13 December 2010

Political Affiliations of Scientists

Last week my friend and colleague Dan Sarewitz tossed some red meat out on the table in the form of an essay in Slate on the apparent paucity of Republicans among the US scientific establishment.  Sarewitz suggests that it is in the interests f the scientific community both to understand this situation and to seek greater diversity in its ranks, explaining that "the issue here is legitimacy, not literacy."

Sarewitz's essay has been followed by predictable responses (1,243 of them at Slate alone). Writing at MIT's science journalism tracker Paul Raeburn offers this suggestively sinister critique:
And what is Sarewitz’s political affiliation, I wonder?
Since everyone else knows the answer to this, you'd think a journalist might have ways of figuring it out.  Similarly sophomoric, Chris Mooney, in his characteristic us vs. them fashion, asks if Sarewitz will be joining the forces of evil:
Would Sarewitz himself like to become a Republican?
Such responses dodge the real issue here raised by Sarewitz.

And what is that real issue?  The issue that Sarewitz raises is one of legitimacy.  All of us evaluate knowledge claims outside our own expertise (and actually very few people are in fact experts) based not on a careful consideration of facts and evidence, but by other factors, such as who we trust and how their values jibe with our own.  Thus if expert institutions are going to sustain and function in a democratic society they must attend to their legitimacy.  Scientific institutions that come to be associated with one political party risk their legitimacy among those who are not sympathetic to that party's views.

Of course, we don't just evaluate knowledge claims simply based on individuals, but usually through institutions, like scientific journals, national academies, professional associations, universities and so on. Sarewitz's Slate article did not get into a discussion of these institutions, but I think that it is essential to fully understand his argument.

Consider that the opinion poll that Sarewitz cited which found that only 6% of scientists self-identify as Republicans has some very important fine print -- specifically that the scientists that it surveyed were all members of the AAAS.  I do not have detailed demographics information, but based on my experience I would guess that AAAS membership is dominated by university and government scientists.  The opinion poll thus does not tell us much about US scientists as a whole, but rather something about one scientific institution -- AAAS.  And the poll indicates that AAAS is largely an association that does not include Republicans.

Sarewitz wonders about how this situation might have developed.  One factor might be seen in a recent action of the American Geophysical Union -- another big US science association: AGU recently appointed Chris Mooney to its Board.  I am sure that Chris is a fine fellow, but appointing an English major who has written divisively about the "Republican War on Science" to help AGU oversee "science communication" is more than a little ironic, and unlikely to attract many Republican scientists to the institution, perhaps even having the opposite effect.  To the extent that AAAS and AGU endorse the Democratic policy agenda, or just appear to do so, it reflects their role not as arbiters of knowledge claims, but rather as political actors.

Looking more broadly, I would wager that the partisan affiliation of scientists in the US military, in the energy , pharmaceutical and finance industries would look starkly different than that of AAAS.  If there is a crisis of legitimacy in the scientific community, it is among those institutions which have become to be so dominated by those espousing a shared political view, whatever that happens to be. This crisis is shared by AAAS and AGU, viewed with suspicion by those on the Right, and, for instance, by ExxonMobil, which is viewed by a similar suspicion by those on the Left.  Sarewitz is warning that for many on the Right, institutions like AAAS are viewed with every bit as skeptical an eye as those on the Left view ExxonMobil.

Such views are more than just tribalism, they are expressions of how different people evaluate knowledge claims, and to the degree that they substitute affiliations for evaluating knowledge claims, science becomes pathologically politicized.  Sarewitz thus offers a warning:
American society has long tended toward pragmatism, with a great deal of respect for the value and legitimacy not just of scientific facts, but of scientists themselves. For example, survey data show that the scientific community enjoys the trust of 90 percent of Americans—more than for any other institution, including the Supreme Court and the military. Yet this exceptional status could well be forfeit in the escalating fervor of national politics, given that most scientists are on one side of the partisan divide. If that public confidence is lost, it would be a huge and perhaps unrecoverable loss for a democratic society.
Many observers are so wrapped up in their own partisan battles that they either don't care that science is being associated with one political party or they somehow think that through such politicization they will once and for all win the partisan battles.  They won't. Political parties are far more robust than institutions of science. Institutions of science need help to survive intact partisan political battles.  The blogosphere and activist scientists and journalists offer little help.

