She Blinded Me With Science

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New at Reason: Are the Bush Administration's offenses against science the worst ever, or exactly par for the course? Ron Bailey laments the sad history of government meddling in research.

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  1. I think that government does at least as good a job doing Science as it does Art and Religion.

    Oh, wait…

  2. “The Bush administration is, TO AN UNPRECEDENTED DEGREE, distorting and manipulating the science….”

    This is an argument I’d like to see addressed by Ron Bailey or someone else – is the Bush administration demonstrably _more_ dishonest/manipulative than recent past administrations? I’ve certainly heard a lot more about W’s abuse of science than Clinton’s or Bush Sr’s, but don’t know how reliable that is….

    http://www.house.gov/reform/min/politicsandscience/

  3. I second J. Even in Bailey’s “pox on both houses” article, the sins of the Bush administration seem more common, more significant, and more egregious than those he digs up against Clinton. Further, some of the Clinton-era fudging was clearly done to make the right wing Gingrich Congress happy.

  4. Yeah, right, how long have you and I known each other, Joe? We go way back. Here’s one word for you, in regards to your future on this board:

    Global Warming

    Oh, wait, that’s two words …

    Apologies to “The Graduate”, and “My Tutor”

  5. The alternative, of course, is to let Eli Lilly, Archer Daniels, Monsanto, etc. fund “unbiased” research for us.

  6. OK, Jimmy, how’s this: those of us who don’t know enough about climatology to make our own judgements should take note of the fact that the Bush admin’s attitude towards global warming reports is exactly the same as its attitude towards reports on abstinance education, health care access disparities among minority groups, and the efficacy of condoms. The Bushies ignore the overwhelming body of evidence that assails their position, and cherry pick the few outliers, usually well paid by Washington insiders, who support their views.

  7. Joe,

    EVERY single politician cherry picks the stuff that makes their positions look better. I readily see most liberals completely disregarding any report that doesn’t say that the environment is headed to hell in a handbasket. Its the nature of the game.

  8. …which is why the politization of offices that are supposed to do non-partisan analysis (OMB, EPA, GSA) is so worrisome.

  9. “found no increased risk to non-smokers at the 95 percent confidence level that had been the traditional agency standard. So the agency simply moved the confidence level from 95 percent to 90 percent in order to get the result it wanted.”

    Such disturbingly bad statistics makes me wonder if the EPA had a bunch of economists doing the study. But, I hear medical researchers are almost as bad.

  10. joe, the politicization of offices isn’t worrisome, it’s inevitable.

  11. “…which is why the politization of offices that are supposed to do non-partisan analysis (OMB, EPA, GSA) is so worrisome.”

    This notion sums up why liberals are liberals. To the left, such things are horrible perversions of the purity of some office. To libertarians, it is hard to imagine any other result.

    People are self interested. Government is made of people. Governments are self interested. The self interest of a thousand separate private parties can align through voluntary transactions, but the interests of government officials become law.

  12. Joe, if by “overwhelming body of evidence that assails their position, …” you’re writing specifically about “global warming”, you should read my post about 5 days back. Take the “Global Warming Believer’s Challenge” which I offered to Jennifer. I’ll tell you what it is, if you really want to know.

  13. Joe’s correct. The Right makes little pretense of bias, to the point of outright lies, to justify their positions. At least the Left, derided as the “pin-headed intellectuals”, tries to apply what they learned in school.

  14. Jimmy Antley said:
    “Take the “Global Warming Believer’s Challenge” which I offered to Jennifer. I’ll tell you what it is, if you really want to know.”

    As a cautious believer in global warming, I’d like to hear about the Global Warming Believer’s Challenge. Can you post it?
    Jeez, I hope it’s easier than the old Pepsi Challenge. I failed that one every time….

  15. Gadfly,

    Er, yeah. Like the Union of Concerned Scientists? Or maybe you mean the bit about Nuclear Winter (gasp!). Oh, wait, you MUST be talking about all of the reasonable treatment that genetically modified foods get.

