The political left loves to accuse Republicans, conservatives, and anyone that disagrees with them as being “anti-science.” The charge makes very little sense. Anti-science would literally mean being against the systematic study of the physical world. I’ve been to CPAC, multiple regional conservative functions throughout the United States, Young Americans for Liberty conferences, Tea Party rallies, and Leadership Institute training sessions, and I have yet to meet a person that openly said they were against the systematic study of the physical world (I am willing to say that there may be some conservative that is anti-science, I just haven’t met him or her yet). I have met people that are skeptical of particular studies, but this is not anti-science. Epistemologist Karl Popper, in The Logic of Scientific Discovery, the heart of scientific thinking is skepticism:
Bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought, are our only means for interpreting nature: our only organon, our only instrument, for grasping her. And we must hazard them to win our prize. Those among us who are unwilling to expose their ideas to the hazard of refutation do not take part in the scientific game. (emphasis added)
This is want distinguishes science from religion and ideology. Anti-science is disagreement with the system of gaining knowledge, not necessarily the conclusions created.
Bjorn Lombard is a scientist. After reviewing the data sets and testing them, he has come to the conclusion that climate change is real. That is the first conclusion. It is testable and workable and, most importantly, refutable. The next question is what is the best public policy route to respond to changes in climate. He reaches a conclusion that pro-growth policies with financial aid development projects in the developing world will reduce the impact of climate change all planetary life. His Copenhagen Consensus think-tank continually researches this approach and its potential effect on climate change (The 2015 study produced a method that would not cost more than current programs, but it will do “4 times” the good). To address this scientific approach and scientific conclusion, the left merely attacks the author under claims of “anti-science.”
The political left is quick to adopt a scientific conclusion as into its policy platform, and then dogmatically defend their proposed solution as science. Still, the left has been close to silent about the falsification of studies they hail as crucial. In 2014, two political science professors (one from UCLA and one from Columbia) were published in Science. The study, When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality, claimed that people can be easily swayed to change positions on gay rights with short conversations over time. The article was more important politically than it was for science (discussion on the impact of community date back to Plato and Aristotle). It showed, under the banner of science, that conservative views are based on ignorance. People are against marriage equality simply because they are ignorant of homosexuality, homosexuals, and homosexual lifestyle. While I am, in fact, a supporter of marriage equalization (a discussion for a different day), I am more than willing to submit that arguments against this position are rooted in a deep and intellectual academic tradition. Some are, additionally, based on scientific (i.e. falsifiable) statements. When they enter the field of ideas, they are willing to have these view attacked. They are willing to have their premises refuted. When a concept is refuted, many are willing to change their mind or test the equally falsifiable statement in their opponents study. This is, in fact, a scientific worldview. This study’s political capital is ignoring these individual and lends itself to a fiction of conservative overlords creating a false world of religious smoke and pseudo-science mirrors to keep the masses deceived. This is, in fact, an extremely damaging indictment to the conservative worldview. The source is even more damning. Science is “the world’s leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary.” Science does not publish shoddy work. Science only publishes the best and brightest. Science is the most trustworthy source of new scientific achievement. This is the death blow the political left was searching for. The left leaning media outlets covered the story without ceasing.
Two graduate students, David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, were extremely excited about this discovery. They wanted to use this for further research. They quickly discovered their were some issues in the data. They contacted one of the authors with their troubling findings. They published their findings on Stanford’s website. In light of their study, Dr. Donald Green, who only worked on the data analysis, retracted his authorship of the article. He requested Science to retract the paper. Science is currently reviewing the paper. Conservative media outlets and academic periodicals have covered this story of conclusion seeking (i.e., anti-scientific work being published in a peer-reviewed, academic journal called Science). Left-leaning media outlets updated their previous articles to reflect the refutation (see above).
Merely updating old articles keeps news of the refutation buried. In this case, when their narrative is under attack, the left has buried the finding in old posts. This is an anti-science worldview. Conservative, for all the claims levied against them for being “anti-science,” at least attempt to address the scientific (i.e. falsifiable) claims.
Conservatives and progressives should unite together to support critical studies of the natural world. They should encourage dissent at every stage of the scientific and public policy process. They should highlight and praise real academics that look beyond their self-interest and challenge scientific statements. Bravo Dr. Broockman and Mr. Kalla, bravo!