Scientists, Signalling, and Sides
Recently, a scientist who I generally quite like… and who in geek circles has a lot of cred and “cool” (though he’s done a good job of beclowning himself in the past few weeks), Neil Degrasse Tyson; has used the big soap box of his reimagined “Cosmos” TV show, to essentially dismiss anyone opposed to the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming causing catastrophic climate change, as being “anti-science”.
There are plenty of scientifically literate, educated, pro-science folks, who understand the facts and the issues at hand, and do not subscribe to what is in fact a rather radical theory which is thus far not only not supported by the evidence, but which is in fact contradicted by it.
Unfortunately… he is correct ENOUGH, that it has become a matter of ingroup and outgroup identification and “the drawing up of sides” (which, of course, has exploded into total ridiculous “politics as a team sport” over the past few weeks with the quote fabrications issue).
All too often, ones position on this matter IS a matter of scientific ignorance, and has become simply signalling of ones sociopolitical/ideological position.
Often enough that it’s a good enough proxy for many to simply make the assumption…
NOTE: This leaves aside the corruption of funding question. The funding corruption issue is an entirely separate issue. It’s a serious and important issue that I’ve addressed before… and it is a large part of the explanation of why the proponents in and around the field of environmental science behave as they do. The funding question however, is neither necessary, nor sufficient, to explain the political or social positioning, or the passion and intensity thereof, when it comes to the huge majority of scientists whose funding has nothing to do with environmental and climate science whatsoever.
The problem is, for Tyson… and for a lot of other scientists… This stopped being about the facts of the case …or for that matter about science at all… a long time ago.
It became about sides…
One side being pro science, the other side being anti-science.
One side being everyone who respects science, and education, and opposes ignorance…
The other side being the Kansas and Texas textbook authority people. And the creation museum people. And the anti-gay, anti abortion people. And the science funding cutters and actual anti-science nutjobs.
AND IN PART… UNFORTUNATELY OFTEN IN LARGE PART… THEY WERE RIGHT…
Since the “social conservatives” drew up some pretty clean lines, with congressional support and legislative activity on “their side” (particularly on the state level), everything else, which had been fairly fractured politically from the perspective of science, felt an existential threat. Those who were not politically active and motivated got so, in a big way, quickly, when they saw the way things were going.
As soon as this bloc hardened up, it had to become unassailable… It couldn’t admit error or fault in even the smallest way, or it would become politically vulnerable. The “other side” would use that error to force their anti-science agenda through.
This isn’t to say the liberals didn’t already have their blocks of agenda science… Of course they did; the entire block of ” environmental science” formed its core and still does. If you consider “social science” a science at all (at it’s best, it is, but mostly it isn’t), that is even more politicized and agenda driven, and always has been.
But the “social conservatives” (who, I keep emphasizing in these pages, are mostly anything but “conservative”, they are mostly populist religious reactionaries) essentially unified the vast majority of science, and mostly aligned on the left (since the anti-science folks are mostly aligned on the right) against their direct assault.
And yes, often, it has been a direct assault. A mostly weak, futile, and stupid one to be sure, centered around local and state level action, mostly in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, and Arkansas… But very direct and tangible assault it has been and continues to be.
An Aside: Don’t try to defend the “social conservative” position here for the most part. If it were an actual social conservative position, that would be fine… and defensible…
The only “socially conservative” science position has to be “science is science, leave agendas out of it, left OR right. Stop using it as an excuse for social experimentation and social engineering”.
It would be things like “stop trying to teach sex-ed in kindergarten as a mask to set up a gay rights educational agenda for 5 year olds” (something I actually fought down in Phoenix, and I generally support “gay rights”… but that’s MY job to teach, when and how I think it’s appropriate for MY kids… not the schools job).
But right now, the self identified “social conservative” position and agenda certainly isn’t that. It’s trying to make it illegal to teach ACTUAL SCIENCE in high school for example.
And no, your personal religious views… NO MATTER WHAT THEY ARE… have NO place in the classroom.
In any way.
Under any circumstances.
So long as we compel public education and there is no publicly funded alternative, this must always be so.
Stop trying to disguise it with “intelligent design” or “teach the controversy” garbage as well… it’s a disingenuous lie, insulting to everyone elses intelligence, and everyone knows it.
It’s not about “inclusiveness” or “teaching alternatives”… It’s about trying to force society to stop teaching actual science and history, and start teaching what YOUR church tells YOU to believe.
If you want to teach your kids that everything their science and history teachers teach them is wrong and against Gods will and teaching… go for it. That’s what churches and home bible study, and home religious schooling, and private religious schools are for.
But you don’t get to legislate that my kids have to be taught your religion, or that they NOT be taught what your religion says is false. In fact, you don’t even get to try…
What is more… by trying, you permanently forfeit any right to participate any more in any public process other than voting and speechifying. You have proven that you neither understand, nor respect, the rights and liberties of others. You have proven, that you are not to be trusted.
If you think that somehow your moral or religious superiority justifies ignoring (or altering) our societal rules, moral conventions, laws and constitution… because God looks on your views with special favor and you have to see his good works through… or some other such twaddle… You think the ends justify the means, and you are not to be trusted.
That view makes you every bit as dangerous as the islamists… and every bit as dangerous as the left wing think you are…
Not just dangerous to their agenda… Dangerous to the United States, to science, to education, to the fight against ignorance, and to the fight for liberty.
And yes… that means that the atheists and the liberals “automatically win” in schools when it comes to science.
Get over it.
They “won” the second you decided that science and history were your enemy. You SHOULD lose here… For the United States to continue, you NEED to lose on this issue.
The schools are not supposed to be a battleground (yes, they are, but they are not supposed to be and making it worse is not helping), and your side here is flat wrong… Better in degree than the Islamicist lunatics, but not in kind.
If you think your beliefs can’t stand up to the “threat” presented them by science and history… Well the first thing is you might want to take a look at your personal faith… and the second is, you may want to re-evaluate those beliefs.
So for right now, it has become impossible for those who support science as a whole, but want GOOD science to prevail, to assault the BAD science that dominates the field of environmental science. The entire science “bloc” is in “defend science against anti science bigots and extremists and idiots at all costs no matter what” mode.
Every time someone gets up there and says “I believe every word of the bible is literally true and you shouldn’t be allowed to teach children otherwise” they make it worse.
Oh and before anyone tries to say I’m an atheist, or anti religious… nope. I am a confirmed and sincere catholic. I’m just anti-stupid.