    This is not an epidemic of the right, it is the result of people seeking to advance their positions. How about we strictly limit the amount of control these guys have and be done with it?

  16. j:

    The secret is that room temperature Pepsi tasted better to most people than room temperature Coke.

    To me the whole thing was a sham, like asking me which frozen pizza tastes better before you cook it.

  17. The classic Christian conservative, the heart of the Right, consistently takes anti-scientific stands and politically plays them.

    The Left has done some incredibly dumb things but cannot hope to match the Right’s zeal.

  18. Jason:

    I never knew the Pepsi folks were being so sneaky, although I did wonder why we were taste-testing warm soda (I’ve since spent some time in Germany and developed a taste for room temp soda and beer).

    What I found most odd was the awkward silence or dismissive comment from the “testing professional” when I chose Coke – like some pimply little punk getting paid minimum wage really gives a shit what carbonated sweetened beverage I prefer.

  19. Yeah, J, the rules are quite simple:

    You, as a true believer in global warming should take the word of these trusted scientists, right? They seem to know that the surface T of the earth is heating up steadily due to man’s influence, which is calculateable (is that a word?). They know with good accuracy and precision how much the sea level will rise.

    The challenge to you is: Put your money where your mouth is – buy some land in Florida that will become beach property in 20 years (exactly as predicted, of course (of course, yeah). This land will be far enough inland to be very reasonable in price. Because the land in FL is very flat, the current 20′ msl line, for example, may be many miles inland at lots of places.

    You, then, will sell the land to a bunch of New Yorkers (who, for some strange reason, didn’t believe the bullcrap about global warming) at ridiculously high prices. They will then live on your land in condos, drive large Cadillac’s in which they can see no closer than 40′ forward of the front bumper, wear pants that come up to their chests, and get the early bird special at your paid-off all-you-can-eat buffet.

    This is your challenge, choose your destiny now, my friends. For further details, see my late-night TV infomerical or go to my website:

    http://www.cheaplandInFlorida.com/GlobalWarming/NewCoastline/Florida/SuckerPage.asp

  20. For the most part, debates about stem-cell research don’t appear to be debates about the underlying science– no one disputes whether such research COULD be conducted, or whether it would yield at least some of its anticipated benefits– but about whether it should be conducted, in view of essentially extra-scientific ethical concerns.

    The really systematic abuse OF science began with the rise of Ecology as a public policy concern: in fairness, Ron Bailey has proven himself on that matter any number of times.

    I should add, that stem-cell research is an issue I take scant interest in.

  21. “The Left has done some incredibly dumb things but cannot hope to match the Right’s zeal.”

    I laughed so hard at that one that warm Pepsi (Coke?) came out my nose. Look into the political excommunication of Bjorn Lomborg for his heretical views on global warming in Denmark, the torching of labs doing GMO research, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

  22. The best thing to do is to keep science and government separate. Not doing so has led to sins left and right. If it turns the left has been worse, it’s because their politicians not only don’t seem to have any compunctions against the shameful distortion of science; they encourage it! Check out what Tim Wirth said:

    “What we’ve got to do in energy conservation is to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

    Tim Wirth was a former member of Congress, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs under Clinton, and one of a number of politicians (including Barbie Boxer, Barney Frank, AlGore, John Kerry, Daniel Moynihan, Chris Shays and others) who were identified as “Green Leadership for the ’90’s.”

    http://www.accesstoenergy.com/view/ate/s41p852.htm

  23. Ron Bailey wrote:

    As Jonathan Rauch outlines in his superb book Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, liberal societies rest on three pillars: democracy, whereby we decide who gets to wield legitimate coercive power; capitalism, whereby we decide who gets what; and liberal science, whereby we decide what is true.

    This sounds like a really interesting volume. Just a note on the first two of these pillars though: In deciding who gets what, capitalism still serves those whose interests comprise a numerical minority, even when they are an extreme numerical minority, quite well.

