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GOP "War on Science" -- Mooney Responds:

Chris Mooney has posted a response to my review of his book, The Republican War on Science over at his blog, The Intersection. While Mooney and I often disagree, I consider his blog (along with Pielke's Prometheus) to be among the few "must read" blogs on the intersection between science and policy. I also recommend Mooney's recent op-ed with Alan Sokal, even though I think it exhibits some of the same failings as his book (see also here), and look forward to his forthcoming book on hurricanes, Storm World.

With that said let me offer a not-so-brief rejoinder to Mooney's response. While he and I clearly disagree, I consider this to be an important issue and believe there is value in continuing our exchange. So, with that in mind, go read his response, and then consider my comments below.

On the issue of embryonic stem cells, I think my characterization of Mooney's discussion is fair. I should note, however, that Mooney is correct that I should have acknowledged he calls out John Edwards and others for exaggerating the promise of embryonic stem cell research. On the larger issue, however, I stand by my claim that Mooney "suggests that the number of cell lines, rather than ideological opposition to the destruction of embryos, drove Bush policy." For instance, he writes the Bush Administration policy was "based on science fiction" and "a textbook example of how bad scientific information leads, inexorably, to bad policy." (p. 3). These statements seem pretty clear to me. It is fair to criticize the President's effort to spin the policy by relying upon questionable scientific claims, as Mooney does, but I believe Mooney also goes farther in an effort to make this episode a centerpiece in his argument.

On the question of whether Mooney confuses legitimate policy disputes with science abuse, his defense is that he acknowledges taking policy stances "against inappropriate legislative interferences with science and to advocate a strengthening of our government's science policy apparatus." I don't believe this gives Mooney the out he thinks it does. To claim that requiring a greater level of scientific certainty, peer-review, or critical examination before commencing government regulation constitutes an "inappropriate legislative interference with science" requires a prior policy judgment about whether the government should be more or less aggressive in responding to scientific uncertainty.

I reject Mooney's argument that the Data Quality Act and proposed Endangered Species Act reforms uniquely "create (or would create) an environment in which further strategic attacks on, and misuses of, science will occur and, indeed, will be facilitated." Under the ESA, for instance, there have been erroneous species listings, sometimes driven by an ideological desire to invoke the ESA's regulatory provisions. This is "facilitated" by a more permissive scientific standard. Where as DQA-type rules create opportunities to attack scientific data to prevent policy action, precautionary approaches facilitate policy responses based upon erroneous scientific claims. The difference is not that one produces more science abuse than the other (indeed, Mooney acknowledges on page 31 that the emergence of precautionary regulation "spurred on scientific conflicts"), rather it is that each represents a different policy judgment about whether to err on the side of government action or inaction. Further, many environmental activists do sell the "precautionary principle" as a "science-based" approach to environmental risk. The precautionary principle literature is filled with such claims. (To take one example, that is how this volume edited by two prominent principle proponents is being marketed.) If Mooney is really concerned about how legal rules create a pressure for science abuse, he should have focused more on the institutional context (about which more below).

On whether "everybody does it," I remain unconvinced that there is something "uniquely worrisome" about the Bush Administration or that conservatives "outdistance any competition" (p. 196) in science abuse. I think I've addressed the scientific abuses of liberals and prior administrations before, so I won't do so here. Instead, let me note that there is evidence of science abuse by the Bush Administration in part because left-leaning activist groups, like the Union of Concerned Scientists and PEER, have sought to document these examples (and, as I noted here, have padded the list with bad examples). The question is not whether this administration has abused science -- it has -- but whether there is something "unique" here. For instance, if Mooney is to criticize the Bush Administration for rejecting a science advisory policy's conclusion, as he does with Plan B, he should at least acknowledge that the Clinton Administration did the same (on creating embryos for research). Instead, he says there is not "much of a rap sheet for the Clinton Administration" (p. 254), and makes the astounding claim that environmental activist groups are a pro-science constituency. One cannot claim this is because liberal science abuse does not have policy consequences because it does, as it has in the context of genetically modified foods -- something Mooney omits from his discussion of the subject.

