Nothin’ personal, just bus-a-niss

It’s not just science the wingnuts hate: it’s every form of reasoned discourse.

If you’re a scientist offended by the right-wing war on science, please don’t take it personally. The wingnuts hate history, too.

Every form of reasoned discourse has the same liberal bias. The whole notion that there is a world of facts subject to investigation, rather than merely competing assertions, is deeply offensive to the unreality-based community.

Are there illiberal, anti-rational forces on the left? Of course there are. But they’re aberrational. Even the mainstream right now seems to have adopted Nineteen Eighty-Four as an operations manual, rather than a warning.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

24 thoughts on “Nothin’ personal, just bus-a-niss”

  1. "Every form of reasoned discourse has the same liberal bias. "

    Indeed, you'd be hard put to find a liberal who doesn't find this to be obviously true…

  2. The story starts out making it sound like the controversy is that Nixon sereptitiously taped conversations in the Oval Office. Then it finishes up with a representative of the Nixon Foundation stating that while Nixon did wrong things in office those things didn't rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

    Gosh the poor guy only engaged in felony conspiracy to obsruct justice by paying hush money to cover up a felony commited by his associates that was meant to benefit his presidential campaign. What ever did Ford ever need to pardon him for?

    Just because Nixon didn't do things as bad as say Reagan (Iran/Contra) or G. W. Bush (just name it, the mind reels) is no reason to conclude he was not a crook. He was a crook and should have been brought to justice as an example. If he had we could have been living in a very different world today.

  3. Your whole way of demonstrating that conservatives are fighting some kind of war on science and history is completely unscientific in and of itself. You provide anecdotes. Anecdotes are as easy to come by to demonstrate an ideologically-driven approach to science and history coming from the far-left. What you filter through your lens as being an exception on the left, I see as mostly the rule. What I find on the left is that they have just a different (perhaps better) way of hiding their anti-rational, ideologically-driven agenda. They start with conclusions first and then use science and history to get to their conclusions. They give lip service to science and history, but bastardize it in practice. Can you provide even one study that demonstrates the presence of an anti-scientific right-wing in any kind of quantifiable fashion?

  4. Just the other day I was enjoying the thread on translating Genesis, then sadly we get this return to form. If I may make a few keystrokes to cut and paste and add ellipses:

    >>You provide anecdotes. Anecdotes are as easy to come by to demonstrate an ideologically-driven approach to […] coming from the far-left. What you filter through your lens as being an exception on the left, I see as mostly the rule. What I find on the left is that they have just a different (perhaps better) way of hiding their anti-rational, ideologically-driven agenda.<>Your whole way of demonstrating that conservatives are fighting some kind of war on […] is completely "unscientific" in and of itself.<>Can you provide even one study that demonstrates the presence of […] in any kind of quantifiable fashion? <<

    HTH.

  5. Hmmm.. There were >new lines< in there when I typed…enabling HTML and 'preview' would eliminate such issues…Try again:

    —————

    Just the other day I was enjoying the thread on translating Genesis, then sadly we get this return to form. If I may make a few keystrokes to cut and paste and add ellipses:

    "You provide anecdotes. Anecdotes are as easy to come by to demonstrate an ideologically-driven approach to […] coming from the far-left. What you filter through your lens as being an exception on the left, I see as mostly the rule. What I find on the left is that they have just a different (perhaps better) way of hiding their anti-rational, ideologically-driven agenda."

    then

    "Your whole way of demonstrating that [lib'rulls] are fighting some kind of war on […] is completely “unscientific” in and of itself."

    Lastly, I can finish thusly:

    "Can you provide even one study that demonstrates the presence of […] in any kind of quantifiable fashion? "

    HTH.

  6. A massive study isn't required to see how evolution has been viewed by conservatives ever since Darwin. Even today there's a pathetic effort still being made on the fringes of conservatism to discredit evolutionary theory. I don't believe this is an inherent problem with conservatism itself, but it is a problem for conservatives who often fall prey to flim flam politicians who are hoping to sway people with specious cries of how immoral eeeevilution is.

    For a more contemporary example, the climate science supporting global warming has been attacked for decades by conservative know-nothings whose motivation has nothing to do with science and everything to do with the paranoid style of politics that insists there's a conspiracy to undermine our god-given right to burn fossil fuels. The idiotic flap over a collection of leaked emails had nothing to do with the science, but was simply a smear campaign meant to further frustrate taking action against what we know is a warming Earth caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

  7. I think a great deal of the suspicion about global warming is that the remedies are almost always stuff the people in question would be advocating if there weren't any global warming. Add that there's enough complexity involved to hide quite a bit of fudging, and not a lot of transparency, and the heuristics say to be dubious.