    Democracy, on the other hand, not only usually goes way beyond, “legitimate coercive power”, its worst fault, it often delivers a boot if the face to losing minorities.

  24. I always knew “chicken little” was a
    pinko commie.
    Where do you find HONEST SCIENCE and reporting?
    Ron Bailey`s the man!

  25. “The point is that assertions about global warming and its negative effects are being thrown around with a very high degree of certainty.”

    Now that depends on what assertions you’re talking about. “Continued greenhouse gas emissions are very likely to cause serious problems” is a statement that can be made with a high degree of confidence. “Ocean levels with rise X inches in Y time” can be made with a low degree of confidence. But the lack of specific foreknowledge about how a problem with manifest itself is no excuse for assuming the problem away.

    If a six year old in throwing a baseball around the living room, you can’t know whether he’s going to break this lamp or that picture frame. You should stop him anyway.

  26. On the scale of Good and Purpose I am more on the purpose side. If we have to give up ethics to save lives then we simply have to give up ethics. It is that logical! Get the fuddy-duddys out of the way so we can cure some bloody cancer!

  27. Gadfly:

    “I just can’t see a down side to buying in to global warming theory, though.”

    The down side occurs when the government buys into the theory with our money and liberty.

    “…healthy skeptic and a bull-headed crank.” “We’ve all been a little of both, I suppose.”

    Yep. That’s for sure.

  28. Jason Ligon said:
    ?Antley’s challenge is overblown, but there is an underlying element of truth to it. The point is that assertions about global warming and its negative effects are being thrown around with a very high degree of certainty.?

    I would certainly agree that there?s little appreciation for the inherent sloppiness of these predictions, and I think that argument goes both ways. A scientific panel releases a report saying (for example?) that their 95% confidence interval on global warming over the next 100 years is 1-10 degrees. The ?environmentalist? side says the study shows we?re all going to be dead by next Tuesday, and the ?industry? side says there?s absolutely no evidence of significant change and we should all drive our SUV?s to California to drill for oil in the skulls of baby seals.

    I guess my overall feeling on the subject is that, weighing the very large amount of uncertainty in climatic models and ecological/environmental predictions with the potentially extremely serious consequences of even the highest probability density regions of those models (let alone the upper confidence limits), there should be a stronger response from our gov?t and private individuals/entities. But then, there?s been a lot more heat than light on this subject for a long time, and climatic models are certainly far from my area of expertise, so I can?t really talk with sufficient knowledge on the subject and I?m not ready to buy soon-to-be beachfront property in Florida.

    There ? how?s that for a vague wishy-washy answer? I should also point out that I?m against drilling for oil in the skulls of baby seals; that?s a tough decision that I?m willing to make and stand by.

  29. J:

    What if seal oil burns cleanly? 🙂

  30. “If a six year old in throwing a baseball around the living room, you can’t know whether he’s going to break this lamp or that picture frame. You should stop him anyway.”

    Unless you have to sell your house to do it.

  31. “Unless you have to sell your house to do it.”

    Which is extremely unlikely, even if the six year old tells you it’s inevitable.

  32. Here’s a report of the world’s second largest re-insurer, Swiss Re, stating the anticipated costs of global warming – doubling insurers costs in 10 years.

    Of course, insurance companies are noted for their radical, leftist views so you’re free to ignore it.

    http://sg.news.yahoo.com/040303/3/3ihff.html

  33. “What if seal oil burns cleanly? :)”

    Well, thanks a lot – you just destroyed my last remaining strongly and unambiguously held belief. You sonuvabitch. Or maybe you’re a helluvaguy. I just don’t know anymore….

  34. Jimmy, your Global Warming Challenge is bogus. I’m not buying the land, because changes in sea level that significant would cause such massive economic disruption (as the destruction of hundreds of cities will tend to do) that the real estate market will collapse, because those New Yorkers won’t be buying much real estate from their Red Cross tent.