Since I wrote my review, UCS has released a survey of government scientists that, more than anything else to date, might substantiate Mooney's ultimate claim. It appears to demonstrate that a large number of government scientists have witnessed science abuse from during administration. I hope to engage the survey more fully at a later date because I think it bears further examination. Some on the Right have sought to dismiss it due to the low response rate, alleging some sort of selection bias, yet Mooney has correctly noted that the number of positive responses is itself significant (even if we don't have a baseline against which the results can be compared). If the survey has a problem -- and I have not yet examined it closely enough to say whether it does -- it is because it classifies some policy disagreements and budgetary matters as "abuse" (as Roger Pielke Jr. notes here). If this accounts for a large proportion of the positive responses, then the survey would do less to substantiate Mooney's claims.

As for whether Mooney's solutions are adequate, I think my review's conclusions stands. Mooney has made an effort to identify non-artisan solutions, but I do not find them very compelling. Recreating another source of official government science, in the form of a reconstituted Office of Technology Assessment, and encouraging greater activism by scientists don't address the institutional context in which science abuse occurs. As I wrote in the original review:

Existing institutions and legal structures create hydraulic pressure to politicize science for political ends. Under many statutes, particular scientific findings automatically trigger given nondiscretionary regulatory responses. Under the Endangered Species Act, for example, the discovery of endangered species habitat can bar certain activities on federal land, even if other measures would be more effective at conserving the species. Such provisions, which exist in numerous environmental laws, create a tremendous incentive to influence scientific research and dictate outcomes, as the science is the primary determinant of the resulting policies.
Indeed, such legal rules also create pressure for the sorts of science policy reforms that Mooney assails. Yet both Mooney and those he criticizes fail to get to the heart of the issue.

Given the harshness of my initial review's conclusion, let me end on a more positive note. Mooney has certainly performed a valuable service insofar as he has chronicled the extent to which science can be corrupted within the political process. His research was extensive, his writing is clear, and the larger problem is real. In all my comments on the book I have tried not to diminish the importance of science abuse, nor to excuse the Bush Administration where it truly deserves blame. If political abuse of science is to be controlled, however, one has to get beyond the fantasy that "our guys" are better than "their guys" (whichever side one is on) and recognize that broader institutional arrangements and a political culture that likes to pretend scientific research answers normative policy questions are the headwaters from which these problems spring. I believe Mooney is more sensitive to this concern than when he first wrote his book, and I look forward to the day he revisits the issue in greater depth -- and an opportunity to spar with him again.

plunge (mail):
So, to sum up your comments:

1) "Mooney has certainly performed a valuable service insofar as he has chronicled the extent to which science can be corrupted within the political process."

But...

2) One side could worse than the other: phsaw! All abuses are equally distributed on the political spectrum. I thought all non-rock-the-boat pundits knew that, silly.
2.7.2007 10:44am
James D. Miller (mail) (www):
How the left treated former Harvard president Larry Summers is a strong data point showing that the left doesn't always place scientific inquire above politics.
2.7.2007 11:00am
JosephSlater (mail):
Would it be fair to say something like this?

Generally, liberals, conservatives, and most other at least political ideologies that are at least quasi-mainstream in the U.S. are not generally prone to "abuse science," or at leat not generally prone to "abuse science" in ways significantly worse than folks with other ideologies in this group do.

BUT, there are certain strains of the "religious right" that in fact do "abuse science" more than the groups listed above (creationism being the most famous but certainly not only example).

AND the Bush administration has been more subject to pressure from that tendency of the religious right than previous administrations.
2.7.2007 11:04am
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Prof. Slater --

I think those are all fair statements. I would only add that there are parallel phenomena on the Left that have serious policy consequences, such as some strains of environmentalism.

JHA
2.7.2007 11:13am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
BUT, there are certain strains of the "religious right" that in fact do "abuse science" more than the groups listed above (creationism being the most famous but certainly not only example).


