You can cherry-pick science and ideology(s)

Just finished Jonah Goldberg’s The Tyranny of Cliches.  Enjoyed it almost as much as Liberal Fascism.  It was a different book: a little less philosophical, a little more topical (and funny).  5 outta 5 stars from this reviewer.

Among the cliches he tackles:  conservatives are anti-science.  The subject of what science is and isn’t is near and dear to me, as is the distinction between science and scientific institutions.  (The latter can be decidedly anti-science when their prerogatives and/or careers become threatened.)

At any rate, and with all due apologies to the author, here’s a long excerpt from Chapter 18 in which Goldberg addresses the practice (never far from the news) of defining conservatism as a personality defect or mental disorder.  Buy the book!  (Link provided above.)

“They do that because they were born that way.”

If you say that about homosexuals, you are tolerant and realistic.

If you say it about blacks, you are racist (unless you’re black).

If you say it about Jews, you’re anti-Semitic, unless it’s in the context of criticizing Israel, in which case you’re simply telling “hard truths” everyone else is afraid to say.

If you say it about women, you may or may not be sexist, depending on who is manning (er, Womanning) the feminist battle stations at the moment.

If you say it about men, you just might be a writer for Esquire.

But if you say it about conservatives, you’re a scientist.

From climate change to embryonic stem cell research to early childhood education, patently ideological agendas are camouflaged under the tarp of scientific rhetoric while plainly legitimate scientific findings are dubbed “pseudoscience” when they prove inconvenient.  Second perhaps only to “health,” science is routinely used as a false flag of reasonableness carried by those who allegedly only care about “the facts,” but are in fact concerned about something else.

A host of liberal activists and intellectuals are deeply invested in the idea that conservatives are “anti-science.”  Obviously , not all of these people argue in bad faith.  But many argue in very selective good faith.  They pick and choose the benchmarks of what constitutes being pro-science…

But it is quite easy to play this game the other way.  Why can’t the measure of being pro-science hinge on 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 drawing the dividing line… (at) support for geo-engineering …the role cosmic rays play in could formation …nuclear power …Yucca Mountain …genetically modified crops… the use of DDT?

UPDATE:  CSPAN “After Words” interview here.

UPDATE II:  Great post on same topic, with nice cartoon, over at Cogitating Duck:

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2 Responses to You can cherry-pick science and ideology(s)

  1. Still in the middle of Tyranny of Cliches. I love it so far! (I saw the picture on my “recently pressed” feed and had to check out your blog.

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