Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I Am Asked To Comment On This Claim Made At Baby Blue

There are practically no wingnut basic scientists, period. Having any success in that area pretty much requires for you to have an open mind.

I have never researched it but am pretty sure it's an unsupportable statement.  A quick search turns up this six year old Slate article which says

A Pew Research Center Poll from July 2009 showed that only around 6 percent of U.S. scientists are Republicans; 55 percent are Democrats, 32 percent are independent, and the rest "don't know" their affiliation.

Even in 2010, I'd say that anyone who could be a Republican would qualify as what I'd call a "wingnut" conservative.  While 6% isn't 32% it doesn't equal "practically no", either.   When I first read your e-mail, the first thing I thought of was the odious racist, eugenicist physics Nobel William Shockley, which also led me to think of the physicist, the odious Edward Teller.  And those were only two of the very eminent scientists who I would definitely say were not only wingnuts but highly dangerous wingnuts.

But that's one measure of wing nuttery, there are lots of other ways you can define that.

Being a scientist, lest anyone be under any illusions on the matter, is a matter of your profession, it is not some priesthood based on some kind of moral purity or honesty or integrity.  Anyone who is hired by someone as a scientist, to do scientific research, to publish or teach science, perhaps even just to speak as a scientist with the authority of "science" is a scientist.  It's not a pure and holy priesthood dedicated to the truth, democracy and justice.   I don't get to make that decision, I don't let people into or exclude them from science, scientists, editors of journals and university faculties do.

-  It includes geologists and others working for the oil, gas, coal and other extraction industries that do enormous damage to the environment.

- It includes scientists who are hired by industry to lie about or minimize the dangers of their environmentally dangerous practices, to cover up dangers of pollution, food additives, drugs, GMO crops, pesticides, etc.

- It includes the scientists who do the science to come up with all of the above.

- It includes those hired by the military to do basic research into ever more deadly and ever more massively deadly weapons, tactics, strategies, policies, etc.

- It includes those whose alleged psychological, sociological, anthropological, cognitive, etc. assertions support inequality between women and men (guess who is generally favored), black and white (again, guess who comes out ahead) etc.

- Eugenics was and neo-eugenics still is considered science, promoted by science and scientists, either calling it that or not.  I have come to the belief that any assertion of natural selection must, eventually, turn to eugenics or, at the least, an assertion that human equality is a delusion.

- Scientists, entirely scientific establishments, in physics, chemistry, biology, etc. have worked for some of the most horrible governments with the worst records of genocide, mass murder, oppression, slavery, etc.  The Nazis, the Soviet Union, China, every single country, including North Korea and Pakistan which obtained atomic and nuclear weapons and, lest anyone forget the only country which has yet used atomic weapons, the United States, all employed scientists in very large numbers who knew exactly what they were doing when they were producing the deadliest weapons we've ever had.*

I don't count them as liberals or their professional activity as liberal or at least any kind of liberalism I want to have anything to do with or expect to have positive results.

I don't care which party someone belongs to, if they're doing that or so many other things as scientists, they fall into the "wingnut" scale in my book.  If they're doing it out of professional and financial motives instead of rabid political-ideological motives doesn't seem, to me, to make that better.  It just shows that they have no morals instead of seriously twisted morals.   I don't know which is worse, in the end.

The romantic view of science held by just about everyone on the lefty-left is a delusion.   There are probably as high a percentage of highly principled, highly moral, politically egalitarian-democratic scientists as there are in other areas of life.   Given the financial, social and academic rewards of selling out through science, I strongly suspect that you're more likely to find those kinds of sell outs in the STEM fields than you will in the arts or religious studies.   I would, once, have suspected you could include philosophy in that group but it seems to have gone to hell, too.

* As a subscriber to and addict of the Periodic Table of Video videos, this one posted two days ago adds some information to this in regard to the professional activity of chemists.

It was a follow up to this one posted earlier.

Update:  While writing this, I was sent this futher statement from the "brain trust" at Eschaton.

slarti_bartfast  Richard_thunderbay • 44 minutes ago
There are practically no wingnut basic scientists, period. Having any success in that area pretty much requires for you to have an open mind.

I'll add it has to be one of the most clueless statements about science I've ever read, only I've read the same claim made so many times.   Like most of the true believers in science as some great moral force, you've got to totally ignore the history of science which is full of eminent scientists who have nothing like an open mind.  Max Planck, who could pretty definitively stand as the icon of science, famously said it,  progress in science often requires funerals as the most eminent scientists die off and the new ideas they resisted can come to the forefront.

Science is a method, it isn't magic.

Update 2:   And now he sends this:

Hazelnut79  Moe_Szyslak • an hour ago
I mean, I've joked before that biology must not be a STEM field since everybody has to switch over to medicine to get jobs, but I don't think I've met a single righty biologist.

I guess Hazelnut never met the racists and eugenicists James Watson or Francis Crick.  To some extent that could depend on how far you want to extend biology.  These days a lot of people from psychology to sociology to even economics like to pretend they're practicing evolutionary biology and, in a lot of cases, getting away with it.  Lots of them are very popular with right wingers because they support inequality and, in a lot of cases, gender, racial and ethnic inequality.   I think one of the most entertaining events in recent popular understanding of science was when so many of his biggest fans found out Richard Dawkins has some pretty horrible regressive features to him.  I suspect he probably votes liberalish but, really, he's no liberal.   And don't get me started on ethology and actual Nazis like Konrad Lorenz.

Note:  I wrote this quickly last night and forgot to fact-check my faulty recollection that Edward Teller won the Nobel prize, he didn't though he won many other honors from his scientific colleagues.

1 comment:

  1. There are, and have been, several "wing nut" M.D.'s in the U.S. Congress. I suppose being an M.D. doesn't meet the criteria of "Basic scientist," though, because no true Scotsman and all that.

    I can think of many people I've known, especially in the oil & gas field (grew up in East Texas, one of the largest plays in the world at one time) who were absolutely reactionary in their politics. As Molly Ivins used to say, great guys to have lunch with at the Petroleum Club (it's a Texas thing), but you don't want 'em running the government.

    As you say, science is not a priesthood. I've known many a person with an open mind about geology, or engineering, or medicine, but a closed mind about politics and government.