Not really as Professor Adler has pointed out the most egregious examples of the abuse of science have typically come from environmentalists and "public health" advocates (e.g. smoking bans, gun control advocates).
2.7.2007 11:24am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
JosephSlater,

You ignore the flagrant abuses on the other side, which is part of what JA is pointing out. And what we are really talking about here is government action and not personal belief, so if some strains of the Religious Right don't believe in evolution, and it stays there, then fine. It is when it intrudes into government action that the issue becomes of interest here.

Of course, you could point at the one issue of embrionic stem cell research that the religious right did affect, but limiting federal funds there seems to have been a good thing on policy grounds, not a bad one, given all the negative results coming out from such research funded by other sources and countries, and esp. compared to the positive results coming out of research on other types of stem cells. In other words, this policy might have been put into place for questionable reasons, but it has saved federal money, redirected it in better directions, and probably kept some people from getting cancer,

I think that JA has some good points, esp. as to that science can and is abused on the left too, for example to trigger the ESA to prevent something they don't like, regardless of the affect on some species. And the left puts pressure on the government for their bad science too - you most likely agree with them more and don't see it as a fault or pressure.
2.7.2007 11:25am
Colin (mail):
In other words, this policy might have been put into place for questionable reasons, but it has saved federal money, redirected it in better directions, and probably kept some people from getting cancer,

It's nice when bad choices have good results, but that doesn't mean that the decision was predicated on accurate science or an optimal analysis.
2.7.2007 11:31am
dearieme:
"whether the government should be more or less aggressive": what do you mean by 'aggressive'?
2.7.2007 11:41am
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Since I wrote my review, UCS has released a survey of government scientists that, more than anything else to date, might substantiate Mooney's ultimate claim. It appears to demonstrate that a large number of government scientists have witnessed science abuse from during administration. I hope to engage the survey more fully at a later date because I think it bears further examination. Some on the Right have sought to dismiss it due to the low response rate, alleging some sort of selection bias, yet Mooney has correctly noted that the number of positive responses is itself significant (even if we don't have a baseline against which the results can be compared).


Frankly Professor Adler I think you're being taken advantage of. UCS is an overtly ideological political organization that tries to use "science" to present the illusion that it is being "objective" much like proponents of the "precautionary principle" tries to claim that their policy preference is really based in a scientific rationale.

We've seen this song and dance before where some leftist advocacy group like UCS or PEER puts out a "survey" of "experts" claiming one thing or another or merely repeats an unsubstantiated rumor that gets picked up by the MSM news cycle and regurgitated without the slightest bit of skepticism. Months later when someone actually finds out how the "survey" was conducted and its results were less than reliable or finally investigates charge made by the "anonymous source," it's old news and the damage has been done.

Based on your review of Mooney's polemic and the way that you've bent over backwards to be fair to his response, it seems that you are (much like Professor Volokh) making greater pains to be both objective and fair to your opponent. Ordinarily that would be a commendable trait but IMO given Mooney's previous bad behavior and that of groups like UCS and PEER, we or rather you ought to demand a greater evidentiary showing on their part before giving their "survey" a presumption of validity which based on their previous actions they do not deserve.

Tell Mooney that you will only deal with allegations made by people who will go on the record and give falsifiable details. Any allegation made by an "anonymous sources" (which appears to be the bulk of the UCS "survey") can and should be rejected out of hand as we have no reason to trust either the methodology or the integrity of the group reporting it.
2.7.2007 11:42am
JosephSlater (mail):
JHA:

Thanks, and please call me Joe.

Others:

I'm amazed that a balanced statement like "quasi-mainstream political ideologies are more or less equal in their abuse or non-abuse of science" can draw such ire from the People With Ideologies Different Than Mine Are All Evil Idiots crowd.

I'll just respond to one point. Bruce Hayden, when you write:
And what we are really talking about here is government action and not personal belief, so if some strains of the Religious Right don't believe in evolution, and it stays there, then fine. It is when it intrudes into government action that the issue becomes of interest here.

Are you really not aware that the "intelligent design" creationist folks HAVE been pushing that agenda in public schools?

Let's just say that the abuse of science there is much greater than in the idea that second hand smoke is a health risk, especially for workers in smoke-filled workplaces.
2.7.2007 11:45am
Avatar (mail):
Not sure I can agree with that statement, Joe.

