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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Political parties and science

I am often annoyed by those of my liberal friends who insist that Republicans are anti-science. I'm not anti-science, but I'm a Republican; and there's not a conflict between those two things as far as I'm concerned. I'm confident there's no causal relationship between the two, and I've never been persuaded that there's even a positive correlation. So I found fairly interesting this essay from Reason.com, which in turn is based in part on an interesting op-ed in USA Today from the editor of RealClearScience. Both make interesting reading.

Posted by Beldar at 11:58 PM in Science | Permalink


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(1) Norman Rogers made the following comment | Oct 6, 2011 1:12:52 PM | Permalink

I followed your links and this jumped out at me:

"In support of his claims, Berezow cited some polling data from a 2009 survey done by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. ... On climate change, the Pew survey reported that 84 percent of scientists believe that the recent warming is the result of human activity."

Well, if you follow the link to the Pew survey, you'll learn that the "scientific" community surveyed had this composition.

Nearly half of the respondents identified themselves as being in the medical or biological "field". Out of a sample size of 2,533 only 383 identified themselves as being in the "fields" of "geosciences" or "Physics and Astronomy"

Pew's summary? --"By contrast, 84% of scientists say the earth is warming because of human activity. Scientists also are far more likely than the public to regard global warming as a very serious problem: 70% express this view, compared with 47% of the public. Public attitudes about whether global warming represents a serious problem have changed little in recent years."

I don't know about you, Beldar, but I'm pretty particular about whose opinions I value. And I find it less than useless to lump a bunch of disparate people into an opinion survey of things they very likely no little about.

I took my undergraduate degree in Physics (long before grade inflation) and there's a huge difference between "astronomists" and "astrophysicists". And there's no reason to believe that anyone in the "medical biological" or chemistry "fields" have any special insight into our climate or could realistically opine on whether our weather has changed over the short period of interest from similar periods in the past, let alone be able to intelligently argue any causation theories.

The survey is worthless for the points being argued.

(2) Allan_Yackey made the following comment | Oct 6, 2011 1:42:22 PM | Permalink

Relying on a “consensus” of scientists on any subject to establish that those who disagree with the “consensus” are anti science is a serious mistake. Those who first asserted that the earth was NOT the center of the universe would, by that metric, be anti science, because at the time the "consensus" was otherwise.

But we do not need to go beyond yesterday to see yet another Nobel prize awarded to a person who by the “consensus” metric was anti science. Dan Shechtman, as of yesterday a Nobel winner in chemistry believed that something called “quasicrystals” existed. Because what he proposed violated the “laws of nature” he was expelled from his research team. But he persisted and became a very successful anti scientist.

Quasicrystals are involved in the production of your everyday modern razor, modern high strength steel and also have potential applications that would directly convert heat to electricity. Not bad for anti science.

For those of us who have serious doubts about man made global warming, we do not need to go as far back as the discredited “hockey stick” or “hide the decline”. Within the past few months NASA has found that the amount of heat radiated from the earth to outer space is much greater than any climate models predict. Also the CERN experiment that demonstrates that ionization from the sun has a major impact on cloud formation is troublesome for climate change. It shows that the sun has a significant effect on cloud formation. Climate change models discount or substantially ignore solar contributions to climate.

I am a skeptic, yes. Anti science I am not.

P.S. To Mr. Rogers’ point above; It was reported by an expert in thermodynamics that he had reviewed a particular climate model and found that the energy inputs were exceeded by the energy outputs for a particular feedback loop. He sent a query to the author of the report asking how this loop could be reconciled with the laws of thermodynamics. The response he received said that the writer was an expert in climate and did not study thermodynamics. Both of these individuals would qualify as scientists in the poll. One of them lives in a world where the laws of thermodynamics do not apply.

(3) Beldar made the following comment | Oct 6, 2011 4:32:14 PM | Permalink

I don't just link or quote people I agree with. That would be dull.

I probably disagree with both of the authors whose essays I linked regarding AGW — I definitely do if they think we should massively restructure our economy as a result of anything they think climate scientists are saying. So don't attribute everything they've said to me, please.

What interested me was the argument — which I think they both make persuasively — that which party is "anti-science" depends on (1) which issues you look at, and (2) whether you're willing to impute to the entire party the unscientific views of only a portion of those who vote for that party's candidates (the size of that portion varying substantially on an issue-to-issue basis). As I said in my post, this is a dramatic variance from the typical meme argued by my friends on the left. So I was interested in it precisely because it came from someone who's normally left-leaning and someone who's publishing in a libertarian magazine/website, both of whom are critical of the right.

(4) stan made the following comment | Oct 6, 2011 9:25:15 PM | Permalink

Obama and the Democrats have shown for 3 years that they are anti-arithmetic. Look at their inability to count as demonstrated in the stimulus and obamacare bills.

People who reject simple counting and addition have no business claiming anyone is anti-science.

(5) Christian Southwick made the following comment | Oct 7, 2011 8:10:27 PM | Permalink

Regarding consensus, it is interesting to me that lawyers never bring up the fact that the modern trend in evidentiary law has been to reject the notion - embodied in Frye - that scientific consensus is a sufficient criterion for establishing scientific legitimacy. The whole point of Daubert is that scientific reliability turns on much more than consensus.

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