I read and subscribe to the New Scientist because I consider myself an amateur scientist of sorts and like to keep abreast of everything from dung beetles navigating by the Milky Way (seriously, the idea of these critters wearing tiny hats to block their view of the sky warms my heart and contrary to what you might think, increases my support of such esoteric research) to the idea that our reality is a computer simulation. But New Scientist still manages to drive me crazy and to the keyboard where I bang out letters to the editor in complete futility. Science should be a non-partisan effort, and scientists should reflect the political leanings of the general population as a whole, but it doesn’t and they don’t. Scientists are inevitably leftists, and New Scientist is about as left wing as Mother Jones, the only difference being that latter doesn’t claim to be non-partisan while New Scientist believes it is and that those of us on the Right who point out it’s leftward bias are “anti-science.”
So imagine my surprise at reading the leader of this issue of New Scientist, “Challenge unscientific thinking, whatever its source.”
Berezow and Campbell further claim that progressives who endorse unscientific ideas get a “free pass” from the scientific community. The suspicion must be that this is because scientists themselves lean towards the left, as does the media that covers them. (Both friends and critics of New Scientist tell us we lean in that direction.)
NewScientist then prints Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell’s oped, “Lefty nonsense: When progressives wage war on reason,” in which they point out that today’s liberals are not liberal in the Lockian sense but social authoritarians. “Unlike conservative authoritarians, however, they are not concerned with banning “immoral” things like sex, drugs and rock and roll. They instead seek dominion over issues such as food, the environment and education. And they claim that their policies are based on science, even when they are not.”
This has dangerous implications as when the Left champions the anti-vaccine movement that has killed unvaccinated children, and its war against GM foods has contributed to malnourishment and premature death in the Third World. And don’t get me started about Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” which killed millions indirectly through malaria by banning DDT.
As Berezow and Campbell note, “But conservatives don’t have a monopoly on unscientific policies. Progressives are just as bad, if not worse. Their ideology is riddled with anti-scientific feel-good fallacies designed to win hearts, not minds. Just like biodegradeable spoons, their policies often crumble in the face of reality and leave behind a big mess. Worse, anyone who questions them is condemned as anti-science.”
I always get a Generation X irony-high whenever global warming alarmists equate the anthropogenic cause of global warming hypothesis to evolution, as if the former idea is as proven as the latter theory, then try to paint AGW deniers like myself using the same brush as they do creationists. Of course that doesn’t stop them from exhibiting the same anti-science attitudes towards fracking, where science backs the safety of the practice against concerted and deeply entrenched Green opposition, the result of which is that Germany is about to blow it’s CO2 emissions sky-high by resorting to coal to replace nuclear instead of clean burning natural gas. Oh, and if you didn’t know it, fracking is why the USA is on track to meet CO2 goals unlike the anti-fracking Europeans. I’m even so sure of the safety of the practice I’d welcome it on my property where we rely upon a freshwater well for our drinking water. Unfortunately there’s no natural gas in these parts (now gold? Maybe…)
So why are scientists lefties? The terminology used by Berezow and Campbell provides a hint. “Social Authoritarians” implies a more realistic and nuanced view of one’s political belief system, showing the dichotomies between authoritarianism and libertarianism, and socialism/capitalism aka “Left” and “Right” as shown in the diagram below.
In this view the Moral Majority and the environmental movement would appear in the upper right and left quadrants, both showing a keen affinity for authoritarianism. While the current Chinese government calls itself Communist, is is far more neo-liberal or Capitalist than it will admit. In fact one could make the case that is much more capitalist at this moment than the USA, and certainly more than Europe.
Scientists often are employed by large institutions in government, healthcare or academia. These institutions tend to fall on the upper side of the chart towards Authoritarianism. The bottom of the chart is sparser for a reason: it is the area where individualists, entrepreneurs, artists and philosophers live and these tend to fly under the radar. But for scientists there isn’t much money or opportunity on the bottom of the chart. The days of the experimenter or the Amateur Scientist are for the most part gone although the ideal lives on today with amateur astronomers who do much of the heavy lifting in their field including the tracking of near-earth objects. The recent approach of asteroid DA14 had NASA using live feeds from amateur run telescopes in Australia for example. But most of the jobs for scientists today are with large institutions who can afford the equipment and relatively high salaries scientists demand, and that can only be found in the upper half of the chart. When you add in the fact that scientists today are highly educated, and academia itself is an authoritarian institution with deep ties to Communist and Leftist ideals, it should be no surprise that scientists find themselves in the upper left quadrant of the matrix.
Is this a good thing for Science as a whole? Berezow and Campbell don’t think so and neither does the New Scientist. It’s candor surprised me, but I don’t expect it to let go of the bias and the dogma that compels it to support large, authoritarian schemes to find solutions to problems from Global Warming to Cancer any time soon. Still it was refreshing, and I hope that more than a few readers realizes that Science ultimately should be a non-partisan effort. But I’m not holding my breath…