Heck, I have absolutely no truck with creationism whatsoever, but even if a biology teacher has no obligation to mention creationism, it probably wouldn't hurt to add an "not everyone believes this to be true, but this is the best science we have on the subject" somewhere in there. If for no other reason than the students may eventually run into someone who thinks that way, and if they've never been exposed to that line of thinking, how are they going to respond? (I mean, oik, we read Mein Kampf in school too, and not in the context of the professor advocating a Holocaust!)
2.7.2007 12:09pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
It's nice when bad choices have good results, but that doesn't mean that the decision was predicated on accurate science or an optimal analysis.


Yes as opposed to the "accurate science" and "optimal analysis" that leads to promises that "people like Christopher Reeve will walk again."
2.7.2007 12:11pm
Kazinski:
Just this morning on NPR was a report was clearly meant to be construed as a Bush administration attack on science. The report was about the Bald Eagle coming off the Endangered Species List, and protection devolving to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. At issue was proposal to expand the definition of "disturb" in the act. Now I appreciate bald eagles as much as the next guy, and I happen to see bald eagles on my commute on I-90 into Seattle regularly. In fact in 2003 the Audubon found 43 bald eagles within the city limits of Seattle. Seattle is not Manhattan, but it is a dense urban environment. After and reading the fish and wildlife service memo that spawned the report, it is hard not to see more hype to the report than substance. I'd like to see some hard science about the affect on both eagles and people of tightening the definitions of disturb and injured, especially in an urban environment where people and eagles seem to be co-existing peacefully now.
2.7.2007 12:46pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Avatar:

The problem with the "but not everybody believes in evolution" line for a public school teacher is that the follow-up question is obviously, "well, who has the better argument?" And the folks that want to "teach the controversy" don't want the teacher to answer that question the way accepted scientific thought would dictate.

For example, my high school science teacher did discuss astrology -- but mainly to point out that it had no basis in science or reality. An analogous treatment of creationist theories would be fine with me, but that's not what the religious right wants and is pushing to be taught in public schools.
2.7.2007 1:03pm
John Kindley (mail) (www):
My nomination for the most significant scientific issue, in terms of human lives lost, which is being spun and covered up by social liberals in science and government, is the scientific evidence linking induced abortion with increased breast cancer risk. See, e.g., my article in the Wisconsin Law Review, "The Fit Between the Elements for an Informed Consent Cause of Action and the Scientific Evidence Linking Induced Abortion with Increased Breast Cancer Risk," www.proinformation.net. Mooney covers this issue superficially in his book. As I recall, he describes a weak effort by Tommy Thompson (as Secretary of Health and Human Services) to correct misleading, incomplete and erroneous information about this evidence on the National Cancer Institute's website. Following an editorial in the New York Times, a letter from Henry Waxman and other Democratic congressmen, and a dog and pony show of a conference put on by the NCI, Thompson apparently washed his hands of the matter and let the liberally-correct honchos with influence at the NCI have their way. Yet in Mooney's book this half-hearted effort by Tommy Thompson, in response to real concerns, was a politically-motivated abuse of science, rather than the political howlings of the fore-mentioned liberals et al., which to this day prevent the public from obtaining objective and full disclosure of this evidence. There's obviously a whole lot at stake, for women considering abortion and for the medical and scientific community which has been withholding and downplaying this information for decades. To get an idea of the ongoing deception and distortion, see the statements of some of these NCI-affiliated scientists under cross-examination, as referenced in the legal briefs filed in the case of Kjolsrud v. MKB Management, available on the North Dakota Supreme Court website.
2.7.2007 1:48pm
Houston Lawyer:
No one is starving due to lack of access to genetically modified grains or dying of malaria as a result of a teacher casting aspersions on the theory of evolution. The left's abuses of science kill millions every year, but they obsess because Bush won't authorize the subsidy of killing embryos for scientific research.
2.7.2007 2:19pm
Colin (mail):
The left's abuses of science kill millions every year,

Enough with the hysterical invective. The DDT-ban-slaughters-innocents myth is worn thin these days. And while I do wish some on the left would relax about genetic engineering, claiming that millions die because of anti-GM food sentiment is no more respectable than "promises that 'people like Christopher Reeve will walk again.'"
2.7.2007 2:57pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Nicely said, Colin.