41 comments:

Gerard Harbison said...

Certainly Sarewitz's contributions to political campaigns are easy to uncover. But it's a fair, non-partisan, if more than a little patronizing article, particularly compared with the follow-ups.

I was inclined to regard this mini-flurry of posts about the political affiliations of scientists more as a reflection on the laziness of contemporary journalists than as saying anything about scientists. Granted, Sarewitz made a mistake by not carefully checking the details of the Pew poll. But then Kevin Drum, of Mother Jones, and worse yet, Matt Steinglass of the Economist, simply took Sarewitz's misreading of the poll as a given and riffed their own little blog pieces on the same false premise.

If my own institution (admittedly in a red state) is any indicator, even academic scientists are more than 6% Republican. I know this because a colleague, a few years back, simply cross-correlated the university Centrex with Lancaster County voter registration data, and broke down political affiliations for every department and college on campus. Most science departments were far more than 6% Republican, while engineering was over half Republican.

Hector M. said...

Einstein was a kind of anarchist-pacifist-socialist, Oppenheimer was left leaning, Edward Teller was a right-wing warmonger. They all assisted the Allies during WWII, while Heisenberg was working for the Nazi war system. However, nobody will seriously throw doubts of the theory of relativity based on Einstein politics (or Jewishness, for that matter), and nobody would doubt that antimatter exists because Teller was a right-wing extremist. And they all worked on matters of life and death such as nuclear power and defeating (or not defeating) the Nazis.
So why is now the case that political leanings have such a tremendous impact on the legitimacy of certain areas of science, e.g. in climate science? Heisenberg or Oppenheimer or Einstein or Teller would not doubt or rebuke or dismiss each other on the basis of ideology but (if ever) on the basis of the underlying logic of, and empirical support for, their respective hypothesis.

Bishop Hill said...

It would be interesting to do a similar survey on UK scientists - perhaps fellows of the Royal Society. I think there would be a similar paucity of Conservatives, but perhaps a split between LibDem and Labour.

Gerard Harbison said...

Let me take a concrete example for Hector. Let's say you have an interest in establishing a biochemical mechanism for a certain industrial chemical's putative effect on human embryological development. If you find and publish evidence of such a mechanism, you get high-visibility papers and likely a grant renewal. If you can't establish such a mechanism, you won't get a paper out of it, you probably won't renew a grant. If you're starting out, you might not even get tenure, resulting in the end of your academic career. You have an enormous stake in a particular outcome.

Even so, I'd wager the majority of scientists wouldn't outright falsify data (though a few have indeed done so under such circumstances). But they might certainly press students to repeat experiments until they obtained a particular outcome; they might redesign the experiment to make the outcome more likely, etc.. The simple statistics of random error will ensure that if you look hard enough for a particular outcome, you will find it.

That is, I suspect, the most important source of scientific bias. And it is hard for even the most ethical scientist to guard against.

gmcrews said...

Hi Hector M,

The quality of science is not a property of the science itself. It is a subjective judgement of those evaluating the science. So how do I judge quality if I am not an expert on, say, climate science? Therefore, I think Roger is on the money with his concern over legitimacy having an effect on the quality of science.

David Bruggeman said...

Roger,

Here I think numbers and demographics matter in a different way as well as the one you point out. I appreciate and support Sarewitz's argument, but it reads as a critique of party affiliation across the scientific board where I think the more accurate picture has to consider specific scientific issues in addition to your call for considering where scientists are working.

For those scientific issues that aren't climate change or stem cells, to what extent is party affiliation and the correlating legitimacy of relevant institutions a problem? To what extent does the polarization on those two issues threaten to color other debates involving science institutions? It's reasonable to be concerned about a spread, but what evidence indicates this has progressed beyond certain debates?