    Gadfly, you think Swiss insurance companies are radical, you should check out those patchouli stinking longhairs at the Pentagon.

  35. Gadfly,

    Swiss Re repeating the global warming claim is not so impressive. If they raise rates under this pretext in the face of competition I’ll be more impressed.

    On the other hand, here are some scientific results that say that:

    Better detection, not global warming, is behind increase in large Antarctic icebergs: (the folks who maintain that global warming is real and caused by humans had hyped the Antarctic icebergs big time. The hype made it to the main stream media)

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021024070050.htm

    More evidence that solar activity is the cause of observed global warming:

    http://www.newscientist.com/hottopics/climate/climate.jsp?id=ns99994321

    And here is a;

    Ctrique of the whole “human caused” warming paradigm:

    http://www.independent.org/tii/media/pdf/2003-07-28-climate_report.pdf

    “Long lines, and long waits, on the other hand, do cause fast food customers to go elsewhere.”

    Yeah, cause then it wouldn’t really be “fast” food.

  36. Oops,

    Sorry about fast food stuff at the end. Different post, different thread. Pay it no mind.

    (note to self: the “Preview” button is your friend)

  37. Rick, you made me grin.

    Sometimes I wonder where the line is between being a healthy skeptic and a bull-headed crank. We’ve all been a little of both, I suppose.

    I just can’t see a down side to buying in to global warming theory, though. We’re gonna run out of oil in our kids lifetime, anyway, so we just as well prepare.

  38. “…the torching of labs doing GMO research, etc., etc., ad nauseum.”

    Here’s something else that will make you lose your lunch. Mendocino County, California has just banned genetically modified crops and animals.

    http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=585&ncid=585&e=5&u=/nm/20040303/sc_nm/food_biotech_vote_dc_5

  39. Jimmy Antley said:
    “The challenge to you is: Put your money where your mouth is – buy some land in Florida that will become beach property in 20 years (exactly as predicted, of course (of course, yeah). This land will be far enough inland to be very reasonable in price. Because the land in FL is very flat, the current 20′ msl line, for example, may be many miles inland at lots of places.”

    Ummm…it’s hard to tell sometimes in a forum like this, but I assume this “challenge” is largely tongue-in-cheek…? I think there are maybe one or two problems with it, in addition to the one Joe mentioned above, the most obvious being that no scientist or global warming proponent worth his weight in shit would say you can predict precisely enough where the water level will be to buy beachfront property (especially given that Florida is so flat).
    In any case, as a lowly grad student, I don’t really have the financial resources to even buy swamp land in Florida.
    Also, I’m not a huge fan of the term “true believer” in this context, with its connotation of dogmatism and and religious zeal. In my previous post I described myself as a “cautious believer,” which I think is a fairly reasonable position.

  40. J & joe:

    Antley’s challenge is overblown, but there is an underlying element of truth to it. The point is that assertions about global warming and its negative effects are being thrown around with a very high degree of certainty. The level of certainty is very high when one asserts that challengers either to the notion that global warming is alterable to any significant degree by human activity or to the notion that global warming will be in net bad are ‘fringe’ or only come from ‘corporate shills’.

    This is a key point because it matters how confident you are when you want to compulse people to act in a certain way. Never trust a doomsayer who is unwilling to put his money where his mouth is, I say. The only question is the character of the challenge. I don’t buy the notion that we must accept that the entire economy will tank immediately, so no investment would serve the purposes. How about going short on municipal bonds issued by coastal towns? Choose an area that we KNOW will suffer negative consequences, then simply bet that they will happen by way of reallocating your retirement money. Any hedge on that position is one mark against certainty. Each mark against certainty is one mark against imposing regulation. It won’t tells us much about global warming, but it is helpful in determining our confidence in our predictions.

  41. A good article on the politicization of Science is “Science Wars”:

    http://www.frontpagemagazine.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=12379

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