Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science Skeptic: Examining Extraordinary Claims and Promoting Science

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Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 | ISSN 1556-5696

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David R. Montgomery

Rocks Don’t Lie
SKEPTICALITY EPISODE 203

This week on Skepticality, Derek interviews geomorphologist and Professor of Earth and Space Sciences (University of Washington) David R. Montgomery about how his work led him to write his latest book The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood. The book is thoughtful and readable, and attempts to respect both young Earth creationist views and the world of evidence-based geological science. According to the book’s publisher, with “an explorer’s eye and a refreshing approach to both faith and science, Montgomery takes readers on a journey across landscapes and cultures. In the process we discover the illusive nature of truth, whether viewed through the lens of science or religion, and how it changed through history and continues changing, even today.”

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Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left (book cover detail)

About this week’s eSkeptic

In this week’s eSkeptic, Kenneth W. Krause reviews Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left, by Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell (NY: Public Affairs, 2012 ISBN-13: 978-1-61039-164-1). Kenneth W. Krause is a contributing editor and “Science Watch” columnist for the Skeptical Inquirer.

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The Progressive War on Science

a book review by Kenneth W. Krause

Let’s settle this thing once and for all—right here, right now. Who are more anti-scientific—Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or progressives? Conventional wisdom would have us believe—or at least so says science writer Chris Mooney—that Republicans have waged an unparalleled and all-out war on science.

Indeed, certain big business interests continue to see basic climate science as an entirely too inconvenient truth. And, yes, some religious leaders will likely always deny the facts of human evolution, abortion, homosexuality, and stem cell procurement and therapeutic cloning. Responsible journalists have documented and exposed these affronts to reason quite thoroughly with appropriate vigor.

But are progressives really so different? Not according to Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell. In Science Left Behind, the authors contend that American media have long bestowed a “free pass” on the political Left (primarily progressives), who are just as likely to “misinterpret, misrepresent, and abuse” science to advance their ideological agendas. In fact, the authors say, progressives are currently waging an “undeclared war on scientific excellence itself.”

They accuse progressives of propagating a number of socially destructive myths, among them the assumptions that everything “natural” is good and everything “unnatural” is bad. Accordingly, homeopathy is just as good as or better than traditional medicine, vaccines actually harm children, and nuclear energy promises unprecedented sickness and loss of life.

And despite studies showing conventional crops to be equally nutritional and both personally and environmentally safe (never mind vastly less expensive), “organic” foods—whatever that means in a shamefully unregulated industry—are somehow superior products. Ditto for raw, unpasteurized dairy products and juices left untreated for foodborne illnesses.

Meanwhile, genetically modified foods are decried as both personal and environmental menaces. Never mind that years of testing has yielded no evidence of risk. Forget about the potential of drought-resistant wheat and wilt-resistant bananas to feed starving Africans. And, please, don’t be fooled by researchers’ allegedly noble intentions to use GMOs to combat disease, reduce the use of pesticides, increase agricultural efficiency, and feed starving millions who would otherwise go hungry.

Ideologues also continue to berate scientists for considering cultured, or in vitro meat. Technophobic and anti-corporate, say Berezow and Campbell, progressives claim that laboratory amino acid production will always be more expensive and resource intensive than the obviously foul and unsophisticated system we use on farms today. They have even threatened legal action and years of red tape to discourage the research itself.

But the facts of “slow-grown” meat are compelling, to say the least. Gorging themselves on 40 percent of the planet’s cereal grain, livestock also use and despoil about 30 percent of the earth’s surface, 70 percent of its arable land, and eight percent of its water supply. The world’s 1.5 billion livestock are responsible for between 15 and 24 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gasses, and beef ranching accounts for 80 percent of Amazon deforestation. Cattle dump 64 million tons of sewage in the United States alone, and pigs, of course, are no less prolific.

