Peering into the Gap
I’m reading Chris Mooney’s new book The Republican War on Science. It’s pretty enthralling. Infuriating too, of course, but mostly enthralling. It’s so…so B&W. Consider this item from B&W’s ‘About’ page, the last in a list of what B&W was set up to oppose: ‘Those disciplines or schools of thought whose truth claims are prompted by the political, ideological and moral commitments of their adherents, and the general tendency to judge the veracity of claims about the world in terms of such commitments.’ Now consider this item from the book: ‘At a time when more political choices than ever before hinge upon the scientific and technical competence of our elected leaders, the disregard for scientific consensus and expertise – and the substitution of ideological allegiance for careful assessment – can have disastrous consequences.’
See what I mean? And that is – naturally enough – a central issue in the book. There are also closely related issues, such as the way protecting profits can (gosh, really? surely not! surely the market is never wrong!) conflict with the pursuit of truth.
Pharyngula has a comment on the book from last week.
Chris Mooney is trying to kill me.
It’s true. He sent me this book, The Republican War on Science, that he knew would send my blood pressure skyrocketing, give me apoplexy, and cause me to stroke out and die, gasping, clawing in futile spasms at the floor.
Don’t worry, be happy.
Good science needs to be independent of and unfiltered by desired outcomes; it aims to describe the world as it is, not how we wish it would be.
There’s that issue again – that pesky is-ought gap again. Chris’ book could have been called The Republicans Try to Throw a Bridge Across the Is-Ought Gap and Fall In, Pulling All of Us In After Them.
More on this subject later.