On a related note, how many on the right and on the left have the views about AAAS and ExxonMobil that you describe seems relevant as well. Yes, the fringes control the debates and the communications outlets in a way far disproportionate to their numbers, but legitimacy still relies on the views of larger numbers of people? For how many of them is AAAS or ExxonMobil (or whichever institutions you prefer) considered, much less considered illegitimately?

Without better engaging in the nuances of the people and institutions engaged in the practice of science and related policy, I think Sarewitz's arguments are too connected to the problematic rhetoric of Mooney and the 'war on science' to be as effective as they could be. Unfortunately, existing research that touches on the issues we're talking about appears to lack that nuance.

Harrywr2 said...

Hector M. said... 2

"So why is now the case that political leanings have such a tremendous impact on the legitimacy of certain areas of science, e.g. in climate science?"

People who lean left or lean right use different language in how they describe things and perceive things. A homogeneous group will speak in the language of the group.

Keith Olberman and Glen Beck could go on TV and explain why 2+2=4.

The right would dismss Keith Olberman's position as left wing lunacy because it would be spoken in the language of the left. The left would dismiss Beck's position as right wing lunacy as he speaks in the language of the right.

There has been no shortage of 'scientific' papers in recent years that utilize the 'language of the left' rather then the language of 'science' and I'm sure there are some that use 'the language of the right'.

Teller and Oppenheimer's politics were different, but they spoke a common language when communicating with each other.

Mark B. said...

@Gerard Harbison

Let's not be silly. If you are in the business, you know that a strong majority of academic scientists fall left of center. Whether it's 94% or a little less doesn't change the point being made. My advisor was a conservative Christian, and an anomaly in the department. I never surveyed the department - obviously none of my business - but I'd guess that the faculty ran at least 80% Democrat. And that was in the Bible Belt, in a college town that was a liberal island in a conservative countryside.

The relevant question is, are scientists speaking from the data, or from their own prejudices. When the 'consensus' analysis just happens to conveniently align with existing political ideology, it's a reasonable question to ask.

Andy Stahl said...

I generally find Dan Sarewitz's writings salient. This one, however, misses the mark because its foundational data are not what the article claims.

AAAS is not a scientific entity, i.e., it does not conduct any scientific inquiry. Anyone can join AAAS. AAAS is an unabashed political advocacy organization; that's the purpose for which it was created. AAAS promotes a political agenda, which is more often than not, left of center. Thus it is not surprising that AAAS's voluntary membership is representative of AAAS's advocacy agenda.

Fred said...

"I am sure that Chris is a fine fellow, but appointing an English major who has written divisively about the "Republican War on Science" to help AGU oversee "science communication" is more than a little ironic, "

Ironic? Now that's an understatement. The question is which part is more ironic - that the AGU sees no problem having a non-scientist appointed to their Board, or the AGU feels the need to appoint a Republican hating Warmista to a senior position.

The desperation of their chosen path gets more critical by the day.

Gerard Harbison said...

Mark B.

I know no such thing. Bluster is not a valid argument, and data is not the plural of anecdote.

Here are data. In my department (Chemistry, U. Nebraska) by far and away the largest category of voter among our tenured and tenure-track faculty is 'unregistered' -- mostly because we have a lot of non-citizens. Of the registered voters, 4 are Democrats, 3 are Republicans, and 7 are 'non-partisan'. Several of the non-partisans are political conservatives.

jae said...

Great post! One just has to follow the $$, as usual. It's no accident that environmentalists, in general, lean far to the left. They would be paupers if it were not for the tax and spend libs.

Sharon F. said...

Andy- you raise an interesting point. AAAS seems to think of itself as a scientific society; publishing in Science is thought to be a good thing within the scientific community.

I'm not sure that members (myself included) would agree with you that it isn't a scientific entity.

Patricia said...