The antibiotics we use on farm animals contribute mightily to the emergence of multi-drug resistant strains of bacteria. And what are the most common causes of food-born diseases in the U.S., EU, and Canada? That’s right—contaminated meats and animal products. In rather stark contrast, meat grown in culture doesn’t poop, burp, fart, eat, overgraze, drink, bleed, or scream in agony—and it’s a great deal less likely to poison or infect us.

Unsurprisingly, progressives have corrupted the social sciences too, perhaps to the point of permanent reputational taint among both the general public and the scientific community. Recall, for example, the oppressive and unscholarly manner in which Harvard president Lawrence Summers was vilified in 2005 for merely suggesting that, one, men and women might have distinguishable natural abilities related to math and science, and, two, that personal preference rather than discrimination might account for female “underrepresentation” in high-end STEM careers.

“Summers learned the hard way,” the authors say, “that the feel-good fallacies of progressive thought are stronger than the values of free inquiry and the primacy of the scientific method.” Indeed, where was the intellectual debate before Summers’ resignation in 2006? Is it really so improbable that different genders evolved or learned different talents? Or is it more likely, perhaps, that academics have been bullied into the “gender equality” camp with threats of being branded as sexist?

Berezow and Campbell refer to a “mountain of scientific data” that refutes the unlikely notion of biological gender equality. First, controlling for body size, men’s brains are 100 grams heavier than women’s brains, which results in a 3.6-point intelligence difference. Second, although women have more white matter, men possess more gray matter, which is related to information processing. The jury is still out on the issue of aptitude, the authors admit, but progressives seem to want to “cut science out” of the deliberations altogether.

And the problem appears to reemerge when the question centers more specifically on careers in science. Though progressives continue to “blame sexist men or an oppressive society” for female “underrepresentation” in the high-end STEM fields, say the authors, it has become “increasingly clear” that biology strongly influences our personal preferences.

Cornell University researchers Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams recently published a hard-hitting and no doubt divisive paper addressing this very issue. After reviewing 20 years of data, Ceci and Williams—married with three daughters of their own—decided that the evidence of discrimination against women in math-intensive fields is “aberrant, of small magnitude” and “superseded by larger, more sophisticated analyses showing no bias, or occasionally, bias in favor of women.”

In agreement with their previous analyses, Ceci and Williams surmised instead that the gender gap results primarily from women’s career preferences and fertility and lifestyle choices. In other words, adolescent girls tend to gravitate toward careers focusing on people as opposed to things, and female Ph.D.s interested in childrearing are less likely to apply for or maintain tenure track positions. Incidentally, as a secondary explanation, the duo pointed to evidence for upper tail disparities in cognitive ability.

Richard Lippa, a psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, has recently observed that “[c]ontemporary gender researchers, particularly those who adopt social constructionist and feminist ideologies, often reject the notion that biologic factors directly cause gender differences.” Feminist beliefs are so contrary to mainstream biology, Berezow and Campbell concur, “it is fair to compare their anti-science rhetoric to that of evolution-denying creationists.”

So let’s return to our question—who are more anti-science, conservatives or progressives? Frankly, Berezow and Campbell go too far in their criticisms and provide too little evidence for their claim that all Lefties are “social authoritarians” bent on an everlasting “culture war.”

The fact is that all ideologues are impediments to science, whether libertarians, religious zealots, and free-market fundamentalists on the one hand, or environmentalists, feminists, and social engineers on the other. Science—indeed, truth generally—is served mostly by those who conceive of themselves as individuals first and group members second (if at all). But seldom if ever are its ends advanced by committed disciples to any idea or cause.

