Shawn Otto - The Assault on Science
Posted: 10 October 2011 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Host: Chris Mooney

In recent months, political attacks on science have been back in the news.

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman even famously tweeted, “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

So it’s very timely that Shawn Lawrence Otto, co-founder of a nonpartisan organization called Science Debate, has got a new book out about this very problem.

It’s called Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, and it covers the grand role of science in our country’s history, as well as the leading battles of the present. It also tells the story of Science Debate, and how it is trying to inject some reality into the 2012 election.

In addition to being an author and a co-founder of Science Debate, Otto is also a screenwriter, who wrote and co-produced The House of Sand and Fog.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/shawn_otto_the_assault_on_science/

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Posted: 10 October 2011 06:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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While I appreciate the value of a pledge for candidates to make decisions based on data, I don’t think this will utlimately prove very useful in the current political climate. 

As we have seen in many different areas, power centers, particularly on the right, have recognized that the trappings of science, at least, are important, so they have their own think tanks and high paid “scientists” who will produce “data” that they will then point to.  It doesn’t matter if it isn’t really peer reviewed or valid - they claim it is.  And it always conveniently supports their ideology, because that’s what the “scientists” are paid to do. 

And then on top of that, actual, valid science is then discredited, by claims that real scientists in peer reviewed journals are actually no better than the paid schill “scientists”.  So they muddy the waters, grab the “science” brand and pretty much make any pledge to go based on scientific data useless.

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Posted: 13 October 2011 01:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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At first I was going to vehemently disagree with the authors attempt to equate the political right’s attempt to bury facts with piles of steaming truthiness with anything the political left did. But he is correct. I encounter this all the time. People genuinuely believe that everything is subjective. I can correct them until I am blue in the face; it does no good. But I also believe that at heart is just a self-serving committement to complacency. It’s really easy to throw up your hands and say that one political party is just as bad as the next, that climiate deniers have just as much right to believe bullshit as anyone does, that homopathy is fine if you believe it, than to actually research, to actually learn the facts. Because then you might have to do something.

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Posted: 15 October 2011 12:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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A bit off topic:  I saw an argument you made on nuclear power where you claimed the “left” or “progressives” are not anti nuclear power.  You cited Joe Romm as an example.  That is preposterous.  Romm’s anti nuclear stance consists of circulating lies about nuclear economics while cheering on anyone who is protesting the technology, while he claims he’s completely innocent.  You can get your IP address flagged so he can permanently “moderate” you out of existence on his blog if you so much as ask why, if the case against nuclear power is so strong, was it necessary for Al Gore to air brush out the word “nuclear” when he reproduced the famous McKinsey GHG mitigation cost curve on page 246 of Our Choice?  Leave the word in and Gore’s readers would understand that McKinsey thought nuclear was cheaper than solar and wind.  Cut it out and the readers don’t know.  For that, comments under my name are prohibited on Romm’s blog. 

An example of Romm in debate is when he appeared on stage at Dartmouth with one of his former MIT teachers, Ernie Moniz.  video is here http://engineering.dartmouth.edu/events/2010-great-issues-in-energy-symposium/

Moniz is very knowledgeable about nuclear power, having been a central participant in the well known and often cited MIT The Future of Nuclear Power study of 2003 and its update in 2009, as well as being a member of the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission as well as being a professor of physics at MIT specializing in theoretical nuclear physics and energy policy.  Romm welcomed the idea of appearing with Moniz a few days before his appearance, on his blog.  He called Ernie an “old friend”. 

During the event, Romm’s “old friend” Moniz felt it was necessary to tell the crowd that Romm was lying to them, twice.  Romm’s case is that if all the R&D&D goes into renewables, the “cost curve” will come down and at that time renewables will be the cheapest form of energy so we might as well say so now, its cheaper now, therefore nuclear is too expensive to use now.  Its gibberish.  Moniz, as a last attempt to tell Romm to his face what he thought of his technique, used a John Deutsch expression to call Romm a “scoundrel” to his face in front of the crowd. 

If you want to have any credibility when writing about Romm and his attitude to nuclear power, you need to study him a bit more…..

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Posted: 16 October 2011 09:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Everleigh Way - 13 October 2011 01:31 PM

It’s really easy to throw up your hands and say that one political party is just as bad as the next

I agree with your point, but I also think that part of the reason is that many of us want to feel like we’re being objective by saying that we don’t agree with either side.  However, the desire not to side with either partisan position still means that something other than the facts is controlling one’s point of view; if a particular partisan position happened to be objectively more correct than another, should one reject it in order not to appear partisan?  Clearly that wouldn’t be a rational decision. 

Unfortunately, at this point in time, the overall Democratic belief system is more compatible with objective reality than is the Republican belief system.  This probably has not always been true and might not be true in the future.  But I suspect it will remain true while the Republican party is enslaved to the Religious Right.

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