Monday, January 6, 2014

Liberals And Science

I've written before about my problem with a certain brand of liberal credulity toward "alternative medicine." Read The Huffington Post and you'll regularly find a platform for unsubstantiated (refuted, actually) claims by shameless practitioners. Same with liberal anti-vaccination bandwagonism.

And it applies to a knee-jerk tendency to reject the very thought of GMOs, genetically modified organisms, many of which have undoubtedly saved lives and prevented hunger in destitute areas of the planet. I've just read a lengthy article in the NYT about this, in which it sort of parenthetically referred to the same puzzlement:

Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves at odds with their traditional allies on this issue. Some compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative ones. 
“These are my people, they’re lefties, I’m with them on almost everything,” said Michael Shintaku, a plant pathologist at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, who testified several times against the bill. “It hurts.”
Mainly, the article is about a proposal to ban GMOs in the State of Hawaii, and the attempts of one legislator to educate himself, against the tide, on the subject. Despite learning that the science on the subject is pretty convincing regarding the lack of harm, and, in fact, confirms benefit in many cases, he was, in the end, unable to stem that tide.

Indeed, it's exactly like right-wing climate change denialism, with the same claims of people being bought off by big industry, the unreliability of science, its past errors; the same willingness to ignore data when they conflict with preferences and prejudices.

More evidence of human fallibility, I guess, and of unintelligent non-design. Present company excepted, of course: I recognize the factuality of evolution, anthropogenic climate change, the bogosity of alternative medicine, the value of vaccinations, and don't reject GMO out of hand. I am, in other words, the very model of a modern major generalist.

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