Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Science and the Right

 Dafydd at Big Lizards has some comments on why Republicans have trouble winning on issues like:
  • Cap and Trade -- rather, Cripple and Tax

  • The expansion of nuclear power generation

  • The EPA's attempt to outlaw CO2 (and now NO2 as well; hat tip to Hugh Hewitt)

  • Missile defense, both theater and strategic

  • Nationalization of major industries

  • Nationalization of health care to a single-payer, government-controlled system

  • The promiscuous proliferation of "endangered species" that are, in fact, not endangered
  • First, each of these controversies is a wedge issue by which Republicans and conservatives can oust Democrats and liberals from Congress -- and potentially from la Casa Blanca, as well.

    Second, each is fundamentally a scientific question, from climate science, to nuclear physics, to aeronautics and cybernetics, to the optimal pursuit of medical research, to economic science, to the biological sciences.

    And most important, for each of these wedge issues, the Right can only win if it is more credible when speaking about scientific matters.

    It's not good enough merely to be no less credible than, on a par with the Left -- in this case, a "tie" in rationalism goes to whoever is best at slinging emotional arguments; and in that arena, the Left always has the home-field advantage.

    All of which leads me, by a commodious vicus of recirculation, back to the hubris-flaw of conservatives; and that is, of course, the squirrely refusal of so many prominent conservatives to accept the findings of a century and a half of evolutionary biology.
    That intellectual blind spot torpedoes conservative credibilty on a host of other scientific issues:
    (Snipped.  Read the original blog post.)

    The scientific evidence for evolution by variation/mutation and natural selection is overwhelming; and no respected, peer-review-published scientist in the field of biology disputes the fundamentals of the discipline. (Everyone disputes the details; that's the very nature of science.) The unanimity is so stark that the nutters at the creationist Discovery Institute are reduced to babbling about conspiracy theories to "silence dissent," a facile and convenient claim most recently pushed by noted actor, conservative columnist, and evolutionary biologist (I made up that last one) Ben Stein.

    But for purely religious reasons, conservatives who are also believing Christians -- which is a huge subset -- plus some politically conservative Jews, have an irreducible simplicity as a core axiom: That evolutionary theory, which they call "Darwinism," is false. They reason backwards from this axiom to declare invalid any experiment, observation, or conclusion that supports it. And in the process, they fatally damage their own credibility to argue any case that depends upon the ability to reason logically or to understand basic scientific principles. Or even the scientific method itself.

    Worse, they even damage my credibility, due to guilt by association; and I'm bloody sick of it. Every time I argue science with a liberal, I must spend the first 500 words defending myself from the false charge of rejecting evolution -- and the next 2,000 words mitigating the damage from the same charge -- but more true this time -- leveled against the Right in general.


    Evolution is the great counterexample cited to prove that the Right is no more rational than the Left. Thanks; the rest of us really appreciate being lumped together with Ben Stein and Michael Medved.

    (This post was, of course, driven by my annoyance at Medved presenting yet another knucklehead railing against "Darwinism," citing the Discovery Institute's all-purpose catechism of "irreducible complexity"... that mutable charge that shifts from biological system to biological system, always one step ahead of the very reduction of complexity it claims cannot occur.)

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