Sunday, February 27, 2011

The attack on science is bipartisan

In a piece in this weekend's New York Time Magazine, Judith Warner discusses the bipartisan nature of the attack on science. In the late 1980s and 1990s, she notes, came an attach by the left: the sweeping postmodern relativist assault on scientific Truth. This assault, she claims, lost steam after it was parodied by the "progressive" physicist Alan Sokal in his "Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." At this point, she claims, the attack on science switched from left to right, now directed, in particular, at the science of global warming.

What Warner fails to realize is that the attack on science has been, and always will be, a bipartisan affair. It is renewed each time scientific findings challenge widespread cherished beliefs--whether about genetics and IQ; when fetuses become conscious and experience pain; the efficacy of alternative medicine; the role of vaccines in autism; the age of the earth; the tremendous complexity and uncertainty involved in climate change; the origin of species; the neurological wiring of religious belief; what the mastery of reading, math, and arithmetic entail; or what science is (highly analytical, with correct and incorrect answers) and isn't (postering and science appreciation).

Yes, we all love science... just so long as it doesn't make our brains buzz with cognitive dissonance, or our hearts burn with disappointment or anger.

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