Sharon: AAAS, itself, does no science. It operates no laboratories nor conducts any experiments. AAAS advocates for public policies that its members support, e.g., federally-funded stem cell research; government controls on greenhouse gas emissions "now"; and, increasing NSF and NIH budgets.

Membership in AAAS is open to anyone willing to pay its dues -- no "science" credentials of any sort are required.

Other NGOs similar to AAAS include the Union of Concerned Scientists (which is forthright about its advocacy mission) and the Society for Conservation Biology (which was founded to help scientists become advocates for protecting ecosystems).

Sharon F. said...

Patricia- I'm not sure that I agree with a definition of a scientific organization as one that "operates laboratories and conducts experiments." It seems to me that publishing a journal is also scientific work. It also seems to me that Science and Nature are considered by some to be the pinnacles of places to publish. If Science is simply a journal that selects articles that fit its agenda, this would seem to be a serious disconnect between science as talked about (objective, quality work) and science as reality (fits their agenda).

Robert said...

To add what Gerard Harbison said, if you torture the data enough, eventually it will confess. Hansen, Mann, come to mind.

Andy Stahl said...

Sharon: Science has a political agenda; it is AAAS's organ and AAAS exists for political purposes. Nature's agenda, on the other hand, is more prosaic. Nature exists to make money. It is a for-profit publication and its articles are selected with the intent of promoting magazine sales, i.e., based on how topical the subject matter.

Unlike AAAS, which is a membership organization, Nature is a commodity owned by a multi-national publishing house. Nature's editors do take political positions, on occasion, most notably endorsing Barack Obama for President.

hro001 said...

Somewhat o/t But ... I'm wondering where the scientists of the IPCC might fit into this great divide?!

As Judith Curry has noted, many (if not most) of those who are chosen appear to have a shared ideology - but they may or may not (depending on the person's domicile and/or country of origin) fit the Democrat vs Republican political partisanship paradigm.

While I'm here ... and speaking of the IPCC ... perhaps I might be permitted to put in a plug for a "powerful new research tool" which might be of interest to those who want to pursue the sources relied on for claims in the IPCC's 4th Assessment Report.

AccessIPCC's FAR_OUT (Fourth Assessment Report - Objectively Uniformly Tagged) is an annotated version of the 44 chapters AR4's Working Groups 1, 2 & 3.

Feel free to dive right in at http://accessipcc.com - or for a more extensive introduction and guide (along with history behind the project etc), try:

http://accessipcc.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/a-tutorial-on-using-accessipccs-far_out/

ourchangingclimate said...

Apart from the question of how representative these results are (as they pertain to AAAS members only), there is another question of what is the cause and what is the effect.

E.g. regarding your dig towards Chris Mooney, could it be that his book is based on his observation that the republican party has by and large been more antagonistic towards scientific conlusions deemed inconvenient thatn the democratic party has? Rather than the other way around, that Mooney lets his political leaning colour where he puts the blame?

That would make quite a difference I think. That same question plays for the larger population of scientists: Do their political views influence their scientific views, or vice versa?

Bart

ourchangingclimate said...

On Mooney's blog, Rob Knop (comment nr 7) gives a good example of the dynamic I just described:

"I *used* to be a Republican. (...) it’s difficult for scientists to remain in it [the republican party]. It’d be like an evolutionary biologist trying to remain a fundamentalist; sooner or later, you gotta find another church, even if there are things about it you don’t like. (...)"

Also, Mooney's title is right on the mark:

Is the problem that too few scientists are republican or is the problem that too few republicans accept science?

Though Nisbet makes a good pragmatic point as well: Hammering on the "republican war" narrative increases the polarization and hence makes this problem (however one sees the problem) only worse.

Bart

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-20-Bart

Thanks for the comment, but you ignore the focus of my post -- it is not that Republicans refuse to "accept science" it is that many of them do not trust certain institutions.

I'd guess that of the Republicans that you are referring to (care to name names?) very few if any are even qualified to evaluate scientific claims as experts. If so, then your comments are about trust and legitimacy, and not science per se.

