Thursday, April 12, 2018

on anti-science (on both the Right and the Left)


This is a slightly-edited version of an email to a colleague...
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I don't know if you're *particularly* interested in the topic we talked about the other day. But I've read on it widely and thought about it a lot. "The Left" has certainly been able to make the case in the public arena that they're paragons of virtue in this regard while "the Right" is a mess. And there's certainly a good bit of this on "the Right". But from what I can tell, the reality is somewhere between "far more complicated than that" and "leans significantly the other way". 


For one thing, there are different takes on the areas where the Right is supposedly a mess-- for those who want to read liberally. For example, on our specific topic the other day: https://www.city-journal.org/html/scott-pruitt-warrior-science-15821.html.

And of course, good people can disagree on the inherent trade-offs within, say, economic growth vs. mandated environmental quality. Of course, an economist would insist that the costs be at least acknowledged. But this is not all that common on "the Left"-- or even, in general (as is common in political economy and public policy). For example, when was the last time you heard someone talk about the benefits of global warming, well-define the benefits of policy proposals against global warming, or detail the costs of policy RX's? This is a common problem-- that is inconsistent with an emphasis on scientific thinking-- that is quite/more common on the Left.


 
And then there are the clear cases where the Left struggles with science and scientific process-- from the recent ironic and painful struggles with free speech and critical inquiry on college campuses to policy positions such as anti-nuclear and anti-GMO. Even "social issues" are relevant in this context-- with the recent de-emphasis on biology in matters of gender and elevating metaphysics over what science says about life on the topic of abortion. There's more to life than science, but one can't champion science and then conveniently downplay or ignore it!

Another great way to distinguish Liberals vs. mere Democrats and those on the Left: the latter pair downplay (or even hate) science in many ways-- and I just figured out another example! They usually don't like federalism-- allowing states to experiment with various social programs (e.g., welfare, health care/insurance). They don't want to collect data, run experiments, acknowledge the complexities at hand, etc. Not impressive; not scientific; not liberal.

1 Comments:

At April 24, 2018 at 4:07 PM , Blogger Berthold Hanisch said...

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