Connect the Dots Between Scientism and Government Spending: Add up the Human and Financial Costs

Bruce Chapman

Left wing ideology, the pursuit of government grants and the stifling of scientific dissent work together to hobble progress, reduce freedom and raise costs. Slowly people are going to figure it out. Support the right to scientific dissent, therefore, or give another weapon to Leviathan.
Unintentional assistance comes our way today from The New York Times.
On its front page the Times reports that Darwin skeptics have decided on a new strategy — linking doubts about Darwinian evolution to doubts about man-caused global warming. The article by Leslie Kaufman makes the ludicrous assertion that there is some sort of plot hatched by conservative Protestants.

Of course, this is a hoary old Times trope. In the real world, plenty of Catholics, Jews and other people, regardless of religion, question the alarmist view that human beings are largely responsible for global warming (to the extent there is global warming). The same goes for the responsible scientists of various faith backgrounds, and none, who contend that Darwinian science is collapsing in the face of evidence. And even a larger, more diverse crowd worries about the implications of Darwinism for our culture generally.
But the Times story does at least correctly and helpfully quote John West of Discovery Institute on a way global warming and Darwinism are connected. “‘There is a lot of similar dogmatism on this issue,’ he said, ‘with scientists being persecuted for findings that are not in keeping with the orthodoxy. We think analyzing and evaluating scientific evidence is a good thing, whether that is about global warming or evolution.'”
Right, and you can add to these two issues some other controversies in science, where a left wing elite, using the enormous financial resources and regulatory power of government, such as the EPA, the NIH and the National Science Foundations, seek to suppress dissent from the reigning ideology. In some states, such as California, even state money is involved.
A leading example is embryonic stem cell research, where billions of dollars are committed to an approach that keeps failing, while other stem cell research is treated like a second class option, even though it shows promising medical test results. Yet opponents of embryonic stem cell research, as our Senior Fellow Wesley J. Smith has written, often are either ignored or denigrated in academia and government.
Another Smith topic also applies to a common theme: the supposed scientific case for the philosophic idea that animals have “rights”, sometimes rights superior to those of certain human beings (e.g., elderly people in comas, unborn children). If you think that is bizarre, you should read A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy, Smith’s book just published by Encounter Books. The implications for medical research, not to mention the food supply, are enormous.
Among other things you’ll see that, for the most part, the same kind of people — indeed many of the very same people, such as Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins — are involved in promoting all of these issues. They wield the myth of “settled science” as a club to intimidate critics and to gain economic leverage in the promotion of a left wing ideology that promotes statism, nanny state moralism and, most of all, materialism. Politically, they align with those campaigning for a government takeover of health care.
The problem, therefore, is not (as the Times imagines) that some conservatives have noted such linkages, but that so many other conservatives, neo-conservatives and moderates are unable to connect the dots. Or are afraid to. At a minimum they should be able to defend academic freedom, an issue so vital in the sciences that it almost eclipses all others.
Furthermore, Americans of all philosophical leanings should recognize that the suppression of scientific dissent on what seem like side-issues can turn out to be very costly to the economy and one’s own wallet. Mainstream science was supportive, for example, of Paul Ehrlich’s claims in The Population Bomb in the 60’s and 70’s — predicting imminent global famine and economic collapse unless coercive fertility control (forced contraception, abortion) was funded. Critics were treated as heretics. Now we know that Erhlich and company were wrong, but at what human and financial costs meanwhile?
Conservatives and decent liberals had better wise up and realize that a society that stifles debate — especially using the power of the state in universities, museums and laboratories, and state supported media — is a society slowing progress and raising costs to its citizens.
Thanks only to persecuted climate change deniers, huge lacuna in the “official” data have been found and call into question the immensely expensive reordering of the world’s economy that the Al Gores want. On social issues, the human costs easily equal the financial ones.
This post is cross-posted from Discovery News.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.