Monday, September 5, 2011

Are Conservatives Anti-Science?

It's difficult to find an article about Governor Rick Perry these days that is written with some degree of objectivity.  Most are really on the hunt for issues, and his position on certain keypoints which can be used to discredit Perry and influence people's opinion. 

Politico, for one, is on a real Perry witch hunt which somewhat worries us since they, along with NBC, another Perry hater, will be sponsoring the debates at the Reagan Presidential Library next Wednesday.  We'd advise the Perry camp to prepare for some really tricky questions coming from those moderators, especially when it comes to evolution and creationism.

Because of the biased press that Governor Perry has been receiving, we were amazingly surprised when two of our most respected journalists and commentators had an essay and a response, in the same magazine, to the many accusations that Mr. Perry has received as being anti science. In fact, according to Larry Krugman of the New York Times, all Republicans are anti-science.  Rich Lowry 
eloquently presents his accurate interpretation of Rick Perry's position on creationism.  Jonah Goldberg, on the other hand, is spot on with his discussion of the liberal arrogance of claiming the right to declare which issues are chosen to determine if a person is pro or anti-science.

 Chaplain Mike, in the blog, Internet Monk, makes the following statement:  "The Bible should not be used to argue about the subject of evolution, because the Bible does not speak to the issue."  ......"If you’re interested in science, study it well, and use what you learn to serve humankind. But there is no reason the subject of evolution should trouble your faith, any more than quantum physics, astronomy, geology, chemistry, or any other scientific discipline should.  Science is not what the Bible is about. It is simply not concerned with the subject."

Two Sisters From The Right do not believe that the issue of creationism vs evolution should be a political concern.

The Anti-Science Smear-National Review Online
By Rich Lowry

Liberals embrace the rhetoric of science, but not its cautious and dispassionate reasoning.
The last time Republicans were roundly condemned as anti-science, it was for their resistance to destroying human embryos for stem cells. Their crude religiosity supposedly blocked imminent leaps ahead in medical progress.

Then-vice-presidential candidate John Edwards went so far as to predict in 2004 that because of “the work we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair, and walk again.”

In other words, as a major figure in the self-styled party of science, Edwards made an outlandish assurance worthy of a faith healer. For the Left, science is as much a branding device and political bludgeon as a serious commitment. Edwards didn’t know the first thing about spinal-injury research and didn’t care — so long as he could sell demagogic flimflammery under the banner of glorious science.

The extravagant promises about the miraculous cures on offer from stem-cell research have proven, at best, premature. Regardless, destroying embryos isn’t necessary to the enterprise. The allegedly anti-science policy of the Bush administration to prohibit federal funding for research involving the new destruction of embryos pushed scientists down the increasingly promising avenue of finding alternative sources of stem cells.

This episode is worth recalling as Texas governor Rick Perry is portrayed as the worst threat to science since the Inquisition had a few words with Galileo, or as they say in Texas, “treated him pretty ugly.”

In no sense that the ordinary person would understand the term is Rick Perry “anti-science.” He hasn’t criticized the scientific method, or sent the Texas Rangers to chase out from the state anyone in a white lab coat. In fact, the opposite. His website touts his Emerging Technology Fund as an effort to bring “the best scientists and researchers to Texas.” The state has a booming health-care sector composed of people who presumably have a healthy appreciation for the dictates of science.

Perry’s offenses against science consist of his statements on evolution and global warming, areas where “the science” is routinely used to try to force assent to far-reaching philosophical or policy judgments unsupported by the evidence.

Unless he has an interest in paleontology that has escaped everyone’s notice to this point, Perry’s somewhat doubtful take on evolution has more to do with a general impulse to preserve a role for God in creation than a careful evaluation of the work of, say, Stephen Jay Gould. Perry’s attitude is in the American mainstream. According to Gallup, 40 percent of Americans think God created man in his present form, and 38 percent think man developed over millions of years with God guiding the process. Is three-quarters of the country potentially anti-science?

Similarly, Perry’s skepticism on man-made global warming surely has much to do with the uses to which the scientific consensus on warming is put. It is enlisted as support for sweeping carbon controls that fail any cost-benefit analysis and gets spun into catastrophic scenarios that are as rigorous as Hollywood movie treatments. For all their talk of fidelity to science, global-warming alarmists bring to the issue an evangelical zeal to match that of the participants in Rick Perry’s Houston prayer meeting a few weeks ago.

Science is often just an adjunct to the Left’s faith commitments. A Richard Dawkins takes evolutionary science beyond its competence and argues that it dictates atheism. An Al Gore makes it sound as if there is no scientific alternative to his policy preferences. They are believers wrapping themselves in the rhetoric of science while lacking all the care and dispassionate reasoning we associate with the practice of it.

It is in this vein that Rick Perry is branded anti-science. Ultimately, a president’s views on evolution count for little. Ronald Reagan shared Perry’s skepticism, and the nation survived. In Texas, Perry adopted policies designed to draw doctors and technology firms to Texas and create jobs. He succeeded. In this, he’s proven admirably empirical — more so, indeed, than the president of the United States.

— Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: © 2011 by King Features Syndicate.

Rich: I liked your column today. But you only struck a glancing blow at my biggest peeve about the whole anti-science thing: Why does the Left get to pick which issues are the benchmarks for “science”? Why can’t the measure of being pro-science be the question of heritability of intelligence? Or the existence of fetal pain? Or the distribution of cognitive abilities among the sexes at the extreme right tail of the bell curve? Or if that’s too upsetting, how about dividing the line between those who are pro- and anti-science along the lines of support for geoengineering? Or — coming soon — the role cosmic rays play in cloud formation? Why not make it about support for nuclear power? Or Yucca Mountain? Why not deride the idiots who oppose genetically modified crops, even when they might prevent blindness in children?
Some of these examples are controversial, others tendentious, but all are just as fair as the way the Left framed embryonic stem cell research and all are more relevant than questions about evolution. (Quick: If Obama changed his mind about evolution tomorrow and became a creationist, what policies would change? I’ll wait.)
The point is that the Left considers itself the undisputed champion of “science,” but there are scads of issues where they take un-scientific points of view.
Sure they can cite dissidents scientists — just as conservatives can — on this or that issue. But everyone knows that when the science directly threatens the Left’s pieties, it’s the science that must bend — or break. During the Larry Summers fiasco at Harvard, comments delivered in the classic spirit of open inquiry and debate cost Summers his job. Actual scientists got the vapors because he violated the principles not of science but of liberalism. During the Gulf oil spill, the Obama administration dishonestly claimed that its independent experts supported a drilling moratorium. They emphatically did not. The president who campaigned on basing his policies on “sound science” ignored his own hand picked experts. According to the GAO, he did something very similar when he shut down Yucca Mountain. His support for wind and solar energy, as you suggest, isn’t based on science but on faith. And that faith has failed him dramatically.
The idea that conservatives are anti-science is self-evident and self-pleasing liberal hogwash. I see no reason why conservatives should even argue the issue on their terms when it’s so clearly offered in bad faith in the first place.

© National Review Online 2011



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