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Science and Worldviews: Slate Sees the Light

Slate — yes, stet that, Slate — carries an excellent essay opening up the interesting question of whether political and philosophical presuppositions distort what we think of as mainstream science (“Lab Politics: Most scientists in this country are Democrats. That’s a problem“). Author Daniel Sarewitz notes that among scientists, self-identified Republicans make up a dismal 6 percent, while Democrats are 55 percent (the rest are independents and I-don’t-knows). Though Sarewitz doesn’t mention evolution, he ought to have done so. But never mind. While folks on the political right have been strangely slow to pick up on the political resonances of Darwinism, his illustration from the climate debate makes the same point:

Could it be that disagreements over climate change are essentially political — and that science is just carried along for the ride? For 20 years, evidence about global warming has been directly and explicitly linked to a set of policy responses demanding international governance regimes, large-scale social engineering, and the redistribution of wealth. These are the sort of things that most Democrats welcome, and most Republicans hate. No wonder the Republicans are suspicious of the science.
Think about it: The results of climate science, delivered by scientists who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are used over a period of decades to advance a political agenda that happens to align precisely with the ideological preferences of Democrats. Coincidence — or causation?

Dr. Sarewitz, a geologist who co-directs the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University, is going down a dangerous road for someone with a concern for his reputation as a rational thinker:

During the Bush administration, Democrats discovered that they could score political points by accusing Bush of being anti-science. In the process, they seem to have convinced themselves that they are the keepers of the Enlightenment spirit, and that those who disagree with them on issues like climate change are fundamentally irrational.

In reality, folks on the Left are as susceptible to blinding by ideology as are those on the Right. Paradigms, worldviews, Foucaultian epistemes — whatever you want to call the lens through which we experience and interpret the world — influence the evidences we are willing to entertain and to which we are willing to grant legitimacy. Sarewitz would like scientists on the Left to ponder the implications of this, but he’s not holding his breath:

There is clearly something going on that is as yet barely acknowledged, let alone understood. As a first step, leaders of the scientific community should be willing to investigate and discuss the issue. They will, of course, be loath to do so because it threatens their most cherished myths of a pure science insulated from dirty partisanship.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.