Jonathan Gilligan said...

Roger: I skimmed the Pew report at the link you provide. They report the demographics of their scientist sample. You're right that it's mostly academics (15% work in for-profit industry), but they report the party identification broken down by employment sector and the industrial scientists self-identify as 10% Republican, 47% Democrat, 37% Independent.

So among these scientists, Sarewitz's basic point applies to the industrial sector, but you could legitimately question whether the subset of industrial scientists who belong to the AAAS is representative of all industrial scientists.

As to those complaining that anyone can join the AAAS, in fact the methods described in the survey make it clear that they sampled only scientists from among the AAAS membership, not the AAAS membership as a whole.

But here's another result from the poll you might comment on: 76% of the public thinks it's appropriate for scientists to be "actively involved in political debates" and 64% of the public views scientists as non-partisan (i.e., neither liberal nor conservative), compared to 20% who think scientists weigh in predominantly as liberals. This seems at odds with your statement that in the public eye, "science is being associated with one political party."

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-22-Jonathan

I never said that _in the public eye_, "science is being associated with one political party." AAAS however is, and arguably so too is AGU and other institutions.

I also think that scientists should be "actively involved in political debates" (I even wrote a book on it;-). The fact that the public generally views science as non-partisan underscores Sarewitz's warning about the perils of that changing. That 20% number should be a concern.

You might also enjoy this piece by Sarewitz:

http://www.issues.org/25.4/sarewitz.html

Sean said...

You note that the AAAS is essentially made up of academic and government scientists. Scientists in industry are not well represented in its ranks. There is also a more fundamental issue regarding speaking from authority with credentials. Most AAAS members can give their affiliation with the institutions they work for when discussing topics related to their field of expertise even if only tangentially. So they can speak with credentials and authority when making commentary. They are protected by tenure in academia and generous due process policies in government. A scientist working in industry can comment as a private citizen but if they display their corporate affiliation or credentials, any type of publication has to reviewed by legal or public relations departments. Corporations avoid controversies like the plague. (Just look at the campaign waged against Target in Minnesota for supporting a candidate because of his corporate tax policies. They will never do that again.)
A corporate scientist's unauthorized comments, even if they support the company position, could result in termination if they cause too much controversy. So scientists in industry, who are not well represented in the AAAS survey but whose political affiliations are anyones guess, are unlikely to show up with credentials when making commentary. So a lot of creditialed academics and government scientists can make political or science commentary under their credietials. However the guys in industry and the corporate world may have some smart things to say but under just a first name or psuedonym that does not reveal much about who they are. In private industry, discretion is the better part of valor.

Gerard Harbison said...

One more point. I think Dan Sarewitz's motives are good, and he's told me he knew about the problems with using a poll of the AAAS membership. And there really isn't much other data out there; as an exercise, try to write a bombproof definition of 'scientist'. On the other hand, I think a lot of the follow-up blog articles to his original post, mostly attacking it, are using the 6% figure in the same manner people have used the 'scientific consensus' argument for AGW and evolution. As someone who has vocally supported evolution and believes in AGW, I deplore the use of argumentum ad consensum to support either. We don't do science by opinion poll, and the best argument for, say, evolution is the consilience of the scientific view of origins, not a majority vote of scientists.

In fact, it's a rather malignant extension of the consensus argument. It goes beyond 'most scientists believe in (AGW/evolution/whatever)'. It has become 'most scientists agree with the same things I do'. It's an attempt at finessing/stealing a blanket endorsement from one of the few groups that most people still think of as smart and ethical. As Roger has said, if scientists go along with this, the public view of scientists will rapidly change for the worse. That is why we need to resist it; our own good name is in jeopardy.

casey451 said...

Andy Revkin, who linked here the other day, suddenly went silly last night and added this "update" to his post:

[9:37 p.m. | Updated * A couple of readers noticed, and I agree in retrospect, that Pielke's post, while informative on the poll, includes some inappropriately snarky treatment of Chris Mooney.]