The authors are entirely correct, however, in illuminating a salient distinction between politics and science. The former consists of “gotcha” moments and scoring points against the other team. The latter is about proceeding openly and vigorously wherever the data lead, and allowing others the same courtesy. END


Lecture this Sunday at Caltech:
DR. MARC RAYMAN

Dr. Marc Rayman
To Boldly Go…Well, You Know: NASA’s Dawn Mission to the Asteroid Belt

with Dr. Marc Rayman
Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 2 pm

THE AMBITIOUS DAWN MISSION, launched in September 2007, is one of NASA’s most remarkable ventures into the solar system. The spacecraft has recently completed a spectacular exploration of Vesta and is now traveling to Ceres; these were among the last uncharted worlds in the inner solar system prior to Dawn. They are the two most massive residents of the main asteroid belt. Ceres is so large that it is included in the category of dwarf planets, along with Pluto. Remnants from the time that planets were formed, Ceres and Vesta hold clues that will help scientists understand the dawn of the solar system. Dawn orbited Vesta from July 2011 to September 2012 and returned astonishing views of this fascinating world. It is the only spacecraft ever to orbit an object in the asteroid belt. Such a mission would be impossible without the use of ion propulsion, a technology that has mostly been in the domain of science fiction, but which was tested extensively on the Deep Space 1 mission, paving the way for Dawn. Dr. Marc Rayman, Dawn’s Chief Engineer and Mission Director at JPL, will describe the Dawn mission and its use of ion propulsion as well as its two exotic destinations. He will also share the excitement and profundity of controlling a spacecraft in deep space.

Followed by…
  • Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
    with Dr. Adam Grant
    Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 2 pm
  • Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences between the Sexes
    in the Animal Kingdom

    with Dr. Daphne J. Fairbairn
    Sunday, May 19, 2013 at 2 pm
New Admission Policy and Prices

Please note there are important policy and pricing changes for this season of lectures at Caltech. Please review these changes now.

34 Comments »

34 Comments

  1. Richard D. Hovey says:

    “Meanwhile, genetically modified foods are decried as both personal and environmental menaces. Never mind that years of testing has yielded no evidence of risk.” — Kenneth W. Krause, review of Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left, by Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell

    Dr. Judy Carman, Ph. D, a GMO food safety researcher, notes: “I’ve had 10 years of abuse from [GMO industry] people who’ve defamed me, driven me out of a university, and tried to get me fired from jobs. With that kind of intimidation, scientists often decide not to do any research.” Hers is far from the only report of such harassing, threatening, intimidating behavior by the GMO industry. Is this “liberal bias”?

    • Dan says:

      Not to mention that a lot of the GMO objections are not about biological and environmental risks, but about the issues of centralized power. I’m not well versed in this, but over the years I’ve heard some pretty disturbing things about Monsanto and ilk.

    • Flinstone says:

      Dr. Judy Carman is a bona fide leftist who is hell-bent on eliminating all GM products. So “Is this ‘liberal bias’?” I would have to say, yes.

  2. dave says:

    So clearly we can’t trust either liberals or conservatives. And we certainly can’t trust them with a D.C. based monopoly of power. I wonder if there is an alternative? One that perhaps the legions of the public school brainwashed are unaware of? Nah, see, it’s like the super bowl. You get two choices and you don’t have to think too much about it either.

  3. Serge-Éti. Parent says:

    According to the review, Berezow and Campbell seemed trying to point out anti-scientific behaviors… with anti-scientific arguments. Indeed, the brain is not an homogeneous organ and intelligence is not related to brain weight. They might be right to argue that different brains lead to different capacities, then test the hypothesis that gender discrepancies are caused by brain discrepancies. Some apparently did so. But removing the noise from educational and cultural backgrounds is obviously a very difficult task. However, there might be meaningful avenues in analyzing the brain by functional parts, and take into account the interoperability between parts. Then test correlations between specific functions and brain parts. This is the job of neuro-scientists. But this is science, not politics. Politically, regarding human rights, brain dissimilarities between gender (or race) would never justify social roles.

    • Dan says:

      I thought for sure they would mention not only brain weight, but the size of the corpus callosum (larger in women) and the number of verbal processing centers in the brain. Curious.

