Saturday, January 27, 2007


It was really a delight to see art by Steve followed by E's poetry. The sharing of our talents is an inspiration. I have done neither activity for a while and seeing your works is a great motivation. Steve's, for instance, has a larger voice than any of his previous works, I think. E's poem showed me a gutsy combination and wit, wisdom and human truth.

And then Steve outs with his comprehansive post of career crimainals and his program that I have never heard him explain in depth. It's on the short short list of the greatest things ever posted on this blog.


January has been a big movie month for me. I'll have as many reviews this month as I normally have for two months. Trish and I make it to the movies so infrequently that last Saturday we devoted ourselves to a triple header -- PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, THE QUEEN, and CHILDREN OF MEN. It timed out just right so that we only had about ten minutes in between movies. In addition, I've seen a bunch of DVDs, including one of the few left from the SIGHT AND SOUND poll that I hadn't seen.

I don’t really blog from work not quite knowing if I can justify it even thought I use it as a writing exercise to get ready to work on things that are pertinent. Now that I have a chance, I’d like to share something that I ran across this week. It comes from the Volokh Conspiracy, which might be the most cleverly simple blog name on the net, with honorable mention to Instapundit. The blog is UCLA Law Professor Euegene Volokh’s group blog. I wish I would have thought of it first and named this the Junto Boys Conspiracy.

The post by Jonathan Adler is book review on the REPUBLICAN WAR ON SCIENCE by Chris (I’ve got a cold in my nose) Mooney, which Adler says is misleading because while Mooney’s examples of Republican politicalization are true, the book all but ignores an equal number of Democrat examples which are just as demonstrative. It also ignores how the institutional process of government plays a role.

UPDATE: One of the best examples of the politicization of science by the "left" — and one of the few that Mooney acknowledges — is the treatment of agricultural biotechnology, and the decision to subject such products to more stringent regulatory review than those developed with other methods. This policy has no scientific basis, as the National Academy of Sciences has stated many times.

Another example would be claims by environmentalist groups that pesticide residues on foods pose a significant cancer risk, a claim which the NAS has also rejected. A third would be seeking endangered species listings for the purpose of halting development. A fourth would be efforts to claim asthma incidence (as opposed to asthma attacks) are related to outdoor air pollution, when there is no data to support such a claim. A fifth would be the EPA's second-hand smoke study, which a federal court found was driven to reach a predetermined result. A sixth would be claims that the "precautionary principle" is a "science-based" approach to risk, when it acutally reflects a normative policy judgment about how to weigh and evaluate risks. A seventh would be the compounded conservatisms that are embedded into many agency risk assessments, such as those conducted for the federal Superfund program. An eighth would be molding "ecosystem management" to satisfy non-scientific normative preferences about how land should be managed. And so on.

Some of these occurred within the Clinton Administration, others were the result of interest group action and occurred at other times. Overall, however, one can only claim the Clinton Administration never abused science for political reasons if one wasn't paying attention. Examples beyond those mentioned above are easy to come by. Here are two from Ronald Bailey:

In 1993, Princeton University physicist William Happer was fired from the Department of Energy because he disagreed with Vice President Al Gore's views on stratospheric ozone depletion. In 1994, President Bill Clinton rejected the finding from the Embryo Research Panel of the National Institutes of Health which declared that the intentional creation of human embryos for genetic research was ethical. Clinton simply banned any federal funding for such research.

Like anything that has public policy implications, science has become politicized by everyone trying to shape America to their own prejudices. This was inevitable the moment that scientists started accepting government money for research. No free lunch for science. But even outside the government where private grants allow for scientific research, so many times the findings reveal exactly what they money wanted them to reveal.

Does anyone think that Sierra Club money won’t make a case for more conservation and Exxon money won’t make the case for the benefits of drilling? The media has a way of covering conservative pushes as medieval thinking and liberal goals as enlightened when they both derive from a worldview rather than disinterested data.

The danger is that we still tend to think of science as a group if disinterested men trying to find objective evidence to lead them down the trail to enlightenment. Those men do exist somewhere, especially when they’re goal is to create a device to solve a specific problem. I contend that they are rarely to be found in the public arena where science is a career first and shaping findings to a particular bent is more advantageous for funding and prestige than simply tinkering around for truth.

The leftwing theft of science has harmful lasting implications. Remember that conservation use to be a conservative issue, and there was scant opposition to things like cleaning up the rivers and air. With the book Silent Spring, the leftwing realized that the environmental movement was a perfect vehicle for pushing socialism. Chemicals that are effective and perfectly safe in small quantities are frequently challenged and even banned because a mouthful is poison. The ban of DDT causes about 50,000 deaths from malaria in the third world each year. But bird eggs are saved.

If the Republicans lose voice on science America will spend precious money each year on socially acceptable science rather than things backed up by hard data. Every ten years we’ll be shifting our focus from making the world cooler to making it hotter. Al Gore has already championed both ideas in the last 20 years. Businesses will be made to constantly change their means of production to satisfy the current prejudices and they’ll have even more incentive to move their plants to countries not covered under things like Kyoto. Our economy and our freedom will suffer.

If we agree that science needs objectivity to serve mankind, can anyone tell me if that is still possible under any type of government funding? If so, how?

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