I replied. I'm posting it here because I doubt he will post it there.

"This is beyond the pale, Andrew. I've watched you walk quite the tightrope between the most vocal elements of the climate change issue, but this blatant attempt at "balance" is foolish to the extreme. My first objection is that you think it's appropriate to scold another blogger for being inappropriate on HIS OWN blog! Just because you write at the Times doesn't mean you are the arbiter of manners everywhere.

Second, those readers you speak of have not posted their observations here. Have you deemed them "inappropriate" or just off-topic? Well, this topic, since you mentioned it in the body of your post, is on-topic now. I expect my post to appear here, if you are really devoted to balance.

Third, please define "snarky" and "critical". Please explain how Pielke's remarks are one and not the other. Or is being "critical" not permitted in your dreamy blogosphere?

If you have a new devotion to sweetness and good manners, I expect not to see Joe Romm linked to in the future here as he has been frequently in the past. I was encouraged to see your link to Pielke, believing you were at last finding the wheat among the chaff in your pursuit of wisdom. But the Pielke haters, scurrying about in the chaff, make a loud noise, I suppose, and must be thrown some nibblets of attention, or they will start calling you a "denier"."

John M said...

An interesting tidbit from the Pew poll:

A majority of the public (64%) thinks scientists are politically "neutral" while the majority of scientist's themselves (56%) think scientits's are "liberal" (at least among AAAS members).

If the scientists are right and the public is wrong on this question, there could be a harsh public backlash if and when the realization sets in.

casey451 said...

I meant to say earlier I don't mind if my previously submitted post doesn't appear here. No need to stir this particular soup. Something nasty may emerge from the depths.

David Bruggeman said...

Via Merriam-Webster online:

Definition of SNARKY
1: crotchety, snappish
2: sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner .

IMO, it might be a stretch to call Roger's comments in this post about Chris snarky. But inappropriately snarky? When the strongest language is sophomoric, that's a rack-induced stretch and a half.

eric144 said...

I doubt that many scientists have serious political opinions. It's basically a mac vs PC v coke vs pepsi vs KFC vs Burger King thing. They consume the Guardian and NYT like they consume anything else .

Here is a truly venomous attack on left wing politics and working class culture in the Guardian yesterday. It was aimed at a horrible, peasant, union leader who made it difficult for his social superiors to get to work on trains.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/13/bob-crow-strikes-rmt-union


Anyone who votes for Obama or Blair knows pretty well well that the redistribution of wealth will be from poor to rich.

I don't even believe scientists have serious opinions about global warming. I surmise that the consensus comes from mainly from employer and peer pressure. The employer is (in essence) the US and British governments.

Everyone is a team player nowadays. "Come one people, we have to get these sales, this contract, this grant etc." Dendrochronolgy isn't pulling its weight. Let's get these medieval temperatures down !

The fact that MI5 haven't released any information about who took Phil Jones'emails suggests to me it was someone local. The prime suspect would have been Jones himself, and I would not be at all shocked if it was him. It's what I would have been very tempted to do myself if I was under pressure to tell lies. The fact that collusion took place doesn't mean it was with the consent of those taking part in it. Bus drivers don't choose their destinations.

As for corporate journalists, they don't have opinions. Not at work.

ourchangingclimate said...

Roger,

So the issue is that Republicans refuse to trust science as an institution (and/or as a process? That may be a stretch, though it's hard to decouple the institution of science from the process of science).

trust/accept: merely semantic difference in this context.

Bart

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

-31-Bart

"Science" is not an institution. AAAS is an institution. There are many institutions of science, and some are trusted more than others by different groups. ExxonMobil certainly does science in its organization, do you trust them? If not, does that mean that you distrust science?

On efforts to equate science with specific institutions, see Sarewitz again:

http://www.issues.org/25.4/sarewitz.html

Republicans love science (look at the NSF S&E Indicators -- everyone loves science). They distrust the AAAS (and other institutions.)

Chuck said...

