But, of course, crackpottery is not limited to one side of the political discourse, nor is false equivalence. When is the last time the left stood up to its own mockery of science, like beliefs that there is some magical 'balance of nature' and the partisan fetish with how superior native cultures were because they never learned to write or do any science and therefore were limited in population to exactly how much they could hunt and gather?
That's as anti-science as it gets. Where would we be if our forefathers had started preaching mitigation and rationing and culling humanity when food got low? It was ancient 'scientists' who invented agriculture and domesticated livestock, not ancient environmentalists and activists.
Advocates are in the business of extruding isolated events out to global causes but scientists (and good science writers) should be immune to it - and they are, unless confirmation bias kicks in. As I said earlier, while there are right-wing people that are overtly anti-science, there are lots of left-wing anti-science positions too, they are just rationalized by a lot of science media. Astrology - left wing, with some famous exceptions like Nancy Reagan that get it lumped in as false equivalence. Homeopathy - left wing. Anti-human ecology - left wing. Anti-agriculture - left wing. It goes on and on.
Generally, being anti-progress is a tenet of modern progressives. As I have noted many times, there was a time when progressives were technocrats bent of carpet bombing nature and conservatives wanted evidence and data before making big changes, especially to nature. Now there is no political side that cares about evidence unless it matches their world view. It is not false equivalence to note that, it certainly is to claim one side is far more anti-science than the other and to rationalize anti-science by the politically like-minded as something else, like saying they have fuzzy-wuzzy 'anti-corporate' or 'moral' positions instead of being anti-science. The only thing the left has going for it in not being portrayed more often as anti-science is a lot more science writers on their side politically.
Unfortunately, when it comes to those science writers, world view has taken precedence over objectivity and fact. That has a devastating impact on science acceptance and policy, which adds further ammunition to those same science writers who claim the opposition is anti-science due to not liking partisan their framing. Keith Kloor, writing at ecoAffect.org, says the problem is not so much the data (agreed - because people on each fringes are never going to be convinced that their anti-climate or anti-vaccine quackery is dangerous) as the desire to be clever and make perfect metaphors and he makes special note of people who over-attribute the decline of people on Easter Island as being a metaphor for environmental damage.
He's right that bad examples do more harm than good. I mean, if even your own side cringes when they see false equivalence and bad metaphors, it certainly isn't going to resonate with skeptics. Using a claim in a magazine as evidence in an IPCC report did not help the credibility of the IPCC, it sent defenders of the IPCC off on a pointless exercise to defend science, except that one mistake. But it was a really obvious and intentional one, and increased belief that it might not be the only mistake, which further disenfranchised the bulk of people who recognize there is a problem, but are concerned science may be clueless about what it is or what to do about it.
Basically, if you get people talking about the appropriateness of a source, or of a metaphor, instead of the real issue, you have funneled off their limited bandwidth into a secondary issue and have damaged potential for action on the real one.
Just like shouting 'false equivalence' to a science audience when people on your political side of the table engage in beliefs and behavior you'd rather not address, and it gets noticed by the opposition.
- The Left Is More Anti-Science Than The Right Unless The Right Is More Anti-Science Than The Left
- Science Left Behind: The Anti-Vaccine Update Update
- How To Put A Stop To Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories
- Climate Scientists Should Be Less Political, Says Lonely Climate Scientist
- Can You Be Pro-Science And Pro-Environment In 2012?