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    A Thumbs Up For Dr. Alex And Hank’s Science Left Behind
    By Randall Mayes | September 21st 2012 11:39 AM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Randall

    Randall Mayes is a policy analyst specializing in biotechnology. His areas of expertise include technology based economic development and public...

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    Science Left Behind is about the corruption of science writing as a profession. Science writing has become politicized and unfortunately the consumer suffers. Personally, I find it painful to listen to or read a shallow analysis with a partisan slant on science related issues.

    But, many major news publications and television stations are owned and managed by partisans. Many of the talking heads and analysts you see on television are funded by partisan think tanks and foundations. From my own experiences publishing in many formats, I have had Liberal editors say I am not publishing that and Republican editors delete valid critiques of Republican and Libertarian positions. This phenomenon has created the need for independent news sources such as Science 2.0.

    For the authors, Hank Campbell the editor of Science 2.0, needs no introduction to most visitors of this site. Co-author Alex Berezow is the editor of RealClearScience, a website dedicated to aggregating science journalism that concisely summarizes hot topics in the 24 hour news cycle.  

    Political Identification

    For the science issues discussed in the book, Campbell and Berezow develop a two-dimensional model using Conservatives, Libertarians, Liberals, and Progressives based on their positions regarding economic and social issues (p.12). In this model, Progressives advocate both economic and social authoritarianism. As a former fellow with the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), I experienced working first hand with Progressives. James Hughes, its director, operates under the guise of a techno-Progressive, but is actually a Socialist. Let’s face it; Progressives have the pretty much the same values as Socialists.

    The Campbell and Berezow model is an improvement on the simplistic, one-dimensional left-right or Republican-Democrat model. In Ronald Bailey’s review of progressive Jonathan Moreno’s The Body Politic: The Battle over Science in America (2012), the Reason science reporter’s title is Bioconservatives vs. Bioprogressives. In Bailey’s review, he investigates why Democrats portray themselves as the science party. Bailey discovers that Moreno cites neo-Conservatives Irving Crystal and Leon Kass, who have developed moral positions against human enhancements and reproductive technologies, as a basis.

    Despite my political differences with Hughes, to his credit he developed a three-dimensional model in Citizen Cyborg (2004) combining these two models using three axes (plural of axis) which he also explains in detail on the IEET website (http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/biopolitics). As a Libertarian, I share some of the same political ends with Hughes; however, it was the political means to those ends that we disagreed on.

    While attempting to understand the Libertarian positions across the spectrum of science and technology issues on all three axes, I discovered that Libertarianism does not neatly fit into the quadrant system that Campbell and Berezow propose. Civil Libertarians and free market Libertarians prioritize the values of free markets, civil liberties, and property rights differently and commonly oppose each other on issues, while partnering with strange political bedfellows. This is not a criticism of the Campbell&Berezow model, rather an observation when using a broader range of issues.

    The Mooney Issue

    One of the most outspoken Progressives is Chris Mooney. While some people admire him, others consider Mooney an abomination because of his partisan essays on Republican anti-science and irrational behavior. To provide readers with more objective discussions, in the tradition of Paul Harvey, the authors have provided the service of giving us the rest of the story.

    As seasoned science writers themselves, the duo has clearly learned that the Achilles heel of Progressives, the group identified by the authors as the main source of the corruption, is facts. In an entertaining style, they provide well-researched discussions on a wide range of topics where Progressives are anti-science. These topics range from energy and sustainability, vaccines, GMOs, stem cell research, and space exploration to science policy issues related to funding, civil liberties, and intellectual property.

    These case studies subsequently expose the inconvenient truths notably absent in Mooney’s partisan essays. In topic after topic the reader learns how Progressives, through a movement laced with irrational fears and ineffective government regulations, stand in the way of the social goods science and technology can deliver. Through reporting on these cases that receive little coverage, Science Left Behind sets Mooney and fellow Progressives back further than Sarah Palin set back the Feminist movement.

    Hoo-hoos

    For Progressives that invoke political correctness in discussing gender and science, I guess they did receive the memo that males have a different chromosome with the express purpose of creating a dimorphic species. The Y chromosome contains genes that code for hormones that make the sexes very different physically, emotionally, and in the way we think.

    Drawing from evolutionary psychology theory, the duo uses the example that men want big boobs and women want money to illustrate how the sexes evolved differently (p.168). I’m not sure if I am an evolutionary misfit as I never was a fan of oversized milk bags. I imagine that Progressives with their fondness for political correctness would frown on terms such as hoo-hoos and milk bags and substitute more scientific sounding terms such as mobile pantries.

    As the lifestyle and social conditions for the female of the species changed, their anatomy has also evolved. As a result, the allele for double D milk bags is not dominant. So, when modern man chooses a mate, he has variety to choose from. As an avid runner most of my life, I have perhaps subconsciously chosen pert B and C cuppers as mates. For the active women double Ds can cause back problems and for athletes they are less aerodynamic.

    On this point, I’m not convinced that hoo-hoo selection is solely governed by genetics. A quick Google search reveals culture, social class, and ethnicity play a role in the hoo-hoo selection process. In a documentary featuring glamorous Hollywood starlets; I recall the narrator commenting on how the most desired breast size varies from era to era. So, unfortunately I think this particular example lacks scientific rigor and needs further study. However, in spite of the authors’ limited knowledge of mammary science, I give the book a strong recommendation. 

    Comments

    this is an interesting article, randall, thanks for writing it :)
    this is why i stress always the importance of communalism in all the scientific disciplines, as it seems now evident that no one is capable of understanding anything outside of narrowly political, left/right, conservative(whatever that is supposed to mean)/liberal (whatever that is supposed to mean)/progressive/whatever that is supposed to mean), mind-and-heart-boxes. i do have to shake my head on this point :-(

    theoretical triangulation is the best means to navigate such precariously politicized discussions.

    I stopped reading the article after running into the sentence about "Socialist", realizing that by using such a simplistic partisan term I could not take this critique seriously.

    randallmayes
    I understand your dilemma. For progressive/socialist types, engaging with those that disagree with you and that have facts can be intimidating. Why don't you discard your clutch purse and take a testosterone supplement, and thrill the website with your acumen.
    Randall Mayes
    Randall, you missed my point. Your neanderthalic ad hominem response shows you up as an unserious person.

    randallmayes
    I'm at tailgate. It's homecoming. The girl in her pajamas doing cartwheels around the keg is serious. Chat with her.
    Randall Mayes