OT, Roger it seems that 'climate models are far superior to economic models'!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-h-gleick/climate-fraud-and-hypocri_b_796753.html

DeWitt said...

This is, of course, an anecdote, but many years ago I dropped my memberships in the ACS and AAAS precisely because I considered them to be primarily political organizations with goals that were incompatible with mine. I don't belong to the AARP for the same reason.

Mark said...

ExxonMobil certainly does science in its organization, do you trust them? If not, does that mean that you distrust science?

I imagine that a fair number of people would distrust, on principle, any science coming out of a big corporate like ExxonMobil.

Yet the scientists who work for corporates are under much more pressure to be right. There's no ability to take an political line because they have the need to be seen to be hip. If an Exxon scientist says there is definitely oil in a place, there had better be oil when they drill!

For decades the oil industry has laughed at "Peak Oil", and they have better knowledge than anyone. Yet too many Greenies still will not trust them, no matter what.

The left is no better about believing science when it contradicts their world view. You only need to see the scare-mongering about GM crops to see that, for some people, big industry is always evil.

eric144 said...

"I don't even believe scientists have serious opinions about global warming"

I should clarify. I imagine that generally speaking, it is possible to quietly continue one's work as a climate scientist without getting into political debates.

Let us remind ourselves that arguably the greatest climate scientist in the galaxy wrote something that utterly contradicts the misguided and ignorant basis for political bias in the field. The oil companies have been the driving force behind global warming / carbon trading propaganda.


James Hansen in the Guardian

Governments today, instead, talk of "cap-and-trade with offsets", a system rigged by big banks and fossil fuel interests. Cap-and-trade invites corruption. Worse, it is ineffectual, assuring continued fossil fuel addiction to the last drop and environmental catastrophe.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2010/aug/26/james-hansen-climate-change?showallcomments=true#end-of-comments


***


People often ask me "why would such and such do such and such" ? I reply "because they're smart, and you aren't".


Why did Exxon fund crazy, right wing extremists to oppose AGW ? See above.

Ed said...

Dr. Pielke--

I'd be more comfortable describing the one-sidedness of the academic scientific community as conservative vs. liberal (or progressive, if you like) rather than as Republican vs. Democrat. Political party affiliation is merely a symptom of basic value system leanings. Like-minded people form parties that attract other like-minded people to try to effect certain policy outcomes; but not all like-minded people join up.

Sharon F. said...

eric 144

I thought this quote from Hansen was interesting..
"Because the executive and legislative branches of our governments turn a deaf ear to the science, the judicial branch may provide the best opportunity to redress the situation. Our governments have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the rights of young people and future generations."
And here all the time I thought the judicial branch was supposed to interpret laws written by elected officials, whether they believe that "science" requires them to promote a specific policy outcome or not!

ourchangingclimate said...

Heiko writes:

"Are scientists too stupid to make money or Republicans too stupid to become scientists?"

(http://heikoheiko.blogspot.com/2010/12/are-scientists-too-stupid-to-make-money.html )

Perhaps higher salaries would help bringing in more republicans to science?

Bart

eric144 said...

Sharon F.

There are two James Hansens.

One is a half crazed extremist nostalgic for the scientific apocalypse culture of the 1970s. The other one (the galaxy's greatest living climate scientist) is the one that agrees with me about carbon trading.

:-)

7d549600-227e-11e1-a6d5-000bcdcb2996 said...

The notion that more scientists should be Republicans at a time when only one of the eight Republican presidential nominee thinks AGW is occurring, and most find the evidence for evolution unconvincing, seems a bit odd to me. It's a bit like being shocked to find that most gun company executives are Republicans and saying that the industry should work to bring in more Democrats. Professions whose work has been politicised will almost invariably have disproportionate political affiliations in their ranks. If scientists are having so much trouble communicating their findings to the conservative public, then perhaps they should hire conservative writers/publicists to make their communiques more clear, but I honestly think that attempts to somehow fosters a larger Republican contingent would be futile, and more than a little absurd.

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