If we're going to talk about actual harm done, I would nominate the religious right's insistence that government-funded family planning groups not talk about abortion or even birth control.

If we're going to talk scary-stupid, I'll nominate the horrific Terry Schaivo flap (including but not limited to "diagnosing" her via VCR), and maybe the "tears can spread AIDS" stuff that certain political leaders were pushing.

Again, folks on all parts of the political spectrum have been guilty of exaggerating or even misrepresenting science in some cases. But he religious right is the worst offender, I believe, in part because some of them sincerely believe that what science actually says really doesn't matter (vs. God's word), and in part because the Bush admin. has given them far too much power.
2.7.2007 3:16pm
Michael B (mail):
One may as well write a title such as "Chris Mooney's War on the Political Process." Roughly stated, it would be about as fitting: one sided and it forwards the notion the concern is in one area (science or the political process), when in fact the concern is in another area (Republicans or Chris Mooney).

Too, attacking the bogeyman of creationism or intelligent design is fine, but if he were more genuinely concerned with science per se and the epistemic foundations of science, he would additionally prescribe a program, for high schools, wherein philosophical subject matter is more seriously explored and wherein a better deliniation is made between science, the epistemic groundings thereof, materialism, etc. If this were done I suspect an overwhelming majority of those who march under the banner of intelligent design would be entirely placated or certainly greatly assuaged, especially so if the politicians and other spokespersons leading the effort were to take a genuinely educational, rather than ideological, tone in leading such an effort.

Too, and perhaps ironically, such would advance better conceptions of science along with more social/political comity as well.
2.7.2007 3:53pm
Houston Lawyer:
I was taught in Biology class that a new organism was formed by the joining of the egg and sperm. Yet I hear oh so much talk from those who say that an embryo is not a separate being from its mother or is "just a clump of cells". Those who deny the separate existence of the embryo do so for political and not scientific purposes. So using a scientific definition of when life begins, abortionists have killed more people in this country than has any genocidal maniac killed anywhere.

Answers to political questions often have little to do with science.
2.7.2007 4:09pm
Brian Schmidt (mail) (www):

Under the Endangered Species Act, for example, the discovery of endangered species habitat can bar certain activities on federal land, even if other measures would be more effective at conserving the species.



Prof. Adler might want to look into Incidental Take Statements available under Section 7 of the ESA. I can assure him that government agencies are aware of this option.
2.7.2007 4:16pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Michael B.:

How is intelligent design/creationism a "bogeyman"? It's a very real, real world problem in that some politically powerful elements of the Christian right are insisting -- in some places with some success -- that it be taught?

Second, I highly doubt these folks would be placated by a more sophisticated teaching and understanding of epistemology. These folks think kids shouldn't be taught science as scientists understand it because it contradicts The Word Of God as they understand it.
2.7.2007 4:27pm
Michael B (mail):
Joseph,

Predictable.

By bogeyman I more simply intended to convey the idea of a too common and exaggerated motif rather than being entirely dismissive. For example (lol), is it in fact a "real, real" problem, or can it more simply be accepted as a real problem, without the excitation and exaggerated righteousness and self-righteousness?

Too Joseph, your imputation of virtual eschatological significance upon the "religious right" is similarly predictable.

