Trashing Science is a Bipartisan Effort

Last week when I wrote this...

This is the whole history of the climate debate, with alarmists trying one technique after another to avoid engagement.  Skeptics are funded by Exxon — Don’t listen to them, they are just shills!  The science is settled — No need for debate!  Skeptics are violent and helped kill Gabriella Giffords — everything they say is hate speech and must be ignored!

... I left one off the list -- that rather than disputing a particular scientific hypothesis,  alarmists like to claim that skeptics are engaging in a "war on science."  I suppose I could ask the author, as she tries to shift the debate from science to politics, exactly who is politicizing science.  Certainly there are skeptical morons in the Republican party who understand none of the issues and knee-jerk oppose the alarmist position.  Just as there are numerous progressive morons who claim to be all about the science while signing petitions to ban dihydrogen monoxide.  When Judith Warner chooses to focus on the morons, rather than the skeptics making scientific arguments, what is she telling us by this choice?  In fact, she tries to take the very existence of the morons as evidence no one is doing fact-based science on the skeptic side, a proposition absurd not only by its tortured logic but also because its so easy to disprove by example.

This anti-science meme has, until recently, actually been a powerful argument in the alarmist arsenal.  Not particularly for its effect on the voters at large, though it certainly helps support the in-group progressive mythology about themselves and their enemies that helps confirm their own smugness.  No, I think for years this has had an effect on scientists outside of the climate community.  Normally such scientists would not wade in to a field they know little about to express an opinion, or, God forbid, sign a petition on issues in that field.  But so many academics were fooled into believing that skeptics were actually engaging in a war on science (a la evolution denying) that they felt the need to support climate alarmists.  Their signatures on petitions did not necesarily mean they agreed with the science, but represented for them a plea of support of science itself.

As scientists from outside the climate community have begun actually looking at the science, or observing the science via the climategate emails, they are horrified by what they see, e.g. the secretiveness, the resistance to replication, and the flat out shoddy science.  Many of them are starting to understand that when they signed these petitions supporting alarmists in the name of science, they were in fact supporting Jenna Jamison in the name of chastity.

By the way, lets not forget which side of this argument began the politicization and ad hominem attacks.   I will offer just this one example, from the Economist way back in 2002 (eight years before the tea party -- and note the key quote is over 20 years old)

Stephen Schneider, [who ironically has the famously corrupt "hide the decline" chart on his personal web page] spoke we suspect not just for himself when he told Discover in 1989: “[We] are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place...To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have...Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” In other words, save science for other scientists, in peer-reviewed journals and other sanctified places. In public, strike a balance between telling the truth and telling necessary lies.

  • A question we might try asking anybody concerned about a war on science:

    "There is evidence for the existence of a natural nuclear fission reactor on Earth two billion years ago based on the nuclear waste found in rocks of that age. Do you accept such evidence and what do you think of the implications of the fact that the waste did not move with respect to the surrounding rock (in particular, the implications for nuclear waste disposal)?"

    The best part about this question is that it's even handed. It's not one of those questions designed to only reveal the idiots on one side.