    • Un Tacon says:

      Serge-Éti. Parent, Removing the noise from educational and cultural backgrounds would be basically impossible. But perhaps that’s the point – to appear cognitively untainted while one pursues the Promethean agenda.

  4. whatmeworry says:

    It is curious to claim a male IQ advantage of 3.6 points, when standard IQ tests are exquisitely normed to produce equal results for men and women. If the test doesn’t produce averages of ~100 for each gender, they tinker with the kinds of questions that go into it. Too high in favor of males? Replace a logic question with a verbal question.

  5. Dan says:

    The book reviewer has nothing to say about the merits of the book’s arguments until the end of the review, when he says the authors go too far in their criticisms, and that’s just about it. What? More please?! Just a couple examples of how they go too far (other than saying the authors provided no evidence for the claim that Lefties are “social authoritarians”) would have been nice. Did they go too far about the GMOs? Feminism? Nuclear energy? Organic food? I’m hungry for more.

  6. Bad Boy Scientist says:

    Hmmmm. What strikes me about this book – and it’s obvious “Tit-for-tat” purpose to point out that Liberals are kooky, too – is that the image of ‘Science’ needs a make over. The way people argue which side of the political spectrum is more pro or anti science is reminiscent of people arguing which party is more pro- or anti- Jesus.

    We science educators need to do a better job explaining to students (who go on to become Members of the Public) what Science, Technology and Engineering are. Conflating technology (GMOs) with science (studies of impacts of GMOs) isn’t wise.

    I need to think more on this topic… but it seems to me that we science educators need to work harder to raise the level of discourse.

  7. Ironic says:

    “Science—indeed, truth generally—is served mostly by those who conceive of themselves as individuals first and group members second (if at all). But seldom if ever are its ends advanced by committed disciples to any idea or cause.”

    If skepticism like this were applied to our skeptical selves, then there would be less dogmatism about such things as global warming, “human evolution, abortion, homosexuality, and stem cell procurement and therapeutic cloning.”

    • Un Tacon says:

      Ironic, while it is possible to think of oneself as an individual first, and to believe one can investigate with no agenda, since we are all born, raised and steeped in a cultural stew (e.g., the emphasis on “individualism”), it’s not particularly scientific to do so. I think it’s just a way of attempting to make oneself appear intellectually unassailable. “I’m untainted by politics, so whatever I say must be true or honest.”

  8. Gabriel says:

    The book seems to reek of the “teach both sides of the argument” camp and just seems like a major false equivalency charade.
    The claims seem interesting and are worthy of more investigation. But to compare liberal bias against GMO’s to conservative views on theories such as evolution is far reaching to say the least.

    • Roy Niles says:

      Conservatives see evolution as purposive and liberals see it as an accidental process.
      I like the “accidentally on purpose” theories, iconoclastically.

    • Dan says:

      I must disagree. I have been hanging around lefties for a decade now, especially in the context of the “spiritual left” (for example, many who go to Burning Man and various retreats) and have been amazed at the lack of rationality. They enact a version of faith-based thinking that constantly reminds me of my Mormon indoctrination (“Do what feels good.” “That’s his truth, this is my truth. There is nothing objective”) In fact, only my leftie friends specifically reject science as a whole rather than rejecting only specific scientific theories (like evolution), which is more the conervative tendency. And I’ve never met a metaphysical solipsist, except on the left.

      • Jane says:

        I’m curious (not critical, just interested) how someone such as you, Dan, who clearly has an understanding of scientific principles and recognizes the fallacious thinking behind a lot of New Ageisms, responds to people who present these illogical ideas?

