The Republican War on Science
Chris Mooney’s new tract is one of the most important books of this year. Here is a CrookedTimber review. If you can’t figure out the book’s contents from the title, here is Chris’s blog.
My take: I agree with most of the arguments but would have called it The Political War on Science. Democrat politicians are excessively enamored of government regulation, for instance, and many of them do not pay enough attention to incentives. (Admittedly these issues are not as clear cut as the theory of evolution; Mooney in fact suggests a scientific approach will lead to more regulation.) The left often treats human beings as excessively malleable. Both Carter and Clinton committed some gross errors out of self-deception; they violated the simple principle of dominance rather than any complicated scientific hypothesis. (What exactly should count as an error of science?) In fairness to Mooney he does point out many Democrat or left-wing transgressions although not all of these.
Has the increase in Republican hostility to science sprung from an especially bad and craven administration on this issue? Or has there also been a more fundamental shift in the political equilibrium, due to the greater mobilization of interest groups? Perhaps voters will be judging science on a more frequent basis from now on, and asking their politicians to take the side of untruth. Advances in biology will spur this tendency. Why do Democrat errors more frequently get framed as failures of will or morality, rather than ignorance, vice versa for current Republican errors? How much of the difference is real and how much is framing? For how long will media take the side of the Democrats on scientific issues? Here is today’s New York Times piece on related issues.
Elsewhere on the book front, John Coetzee’s Slow Man is due out September 22, pre-order it here. The FT reviewer was not crazy about it but I hold greater trust in the author.