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  • A BOOK REVIEW

    Filed at 11:51 am under by dcobranchi

    The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney, Basic Books, $24.95, ISBN 0-465-04675-4

    Yeah- more ID. Mooney’s book is pretty good, overall, if a bit ponderous in places. He documents (explicitly) in just how many areas the GOP has attempted to manipulate and politicize science. From stem cells to global warming to ID, Mooney details just how far away we’ve gotten from the idea of scientists being able to speak truth to power. The closing ‘graf:

    [If] we care about science and believe that it should play a crucial role in decisions about our future, we must steadfastly oppose further political gains by the modern Right. This political movement has patently demonstrated that it will not defined the integrity of science in any case in which science runs afoul of its core political constituencies, In so doing, it has ceded any right to govern a technologically advanced and sophisticated society. Our future relies on our intelligence, but today’s Right– failing to grasp this fact in virtually every political situation in which it really matters, and nourishing disturbing anti-intellectual tendencies– cannot deliver us there successfully or safely. If it will not come to its senses, we must cast it aside.

    Anecdotally speaking, scientists have recognized this for a while. In all my professional contacts, I know of only one scientist who is a hardcore Republican (and he’s a self-described gun nut). OTOH, I know of many scientists who vote Democrat (myself included) precisely because the GOP does not appear to care about what the data show. I beat up on the IDers here because they are among the most obvious manipulators (and because ID is just so utterly non-scientific). But the biggest story most likely will be global warming. Bush’s ostrich-like approach may well doom us all. Katrina may be just a warning.

    8 Responses to “A BOOK REVIEW”


    Comment by
    MTGlass
    September 18th, 2005
    at 1:53 pm

    No argument here on ID. It is not science.

    As I understand it, the Bush/GOP/conservative argument against federal *funding* of embryonic stem cell research is based on moral objections, not scientific ones. The first federal funding of ESCR occurred under Bush (not Clinton), and he has not advocated banning ESCR, merely restricting federal funding for it. This is fundamentally (pardon the pun) a political argument, not a scientific one, although science is surely being misused by both sides.

    As for global warning, the science here is very shaky, based largely on garbage-in-garbage-out computer models, disputed historical temperature measurement methodologies, and not-well-understood atmospheric and oceanic greenhouse gas interactions. Global warming may well be occurring, but there is no real consensus whether it would have a net positive or negative effect on humanity, and it is much more likely that it is due to solar variation than human activity. Even if it is due to human activity, Kyoto and other efforts to prevent it would not do so, even at a terrible cost. The estimates I have seen would buy less than 0.2 degrees C reduction in 2100 at at cost of trillions of dollars. Kyoto would cripple Western economies while exempting India and China, the looming sources of greenhouse gases. The Senate quite properly and rationally rejected Kyoto in 1998 (IIRC) nearly unanimously. This cannot be laid at the feet of Bush, the GOP, conservatives, or the “New Right”. Resources are not infinite – the money wasted trying to meet Kyoto targets would be much better spent providing clean water, eradicating malaria, and other direct efforts to prolong and increase quality of life. Bush has not taken an “ostrich-like approach”, either – this is belied by his recent initiative with Asian nations to start doing something more effective and less costly than the Kyoto nonstarter.


    Comment by
    Daryl
    September 18th, 2005
    at 2:37 pm

    That’s not accurate. There is a strong consensus by the scientists in the field that warming is anthopogenic. The entire thrust of the book is that the Right intentionally distorts the consensus, picking and choosing outliers that are consistent with their agenda.


    Comment by
    Richard Rybarczyk
    September 19th, 2005
    at 11:49 am

    Why didn’t Bill Clinton sign the Kyoto Treaty? Are you sure it is only Republicans with their heads in the sand?


    Comment by
    Daryl
    September 19th, 2005
    at 12:12 pm

    Who says he didn’t? inside...ol.htm


    Comment by
    Richard Rybarczyk
    September 19th, 2005
    at 4:04 pm

    According to Wikipedia: “the Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol for ratification”, because the Senate voted 95-0 against it. Not exactly a partisan split.


    Comment by
    Bob
    September 19th, 2005
    at 10:05 pm

    Hurricanes – The 70’s and 80’s were a relatively quiet period for atlantic hurricanes. So there is a cyclical aspect to consider. See this link for more info: nhc.no....shtml?.

    Having lived in S. Florida between 1972-1990, I can confirm that experts warned constantly that we were overdue for a big storm. I also remember a few storms that were dead set on S. Florida only to veer up the coast.

    So, are the storms of late more powerful? The MIT study says yes, but others say no. Could we really measure the intensity of storms 50-100 years ago the way we can today? And, is that a long enough period of time? There were some pretty devasting storms prior to 1970, and its likely that their impact would have been amplified given the huge population density in the south-east today, compared with pre-1970.

    We should always be somewhat skeptical when scientists try to explain things with limited visibility into the past. this is probably one of those cases.


    Comment by
    Bob
    September 20th, 2005
    at 9:17 pm

    Here’s a pretty good discussion of the science behind hurricanes, and global warming. I love the comment about ice age predictions in the 1970’s:

    freere.../posts

    Science is always tentative, and can’t prove anything.


    Comment by
    Daryl
    September 20th, 2005
    at 9:46 pm

    This is actually a pretty good example of the activities that Mooney points out. Michaels is a global warming skeptic who is on the payroll of the oil and goal industries. What a shock that he’s one of the outliers.

    Yes science is tentative. But it’s not deaf and blind.