Finally, the fact you "highly doubt" "these folks" would be placated does not persuade and it certainly doesn't address the "real, real" issues that were invoked.
2.7.2007 4:37pm
Michael B (mail):
Btw Joseph, taking the liberty to excerpt the primary argument from my prior comment, with emphases, makes it clear I'm not at all being dismissive and instead am more simply taking a measured, rather than an exciteable, approach:

"... attacking the bogeyman of creationism or intelligent design is fine, but if he were more genuinely concerned with science per se and the epistemic foundations of science, he would additionally prescribe a program, for high schools, wherein philosophical subject matter is more seriously explored and wherein a better delineation is made between science, the epistemic groundings thereof, materialism, etc."
2.7.2007 4:47pm
Colin (mail):
Well, no. Most proponents of creationism would not be satisfied by a course that explained the role of materialism. They would be satisfied by a course that disclaimed materialism in science. Similarly, they would be satisfied by a course that taught that Jesus Saves. Neither is worth including in a science class.
2.7.2007 4:55pm
JosephSlater (mail):
Michael:

Your references to "exaggerated righteousness and self-righteousness?" are comically hypocritical given the gems in your post: "(lol)," "predictable", etc. Since you're obsessed with the fact that I used the world "real" twice in a row, I'll note that you used "predictable" twice and indeed you twice referred to my using the word "real" twice. See how this can go if you want to be petty and non-substative? Finally, you saying that my claim "doesn't persuade" is hardly a better argument than my claim that something is "highly doubtful."

If you have something substantive to add, feel free to add it. If not, you need not reply to me in the future.
2.7.2007 4:56pm
JosephSlater (mail):
P.S. The question mark at the end of "self-righteousness" in my post above was a typo. Also, Colin is right on the merits (again).
2.7.2007 4:59pm
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Mr. Schmidt --

Incidental take permits are available under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act to permit activities on private land otherwise prohibited by Section 9, not Section 7. The only way to permit activities on federal land that would be prohibited by Section 7 is through invocation of the "God Squad" provisions, which are almost never invoked.

I would also add that the incidental take permit provisions of Section 10 rarely provide significant relief for small landowners, and have yet to prevent significant adverse environmental consequences from species listings on private land.

JHA

JHA
2.7.2007 5:30pm
Colin (mail):
Those who deny the separate existence of the embryo do so for political and not scientific purposes. So using a scientific definition of when life begins, abortionists have killed more people in this country than has any genocidal maniac killed anywhere.

An excellent example of how biased oversimplification of scientific issues can be turned into partisan gibberish with the greatest of ease.
2.7.2007 5:57pm
Michael B (mail):
Joseph and Colin,

Wrong, the ref. was to intel. design and creationism, which are, despite your assumptions, variously conceived, depending upon the specific person.

Your sniffs and assurances, heady epistemic foundations in your own minds no doubt, not withstanding.
2.7.2007 7:04pm
Colin (mail):
Wrong, the ref. was to intel. design and creationism, which are, despite your assumptions, variously conceived, depending upon the specific person. Your sniffs and assurances, heady epistemic foundations in your own minds no doubt, not withstanding.

I've read that three times but I'm still not sure what you're trying to say. (Also, your last line is a sentence fragment.) Is it that there are some creationists who would be happy with a course that defined "materialism" but did not attempt to distance it from science? I am highly, highly dubious. If that is what you meant, please point me to such a creationist. Creationism certainly has no use for "materialism" (do you mean methodological naturalism?), and ID was designed to discredit and defeat it. See, i.e., the DI's wedge document, statements of Phillip Johnson, etc.

Sniffing, and I assure you that you are mistaken.
2.7.2007 7:53pm
Michael B (mail):
Many orgs have produced wedge documents and/or initiatives, formally or less so, it's hardly new to the social/political arena, in fact it's a common, practical, political strategem. Rightly, wrongly and in between, it's simply a fact. Too, that you elbow your way in with your imperial sense of self, yet again, to assure of the rightness of your certitudes and the wrongness of those who presume to question those same certitudes, is also not new - to the contrary.

But thanks, yet once again, for exemplifying that aristocratic sense of self-importance in forwarding your "scientific" interests and "reasoning" skills.
2.7.2007 8:16pm
ReaderY:
Nobody wants their trade or profession interfered with by the government, but the fact that scientific experiementation has important affects on society and have ethical and moral implications. Every argument Mooney makes against government regulation of stem cell research could have been made by White Supremecists -- and there were a number in the scientific community infuriated by the idea of impeding the important scientific benefits to be gained from the Tuskegee syphillis study by government meddling and hokum. One can agree or disagree whether the policy merits are better or worse in one case than the other, or what ethical obligations one has or when an ethical obligation arises. But in neither case is the pro-regulation position "anti-scientific" or motivated by pseudoscience. Both cases simply balance the perceived benefits of unfettered science against perceived societal and moral costs of its impact on human beings and human life.
2.7.2007 8:55pm
BladeDoc (mail):
I have a crazy idea. Stop government funding of science research. Save taxes. Stop arguing about who's politicizing it. That government that governs best, governs least.