  8. Brett, your comment seems to rely on the following chain of logic:

    (1) All climate scientists are academics.

    (2) All academics are liberals.

    (3) All liberals want people to be forced to use fewer resources.

    In fact, every one of these links are empirically false. So, your smear fails.

    In addition, you claim that your biases "say to be dubious". So, here's the difference between science and b*llsh*t politics: if you think something in science is wrong, then go after it with a better model and better facts, and argue it out. Obviously, neither you NOR ANY OTHER GLOBAL WARMING DENIALIST wants to do the hard word and thinking required by actual science, to come up with a model that explains how both the climate models and the paleohistorical record (along with basic physics and chemistry) are to be reinterpreted so that an a doubling in atmospheric carbon dioxide will *not* lead to an catastrophic 3C to 10C temperature increase.

    In science, your personal incredulity doesn't matter at all.

  9. "I think a great deal of the suspicion about global warming is that the remedies are almost always stuff the people in question would be advocating if there weren’t any global warming."

    This is similar to what I read a lot from people on the right: that liberals want to increase the size of government and regulations for no reason other than to increase their size, as if that is an end in itself.

    What's interesting to me is that, besides being entirely wrong and silly, it actually has things backwards. The difference between modern liberals and conservatives is that liberals have no existential problem with business or government. They think business should have no constraints as long as none are needed and government should exist wherever it is needed. Conservatives have an existential problem with government and regulation. They believe that no constraints on business are ever needed and that government is always bad (I realize that they are a bit more nuanced here, but you wouldn't know it from their rhetoric).

    The obvious difference between these competing perspectives is that liberalism seems to objectively look at the situation and choose whatever course the facts might call for. Can the private market do something well on its own? Fine. But if it can't, it might need regulation or a government program. Conservatism looks at the same situation subjectively: business good/government bad – so before even looking at the facts, let's try and have as little government and as much private market as possible. Because they already have this huge bias for business and against government, the facts are harder to evaluate.

    Returning to the point on global warming, look at the vast body of research that has built up, and conservatives still have little problem dismissing it as some liberal conspiracy to regulate for no reason. I'm not sure how better to describe this mindset other than delusional.

    Perhaps one day conservatism will find its integrity and realize, like modern liberalism, that business and government each have their role to play, and that every new situation requires an objective evaluation of the strengths of each. The tired anti-government rhetoric that's been causing acrimony for decades might finally give way to honest debate and mutual understanding.

  10. Brett, No way a guy like me would accept nuclear power without the threat of Global Warming.

    A lot of the rest of the stuff is common sense, and an attempt to forge a compromise. e.g.: more robust grid, less reliance on foreign energy sources, etc. Issues that we would have to deal with at some point, but get bumped up in priority knowing the risks. And 10 years from now when we know more about it, I want to be ready. If GW is not happening, we can still use a better electrical grid, right? And still need to think about peak oil.

  11. Brett, I took Mark's passage about every form of discourse having a liberal bias to be a commentary on the way some conservatives pretend inconvenient facts and narratives are invalid liberal bias.

  12. Bux, it's easy to find faith-based Conservative rejections of reality: take a recent example, McConnell repeating the Republican dogma that tax cuts pay for themselves.

    Can you name Liberal examples?

  13. Warren, I think ensoulment happens after birth – have no problems with (I favor) stem cell research on fetal cells. Nonetheless, I remember the campaigns in the NY Times for embryo cell research: the liberal cause against Bush's attempts to stop or slow embryonic stem cell research, and to force people into finding non-embryo destroying ways to do this was based on claimed certainty that this work could not be done without embryo cells, and these mouth breather righties were going to ensure that Parkinson's could never be cured, etc etc. Flash forward ten years, and we regularly see reports of research results on stem cells made from adult cells. I would score this as a left attempt to invent scientific certainty to back its policy preferences. I happen to share those preferences, but this was making stuff up.

    Now, global warming – the Climaquiddick emails certainly look like folks attempting to burnish the certainty of the science to buttress the case for their policy preferences. Again, I'm inclined to think we need to look hard for alternative ways to get energy, and it certainly seems plausible that climate change is happening – retreating glacier pictures are impressive! – but 'hide the decline' is not what you say when you are trying to present the whole story to the public.

  14. Dave, I think you're conflating and confusing a few things.

    First of all, anyone offering you a time horizon for the availability of hypothetical medical treatment is a fool or thinks you are one. I'm in biological science myself, and I don't remember a lot of serious people making any such promises of treatments within ten years – although I do remember a lot of people saying that the potential of stem cells for cell replacement therapies was new, and exciting, and should not be ignored because of some peoples' theological beliefs.