    • Dan says:

      I need to clarify: I said many of my leftie friends reject science as a whole, but I should add that when it suits them they hypocritically invoke the findings of science (misunderstood of course) to support various New Age dogmas. For example, quantum entanglement, non-locality and other ‘quantum flapdoodle’. Also, they tend to hold onto outdated notions long after they’ve been discredited (like the right holding on to their religious dogma). For example, the myth that we only use 10% of our brain is often brought up for various reasons and the so-called ‘hundredth monkey effect’ is brought up to support the idea of a morphogenic field. Not to mention orgone energy attractors, chem trails, ley lines, 9/11 as an inside job, auras, emotional water molecules, synchronicities, crystal healing, tarot readings, taking psychedelics one time and then claiming to be a shaman, etc etc. There is a constant literalism in all these things, a dullness to mythopoeic or symbolic vision–just like how those on the right interpret their scriptures.

      • Julie says:

        These people sound more like libertarians than lefties to me. There is an enormous difference.

  9. Jay says:

    Not having read the book, I can’t tell how much of the rather forceful language is the authors’ or the reviewer’s. But comments on a couple of points: livestock, and Lawrence Summers (separately!).

    1. “livestock use and despoil about 30 percent of the earth’s surface, 70 percent of its arable land, and eight percent of its water supply. … cattle dump 64 million tons of sewage etc.” I’m currently sitting in semi-arid grazing country in inland rural Australia: sheep, some cattle, lots of feral goats. Yes, this has changed the pre-introduced-stock environment…but, from another perspective, these large herbivores have effectively replaced the extinct megafauna with which the vegetation evolved. This land is not ‘arable’ – remove the stock (the goats are going to be harder) and there won’t be any food grown here at all. And all that sewerage = s**t – great compost for poor soils! In other words, things are not so simple or nasty as the language and statistics quoted above suggest.

    2. I sent a comment direct to Summers at the time, critiquing his paper. Although I’m female and tend to call myself a feminist, part of my comments was about the unsatisfactory nature of the gender studies, eg those allegedly showing that men were better at spatial tasks than women. No room here to go into detail, but my thoughts (influenced by work as a biologist turned archaeologist) are that female hunter-gatherers actually need to know far more detail about spatial geography and landscape plus temporality of food availability than do male hunters; based on personal family experience, I suggest spatial skills are partly genetic, handed down to both male/females but expressed in different (culturally acceptable) ways – eg dressmaking requires high 3D spatial skills but is not seen as spatial skill because it’s ‘female’ (it would be interesting to replace those rotating cogs in IQ tests with rotating fabric pieces and see how well the males do) – in my family females used to be dressmakers, now work with GIS; spatial skills are also partly cultural -‘learnt’ as I discovered in New Guinea in the 1960s, when I tried to show some smart young men how to construct shelving using nuts and bolts. I was biased! I assumed all males were born with the ability to turn a screw the right way! They are not.

    In summary, I’m sceptical about all those tests that purport to prove – or disprove -gender differences because of the difficulties of research design. (But I do like the one where the little boys would not play with pink guns, and the little girls would not play with tea sets painted black and with spikes on the cups – how easily and quickly gender roles are moulded!)

    Finally, on the issue of brain weight v intelligence, Stephen J. Gould effectively demolished that nonsense years ago.

  10. bobbler says:

    Ive always loved the skeptic group.. This obvious right wing bullshit is severely changing this..

    YOU ARE BRINGING UP NUTTY HEALTH FOOD PUSHERS, and labeling these charlatans as progressives (need I skim any more of the article than this?).. This is offensive..

    I only mention this because this whole premise has right wing nutjob written all over it.. It is disconcerting to see this obvious bullshit in the skeptic.. How about you do a skeptic article on how conservative economics (give the money to the wealthy) is good for anyone but the rich who receive the money..

    It is overwhelmingly obvious the left in general embrace science.. THIS IS “PROJECTING” PEOPLE (DUH DOPE).. What is the purpose in trying to defame the left (its political)..

    There are damn few liberals left in the Democratic party.. Look to Bernie Sanders (I think he in an IND).. There are left progressives in the green party, and they are all about embracing science (global warming, GMO issues, etc (ironically, all the science the right is denying.. “projecting comes to mind again)..

