Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic Magazine, has given himself the unfortunate task of attempting to impose false equivalence by proving "both sides" are waging a "War on Science." Being the open-minded guy he is, he published an article by me in Skeptic Magazine on the topic the politicization of science by the Bush Administration where I used the term "war" when discussing the abuse of science by the Bush Administration.
Now, I have never denied there isn't a lot of scientific illiteracy, and that motivated reasoning doesn't cross party lines, but when I, and Chris Mooney (The Republican War on Science), chose to call what conservatives were engaging in a "War," it was because what we were witnessing was unprecedented. It is impossible to understand modern politics without understanding the prevalent denial of inconvenient facts and skewing of polls on the part of the right, and the inescapable fact that the rejection of empiricism is asymmetrical.
I think it's fair to call the unwillingness to accept this fact at this point denial, which Shermer demonstrates by lowering the bar on how a "War on Science" is defined so that some obscure liberal groups can meet the definition out of some ideological need to put himself at the objective fulcrum.
So, I have listed the examples I gave in my article, which led me to call what happened in the Bush years a "War," followed by the examples Mr. Shermer has given to date to make his case.
Dylan Otto Krider's examples of a Republican "War"
- Bruce Boler, Marianne Horinko, Rich Biondi, J. P. Suarez and Eric Schaeffer resigned from the EPA.
- In a letter to The New York Times, former EPA administrator Russell Train, who worked for both Nixon and Ford, wrote, “I can state categorically that there never was such White House intrusion into the business of the EPA during my tenure.”
- Government meddling reached such a level that European scientists voiced concerns that Bush may not merely be undermining U.S. dominance in sciences, but global research as well.
- The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) published “Scientific Integrity in Policymaking,” with a letter signed by over 60 leading scientists, including 20 Nobel Laureates.
- National Cancer Institute’s web site was altered to suggest there was a link between abortion and breast cancer.
- President Bush asked the National Academy of Sciences to find “weaknesses” in climate science studies to justify their efforts to derail an international global warming treaty. 8 When the commissioned report instead confirmed human-induced climate change and mentioned fossil fuels as a major culprit the EPA decided to replace the findings in its Report on the Environment with a discredited study funded by the American Petroleum Institute.
- A “frustrated scientist” leaked a suppressed EPA report on children’s health to The Wall Street Journal.
- The Corn Refiners Association and Sugar Association successfully lobbied Bush to pressure the World Health Organization to de-emphasize the importance of cutting sweets and eating fruits and vegetables in their anti-obesity guidelines.
- Two scientists were ejected from a bioethics council due to what they believed to be their views favoring embryo research.
- Data on hydraulic fracturing were altered so benzene levels met government standards after “feedback” from an industry source.
- Another study (sponsored by Florida developers) claiming wetlands cause pollution, was used by the EPA to justify replacing protected marshes with golf courses to improve “water quality.”
- Administration forbid NASA scientists to speak to the press about the global warming disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow.
- National Park Service gift shops sold books with the “alternative view” that the Grand Canyon was formed in seven days.
- Ann M. Veneman, a former food industry lawyer and lobbyist, appointed Agriculture Secretary.
- A senior scientist came forward alleging USDA pressure to let Canadian beef into the U.S. before a study concluded it was safe shortly after a dairy cow from Canada tested positive for mad cow disease.
- Whistleblowers accused an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service supervisor of insisting a cow exhibiting symptoms of the disease be sent to a rendering plant before a technician could perform the tests mandated by agency guidelines.
- The USDA refused to give Creekstone Farms Premium Beef the kits it requested to voluntarily test its cattle so it could export to Japan because it might “create the impression that untested beef was not safe.”
- EPA staffers were also prevented from performing routine analysis of the economic and health consequences of proposed regulations governing mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants.
- To get an exemption from the Endangered Species Act the Pentagon simply changed a quote from an Army study saying government regulations “enhanced” training realism at Fort Stewart to “impaired.”
- A Park Service brochure used a photo—supposedly taken in 1909—to prove that forests in the Sierra Nevadas were thinner before the implementation of “preventative thinning.” The picture was actually a photo taken of a recently logged forest in Montana.
- Proposal by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that would grant the administration greater control over peer review of “all major government rules, plans, proposed regulations and pronouncements.” 24 David Michaels of the Department of Energy complained, “It goes beyond just having the White House involved in picking industry favorites to evaluate government science. Under this proposal, the carefully crafted process used by the government to notify the public of an imminent danger is going to first have to be signed off by someone weighing the political hazards.”
- When CIA war games were discovered to be training personnel to deal with the eventuality of civil disorder after the fall of Baghdad, The Atlantic Monthly reported the Pentagon forbad representatives from the Defense Department from participating because “detailed thought about the postwar situation meant facing costs and potential problems.”
Now here is Mr. Shermer's evidence of the liberal equivalent:
Michael Shermer's examples of a liberal "War on Science"
1. Forty-one percent of Democrats are young Earth creationists, and 19 percent doubt that Earth is getting warmer.
2. Liberals are “cognitive creationists” who "accept the theory of evolution for the human body but not the brain," and whose need to believe the human brain is a "blank slate" led to an all-out assault against evolutionary psychology via groups like Science for the People.
3. Liberals are antinuclear because of the waste-disposal problem
5. Liberals are antihydroelectric because dams disrupt river ecosystems
6. Liberals are anti–wind power because of avian fatalities.
7. An “underlying current” among the left that “everything natural is good” and “everything unnatural is bad.”
8. A religious fervor over the purity and sanctity of air, water and especially food.
9. Opposition to GMOs—genetically modified organisms— by Bill Maher and others.
10. Surveys show that moderate liberals and conservatives embrace science roughly equally.
11. A group called Survival International takes issue with Pulitzer prize-winning author Jared Diamond's assertion that tribal societies are more violent than ours.
I'll leave it there for now, but Shermer is clearly using very different definitions for what entails a "War" and "abuse of science."