Yes, I relalize it's a fantasy.
2.7.2007 9:13pm
thewagon:
Seriously, if you want to stop the argument, stop the funding. Also, while you're at it, get rid of public education. No more fuss over all this stuff, and we can just see who's left standing in the arena when all is said and done.
2.7.2007 9:54pm
orson23 (mail):
Over at RealClearPolitics.com, Dennis Byrne answered the the Union of Concerned Scientists claim of systematic abuse of scientists under the Bush administration:

out of 1630 suveyed, only 12 claimed direct harassment .7%. (February 07, 2007 "Bad Research, Worse Reporting on Global Warming") This amounts to oversensitivity as much anything truely political. Byrne cites STATS at George Mason University as his authoritative source

Still outlets like The Minneapolis Star Tribune, The New York Times, NBC, ABC, repeated the UCS alarms about Bush interferrence with the work of science, Andrea Mitchell most outrageously so.

Thus, Jonathan Adler's criticism stands vindicated.
2.8.2007 2:32am
Colin (mail):
Many orgs have produced wedge documents and/or initiatives, formally or less so, it's hardly new to the social/political arena, in fact it's a common, practical, political strategem.

Many organizations write wedge documents? Really? How many can you name? Out of curiousity, I googled "wedge document" and "wedge strategy." After a few pages of results each, I got tired of looking for any references that weren't about the Discovery Institute (excepting totally irrelevant links, like 3M's "document wedge").

This particular organization, which not coincidentally spearheads and directs the ID movement, wrote a (the?) wedge document that helpfully explains that the Institute "seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies." That is one very simple (and obvious) explanation of why it is ridiculous to suggest that ID advocates would be satisfied, as you suggested, with a course that merely taught students what materialism is. ID, just like all other variants of creationism, doesn't want to define materialism. It wants to scourge it from science education. I'm not aware of any equivalent hostility to the concept of science smoldering in the left.

Too, that you elbow your way in with your imperial sense of self, yet again, to assure of the rightness of your certitudes and the wrongness of those who presume to question those same certitudes, is also not new - to the contrary. But thanks, yet once again, for exemplifying that aristocratic sense of self-importance in forwarding your "scientific" interests and "reasoning" skills.

Once again, I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. What am I elbowing my way into? How am I being "imperial" or "aristocratic?" I think you might be using Bablelfish to translate your comments in German, then back into English. They have that almost-lucid glossolalic quality to them.
2.8.2007 2:47am
Colin (mail):
Orson23,

You misrepresent that poll even more egregiously than Byrne did.

out of 1630 suveyed, only 12 claimed direct harassment .7%.

Misleading. Point seven percent of scientiests who received the poll responded and reported being asked to provide skew their research. Those twelve are four percent of respondents. (There may be a selection bias, but as far as I can tell, that's mere speculation.) I think that it's alarming that one in twenty-five of the respondents had personally, directly been asked to "provide incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading information to the public."

Similarly, Byrne complains that the study lumps scientists who directly experienced politically-motivated tampering together with those who are aware of "changes or edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their scientific findings." Fair enough, that seems misleading. But his punchline is that only fifteen percent of the respondents directly experienced such tampering. Fifteen percent? How is that not an atrocious figure?

I don't know anything about the poll other than what Byrne reports, but both you and he are playing games with the numbers.
2.8.2007 3:02am
Michael B (mail):
Colin,

What on earth are you talking about? I wasn't referring to the DI, never referred to the DI whatsoever, not a lone, single, solitary time. Nada. We've been over that ground before and I've (repeatedly) stated I don't believe ID belongs in the science classroom per se. I did refer to a philosophical orientation and that was a point where you began to sniff and sneer. Rather than the DI, I referred to the families, the parents. Your assumptions, about wide swaths of the population, reflect another aspect of your contempt and "analytical method." I bother to mention it solely because it reflects upon the same contempt and presumptive style as exhibited by others still in the social/political arena.

