated a religious question (at a religious forum) as a religious question.  To ignore that essential difference in pursuit of a "both sides do it" narrative is just silly.  </p> <p>Dragging Francis Collins into the matter is doubly silly.  Engber holds up NIH director Collins to bolster his claim that science literacy doesn't matter for policymaking. Yet there's no actual argument offered to tie Francis Collins's belief miracles occur – that natural law can be suspended by a supernatural deity – to the claim about science literacy. Surely Engber isn't claiming that Collins isn't science literate, or that science literacy is irrelevant to the NIH director's work.  </p> <p>If you asked Francis Collins how old the earth is, he'd say it's 4.54 billion years old, because he's a scientist and he can remember numbers like that out to 2 decimal points.  If you asked President Obama, he might round it off to four and a half billion years old.  But neither of them would fumble the way Rubio did.</p> <p>How do we know how Obama would handle the question?  <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2008/03/31/obama-on-id/">Here's candidate Obama's conversation</a> with a Pennsylvania newspaper only 2 weeks before the forum Engber cites:</p> <blockquote><p>What’s your attitude regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools?</p> <p>A: "I’m a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state. But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science. It just means they’re two different things. And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry."</p> </blockquote> <p>Contrast that with Rubio.  Rubio endorses the creationist strategy of letting theology override science, of presenting theological views alongside science in public school science classes. Rubio hedges on the science, refusing to take a firm stance on what science is, let alone what he knows about it.  Obama takes a firm stance in support of science, distinguishing science from religion and treating both topics respectfully.  He makes clear that science – and only science – belongs in public school science classes, and dismisses the pseudoscientific claims of those who attack evolution.  <a href="http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/11/21/15334527-those-who-celebrate-science-and-those-who-dont?lite">There's simply no comparison</a>.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Wed, 11/21/2012 - 11:44</span> Wed, 21 Nov 2012 16:44:17 +0000 tfk 103615 at https://scienceblogs.com "I'm not a scientist, man": Is Marco Rubio's science denial stupid? https://scienceblogs.com/tfk/2012/11/19/im-not-a-scientist-man-is-marco-rubios-science-denial-stupid <span>&quot;I&#039;m not a scientist, man&quot;: Is Marco Rubio&#039;s science denial stupid?</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field--item"><p>After their thrashing in the 2012 elections, Republicans are casting about for a new standardbearer, and Marco Rubio is a leading candidate for that post.  One consequence of that attention is <a href="http://www.gq.com/news-politics/politics/201212/marco-rubio-interview-gq-december-2012?printable=true&amp;utm_source=dlvr.it&amp;utm_medium=twitte">this GQ interview with Rubio</a>, which includes this awesome exchange:</p> <blockquote><p>GQ: How old do you think the Earth is?</p> <p>Marco Rubio: I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says,but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that. It's one of the great mysteries.</p></blockquote> <p>Though not a scientist, man, Rubio has narrowed down the age of the earth to some collection of seven chunks of time, possibly days.  He's thus careful not to tread on the toes of young earth creationists or the various old earth creationists (gap, day age, progressive, etc.), while studiously avoiding what any scientist would actually have told him.  Seen cynically, he's trying not to annoy the various Protestant groups he'll need to win over to beat the Cory Booker/Elizabeth Warren ticket in the 2016 presidential election.</p> <p>Less cynically, this is a further example of the reality-distorting bubble that the Republican party has created.  Within the GOP, it may simply be the case that the acceptable range of views on the age of the earth has become reduced to the squabble between Henry Morris and Hugh Ross.  It's another case of "<a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2012/11/07/karl_rove_on_fox_news_the_five_stages_of_conservative_grief.html">math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better</a>."</p> <p>Another sort of cynic would reply by questioning Rubio's intellect, and not just because of his Dude-esque language.  How else do we explain a sitting Senator's who endorses creationism, let alone his claim not know how old the earth is?</p> <p>But intellect is not the way to understand Rubio, creationism, or the broader problem of science denial.  As historian <a href="http://chronicle.com/article/To-Teach-Evolution-You-Have/135832/?cid=cr&amp;utm_source=cr&amp;utm_medium=en">Adam Laats writes at the Chronicle of Higher Education</a>, "The notion that only the ignorant can oppose evolution does not hold water."  The historical evidence and modern research on creationists themselves shows that creationism's persistence is not a matter of ignorance, but a result of social psychology and informed reasoning.  Laats concludes (referring to Rep. Paul Broun's claim that evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang are "lies straight from the pit of hell"):</p> <blockquote><p>those of us who care about promoting evolution education must admit the hard truth. It is not simply that creationists such as Broun have not heard the facts about evolution. Broun—along with other informed, educated creationists—simply rejects those facts. Evolution educators do not simply need to spread the word about evolution. We need to convince and convert Americans who sincerely hold differing understandings about the nature and meaning of science.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's largely right, but I think he focuses too narrowly on science here.  Science denial isn't really about science, as I argue in <a href="https://www.cell.com/trends/microbiology/abstract/S0966-842X(12)00178-3">an essay that just came out in <em>Trends in Microbiology</em></a>. My paper, based on a talk I gave at this summer's American Society of Microbiology meetings, takes on key ideas that I think scientists need to understand to address science denials of any sort, whether they reject the science of evolution, climate change, vaccines, or the link between HIV and AIDS. </p> <p>"Science denial," I argue, "is wrong and harmful, but not antiscience nor irrational. It is driven by genuine fears and deep personal values."  I conclude, "Science denial is less about science and more about deep fears and core personal identity." That means it isn't just a matter of engaging people about the nature and meaning of science (though that's an important start). We need to understand the social forces that reinforce science denial, the social dynamic that leads people to science denial and keeps them there:</p> <blockquote><p>Recognizing and defusing the social pressures underlying science denial are key in convincing people that it is even worth considering scientific ideas that seem contrary to those of their social identity. When science denial becomes entwined with group identity, the risk of social ostracism is probably costlier than scientific error.</p> </blockquote> <p>To get past that, a key step is to find members of that same social group who accept the science at issue.  In the case of evolution, that means religious scientists and pro-science clergy.  In the case of climate change, it means business leaders and staunch conservatives.  And for vaccines, it largely means parents.</p> <p>But that outreach can happen through other communities.  The framing story of the essay is about the vaccination drive at Dragon*Con, organized by <a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;ved=0CC4QFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fhugmeimvaccinated.org%2F&amp;ei=1YGqUNiRHe30iwLG9oC4Bw&amp;usg=AFQjCNEDjwx3sbqDpiOLcRpFh0H6KPDPew">Women Thinking Free</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>You do not expect to see Draco Malfoy carrying a Hermione Granger poster, let alone one in which she touts the whooping cough vaccine. Yet at the Dragon*Con science fiction and fantasy convention, fans of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer love to dress as their favorite characters. Some of them even don costumes to spread the word about a vaccine clinic, attracting hundreds oftheir fellow attendees to get immunized. Who could say no to Draco?…</p> <p>The pro-vaccination message came not from people speaking as doctors or scientists, but from fellow members of a community promoting the public understanding of science, with a syringe in one hand and a wand in the other.</p> </blockquote> <p>And that's why it works. Science denial isn't primarily about science, it's about our communities.</p> <p><em>Trends in Microbiology</em> made the paper free access (though alas, not Open Access) so please do spread it far and wide.</p> </div> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/author/tfk">tfk</a></span> <span>Mon, 11/19/2012 - 05:32</span> Mon, 19 Nov 2012 10:32:02 +0000 tfk 103614 at https://scienceblogs.com