    Secondly, Induced Pluripotent Stem cells (IPS cells, the "adult stem cells" you speak of) date to after the debate in 2001 about whether the government should allow embryonic stem cell research, and whether it should fund it. No reputable scientist would have predicted in 2001 that they could be made any time soon with any certainty, and certainly not that they would be as good as Embryonic Stem cells. And, indeed, they're not: turns out, Pluripotent isn't Totipotent, and "adult stem cells" cannot become as wide a variety of cell types, nor as faithfully. "Adult stem cells" still offer great promise, and for reasons both scientific and political they may be the way of the future – but we can't be sure, and even if they are it's certain that their suitability for future use will be highly informed by research on Embryonic Stem Cells.

    And in any case, where is the Idolatrous Liberal Dogma there? The Conservatives said a burning bush said not to do it, and the Liberals said there was potential and there were no good reasons not to explore that potential so long as safeguards and review processes were in place. Sure, some rhetoric got overheated – but it's not parallel.

  15. George, yes, it's "bidness" in the South. But I was alluding to the scene in the first Godfather movie where an old Family retainer who has been condemned to die is told that it's "nothing personal." As I recall, "business" becomes a three-syllable word, with the accent on the last syllable: bis-i-NESS.

  16. MK, that's what I'm talking about: Environmentalists who embrace nuclear power over global warming, I believe THEY think it's real. It's a kind of 'admission against interest'. But that's not, conspicuously, most people who are talking about global warming.

  17. Why is it that only Environmentalists have to prove their bonifides by admission against interest?

  18. Brett, civilization as we know it can be disrupted in a major way by two different things:

    1) The Earth warms up because the atmosphere runs out of dumping capacity for CO2;

    2) The Earth runs out of the petroleum we make much of the CO2 from.

    Either thing by itself would be a major inconvenience. Which one you worry about more depends on whether you think we live in The Economy or in The Environment.

    Obviously, the two worries are related. Even if we could exhaust the planet's oil deposits without changing the planet's climate, we'd still have to prepare for an economy without oil. Sensible people therefore converge on the same general policy: let's try to operate this here planet at steady state. Continuing to extract fossil carbon atoms, oxidizing them, and releasing them into a finite biosphere at our current rate is not a steady-state solution.

    Silly people, on the other hand, pretend (or really believe) that the real danger is:

    3) Humanity will run out of MONEY if we seriously address either 1) or 2).

    You'd think nobody is ass enough to believe that "money" is finite but oil isn't, and yet that's what some people seem to argue: we can't "afford" a steady-state solution.

    These latter people seem crowded over on the Right of the political spectrum. Whether they have a better, worse, or equal grasp on reality than us meddlesome green pinkos on the Left is as debatable as the shape of the Earth. Opinions do differ.

    –TP

  19. If Briffa wished to "hide the decline" he probably shouldn't have written about it in Nature ("Reduced sensitivity of recent tree-growth to temperature at high northern latitudes" was the article). Swing and a miss, Dave.

  20. They sent a letter! Oh, their hatred for reasoned discourse! What Mark finds offensive is disagreement. There is a pathological arrogance on the left that just can't tolerate that.

  21. Brett writes: I think a great deal of the suspicion about global warming is that the remedies are almost always stuff the people in question would be advocating if there weren’t any global warming.

    Not quite sure how one can refute something like that. But I'd note that the two approaches being emphasized for reducing emissions are both "market-based" (cap-and-trade, and carbon tax). These are about as conservative-friendly as possible — they simply involve setting a price on emissions, then let the market work out the most efficient way to respond. They could easily be structured so as to have no effect on overall levels of taxation or government revenues (basically, 100% of the carbon tax could be refunded on a per-capita basis or whatever).

    Ironically, by rejecting these "market-based" approaches, conservatives have made it more likely that we'll be stuck with a less-effective regulatory-based approach in which the government implements standards that various individual industries have to meet.

    The other irony that strikes me (after a great deal of time spent participating in climate-change related discussion forums) is how many alleged libertarians say that they oppose emissions reductions because of their distaste for "big government" … but are quite enthusiastic about both nuclear power and large-scale geoengineering as solutions to climate change if it ever does become a problem. Of course, both nuclear power and industrial-scale geoengineering pretty much require the involvement of "big government".

  22. Nothing particularly ironic about that: Energy is what allows us to maintain a high standard of living and a free society with current population numbers. If we shift energy production to less harmful means, or ameliorate it's effects, while maintaining a high energy society, we can keep our freedom, standard of living, and population. If we insist instead on reducing total energy consumption dramatically, the result is going to be a loss of freedom, a loss of standard of living, and, if some in the environmental movement get their way, a human die-off.

    And I would say that, currently, it's "big government" that's keeping us from using more nuclear in this country. By requiring licenses to build even the smallest plants, while refusing to process the applications.

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