In terms of the wedge strategy, I specifically said "formally or less so," hence a literal search of "wedge" is hardly the point, it's the concept being alluded to, not a specific, dictionary term. E.g., I've heard of the military's early (earlier than society at large) desegregation initiatives discussed in conceptually similar terms, though have never heard the specific term "wedge" applied to it in any sense whatsoever. Likewise other aspects of the civil rights movement, outside of the military. Also aspects of gay activist initiatives.
2.8.2007 4:37am
Colin (mail):
I wasn't referring to the DI, never referred to the DI whatsoever, not a lone, single, solitary time. Nada.

Yes, I know. You referred to creationism and intelligent design, and represented that they don't want to take science out of classrooms. You argued that they'd be happy if science classes merely explained "materialism" (by which I assume you meant methodological naturalism). You might have been suggesting that they'd want classes to "delineate" science and "materialism;" your referent wasn't clear. That suggestion is clearly incorrect.

The easiest demonstration of that gross misrepresentation is the DI's policy statement. The DI is the moving force and institutional architect of "intelligent design," and its goal is to root out "materialism" (in the sense of methodological naturalism) in science and education. That's a pretty damned anti-science objective, and not at all what you represented.

Rather than the DI, I referred to the families, the parents. Your assumptions, about wide swaths of the population, reflect another aspect of your contempt and "analytical method."

Are you sure that you did? Is that what the 'overwhelming number of people who march under the banner' comment was supposed to refer to? I'll assume so. Again, it's a bold and I think very obviously wrong statement. I don't see creationist parents being satisfied with a curriculum that explained that science is limited to natural, not supernatural, causes and effects. I can't know, of course, so I look instead to the leaders and organizers of the movement. Their goals are much clearer, and I don't see any reason to believe that they are separate from their well-fleeced flocks.

In terms of the wedge strategy, I specifically said "formally or less so," hence a literal search of "wedge" is hardly the point, it's the concept being alluded to, not a specific, dictionary term.

OK. Let me know just as soon as those organizations write position papers, "formally or less so," that articulate their religiously- or politically-motivated intention to gut the core concept of 'science.' I suppose they might be relevant, then.
2.8.2007 10:32am
Eli Rabett (www):
Well, if you hold with certain religious documents, Reeves will walk again, just not in this life. OTOH there is medical progress in healing spinal cord injuries.
2.8.2007 10:57am
markm (mail):

If we're going to talk about actual harm done, I would nominate the religious right's insistence that government-funded family planning groups not talk about abortion or even birth control.

If we're going to talk scary-stupid, I'll nominate the horrific Terry Schaivo flap (including but not limited to "diagnosing" her via VCR), and maybe the "tears can spread AIDS" stuff that certain political leaders were pushing.

I agree with you about the Terry Schiavo flap, and about muzzling government-funded family planning groups (except maybe they shouldn't be government-funded). I don't recall the "tears can spread AIDS" stuff.

But there's plenty of harm caused by leftist distortion and suppression of science, too. Affirmative action action has hurt many blacks by admitting them to colleges they could not graduate from, as well as the whites who were bumped to make room for the AA admits - but any non-superficial inquiry into whether or why blacks from middle class backgrounds and the same schools the whites attended still don't do well as whites is career suicide for a social scientist. So is a real inquiry into the different distribution of talent between men and women. Public (and to some extent private) education has been greatly harmed by wave after wave of unproven ideas emitting from the largely leftist Education departments of universities: whole language, new math, constructivist math, etc. Beyond that, they indoctrinate most of their graduates with a feeling that it's not fair for smart kids to get ahead of the class, or for kids that simply cannot or will not learn the basics to be held back or shifted to alternate programs so the rest of the class can get on with learning something.
2.8.2007 5:28pm