    Carl Sagan, possibly one of the top scientists who ever lived, is the epotime of the left.. The “””left””” .. Carl, along with others and Al gore (that the right made fun of for embracing science), has been trying to educate the public about global warming for 30 years..

    Shit!

  11. Dan says:

    Hi Jane. I just play my didgeridoo. Then, after they pass the spliff, I become verbose and compulsively explain the science of didgeridoo acoustics, the harmonic spectrum and Computer Aided Didgeridoo Sound Design (no joke, youtube search CADSD and watch the fourth video that comes up). This blows their hippie noodles, and now they respect both me and science–and that respect goes a long way during the inevitable New Age conversations. I guess this is one way I’m an activist.
    To more directly answer your question though, most of the time I don’t respond to the irrationality. It kills my flow. I’m learning things. Like how to connect from the heart, and how to live in the present. I know why they believe what they do; I had the same mystical peak experience. It changed me for the rest of my life. I just don’t go so far as they do in my interpretations of it. But we commune in the profundity of that experience. It is awesome.

    • Evan says:

      Awesome!

      I’m a committed science guy, but I’ve had similar peak experiences and have friends similar to what you describe, just replace the digeridoo with a telescope. They’re fun to be with, but yeeesh! some of the stuff they believe! It’s the quantum flapdoodle that bugs me the most.

      • Dan says:

        What’s ironic (and a testament to my own irrationality) is I’ve occasionally had the thought that maybe I chose, before this life, to be an influence for skepticism among those who believe in unprovable things–like belief in a beforelife;)
        Integrating peak experiences in a rational way is extremely difficult–especially since the history of mystics is mostly devoid of skepticism. I really appreciate the words of people like Sam Harris and Susan Blackmore in this tespect. Still, I feel like a walking contradiction–seeming synchronicities, premonitory dreams tempt me (not to mention the fact that everything I know about the real world is not directly knowable, except through the filter of my own consciousness).

  12. oiojes says:

    This is not a book review. It is a screed.

    It assumes without evidence that a collection of ideas (anti-GMO, pro-organic, etc.) are sufficient to associate with a political point of view. This is neither proven nor true. There are a number of anti-GMO, pro-organic conservatives. It’s analogous to saying all Republicans are fundamentalists. All those who own guns are baby killers. All those who voted for the war in Iraq are war mongers.

    It is not worthy of the word “skeptic” as there is not a skeptical bone in its body.

  13. Dr. Strangelove says:

    “livestock also use and despoil about 30 percent of the earth’s surface… The world’s 1.5 billion livestock are responsible for between 15 and 24 percent of all anthropogenic greenhouse gasses,”

    Earth’s surface is only 29% land so you mean livestock despoil all the land and a little ocean?

    Livestock are not anthropogenic. They are animals. They eat biomass (grass, grains, meat). This is part of the natural carbon cycle. Biomass will decompose to CO2 and methane whether or not cows eat them.

    • dr sidethink says:

      sorry for the late reply, but it’s important

      “.Biomass will decompose to CO2 and methane whether or not cows eat them.”

      this is false

      Ruminants leave a different profile of the waste products returned from digestion .

      the AMOUNT or Percentage of methane is hugely increased by organisms living
      the first pouch of Ruminants

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belching

      It’s important to not label real science as Antiscience” as it strengthens the credibility of Newage Flapdoodle!!!

      Rjp

      • Dr. Strangelove says:

        Methanogens are found not only in the guts of cows but also in swamps, moist soils, sewers, landfills. The vast quantities of natural gas (methane) underground and undersea did not come from cattle burps.

  14. Ray Sutera says:

    Krause writes: “‘Feminist beliefs are so contrary to mainstream biology, Berezow and Campbell concur, ‘it is fair to compare their anti-science rhetoric to that of evolution-denying creationists.’”

    Exactly what is a “feminist”? Is there really such a category? I don’t think so. There are many people who call themselves feminists but they are of entirely different philosophies. I think what the authors (and perhaps, Krause) are doing here is to lump a whole bunch of people into the extreme category of ‘radical feminist’ and pretend that they’ve made a fair analysis. But that’s not fair at all and I think it’s an indication of the philosophical bias of the authors (and again, Krause). Krause promotes the whole notion as he seems to accept the category. This is why I don’t like Krause. He’s a bomb-thrower who seeks opportunities to insert his personal philosophy. He’s not really a skeptic – he’s a political hack. He should be writing for Breitbart, not Skeptic or Skeptical Inquirer.

  15. Mike Gallagher says:

    This merely stereo types liberals as new age. That is a grossly inaccurate mis-characterization.

  16. Darci says:

    As I read the article, I was struck by the lack of discussion about the mountain of science out there that indicates the environment itself can also change the way our brains are organized. Nobody even commented on this. Yes, research does support the notion that there are differences between male and female brains that appear to give men an advantage in mathematics and science, but since most of the research is done with adults, this shouldn’t lead to the automatic conclusion that these differences are due to genetics. Males and females are treated differently from almost the moment they are born. And this is true in ALL cultures. As a scientist and psychologist, I agree with the science, just not how the science is being explained.

  17. Ted Fontenot says:

    http://edge.org/response-detail/10670

    Helena Cronin: Males: More Dumbells, More Nobels.

  18. LordBizarre says:

    Gotta love all the liberals who immediately heed the clarion call and rush to the defensive.

    “That article can’t be talking about *ME*! I’m totally not that way! It’s a biased book and totally not true!” they shout.

    Of course, this is exactly the same response one gets from conservatives in response to smug, stereotypical books written by the left to characterize the right.

    The real problem in America is that we can’t have any discourse without either side pointing fingers and getting all in a tizzy about who’s right and who’s side is villifying the other unfairly.

    • Julie says:

      “The real problem in America is that we can’t have any discourse without either side pointing fingers and getting all in a tizzy about who’s right and who’s side is villifying the other unfairly.”

      You are correct – we can’t seem to have a meaningful discourse. However, part of the problem is that when it comes to science, there ARE “right” and “wrong” answers, just as you can’t go around claiming that 2+2=5, and it is incorrect to characterize the left as villifying the right when they won’t stop trying to use their fuzzy math and non-scientific “science.” This is a conservative characteristic, not a progressive one – and as I noted in another comment, people tend to confuse libertarianism with progressivism. The former rejects big government, while the latter embraces it.

      When it comes to GMO – the problem with the scientific research on GMO is the same as the problem with a lot of medical science that turns people toward natural remedies, and it is basically the reverse of the problem with climate science. The science funded by those who have a financial interest is untrustworthy science. After the experience with DDT and all the expensive drugs that get recalled because of the “unintended consequences” that become evident after years, there is a legitimate argument that the research that is conducted by companies selling products is short-sighted and doesn’t take into accound the great complexity of biological and ecological systems.

  19. A.M. says:

    “Science—indeed, truth generally—is served mostly by those who conceive of themselves as individuals first and group members second (if at all).”

    Individualism can be just as antithetical to intellectual honesty as group identity. Consider the strident feminists, who deny the biological reality of the sexes. They say sex has no biological basis *because* they want to preserve their individuality; they want to think that they have perfect choice to be anybody, and that one’s physical sex has no bearing on it – eg that being a woman should have no impact at all on say, whether women make for good firefighters, compared to men. Believing otherwise would give succor to their ideological opponents, giving them intellectual grounds to assign men and women to different roles.

    The problem is not a loss of individual identity, it’s putting ideology over truth. As you say, “proceeding openly and vigorously wherever the data lead.”

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Topics include: chiropractic, the placebo effect, homeopathy, acupuncture, and the questionable benefits of organic food, detoxification, and ‘natural’ remedies.

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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