Have you ever noticed that critics of the “war on science” don’t criticize animal rights terrorists? Also, why don’t proponents of a “war on poverty” cheer Jack the Ripper’s contributions to the effort?
For what it’s worth, actual Bruce Chapman:
Where are the protests against violence-supporting opponents of medical experiments, not to mention those who want to stop irradiation of grain to prevent disease and those who prevent the use of genetically modified crops in such hungry regions as Africa?
Or check the index to Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science. Oh, look, animal rights activists are discussed on page 8. Hmm.
Let’s be fair: those on the political left have undoubtedly abused science in the past. While the best environmental groups marshal good science to make their case, more radical groups have occasionally allowed ideology to usurp fact. In objecting to genetically modified foods, for instance, Greenpeace has suggested that these “Frankenfoods” pose human health risks due to the “inherently risky process” by which they are made. Yet in a 2004 report, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, the government’s leading independent adviser on science and technology, refused to treat food created through genetic engineering as inherently more dangerous than food created through other forms of genetic modification such as conventional breeding, adding that “to date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetic engineering have been documented in the human population.”
Clearly, many who preach the human “dangers” of genetically modified foods have clothed their moral or policy objections in scientific attire. The New York University food expert Marion Nestle has written that environmentalists and consumer advocates use the food safety issue as a “surrogate” for a host of broader social concerns. They argue about health risks because they lack a venue in which to air their real objections, about corporate control of the food supply, for instance.
We have also seen distortions of science from another camp traditionally associated with the political left: the animal rights movement. Notorious for its attacks on medical researchers, the movement has also made questionable claims to advance its agenda. In arguing against research on animals, some animal rights activists have asserted that these studies aren’t medically necessary because alternatives like computer modeling could teach scientists everything they need to know, an argument that Donald Kennedy, executive editor-in-chief of the journal Science calls “a remarkable piece of science fiction.”
So, Chapman thinks proponents of the “war on science” model ignore animal rights terrorists, anti-GMO activists, and anti-food irradiationists. But the person who coined the phrase actually calls out animal rights activists and food safety activists for their abuses of science. He adds, though, that “in politicized fights involving science, it is rare to find liberals entirely innocent of abuses. But they are almost never as guilty as the Right.” Later, Mooney adds, “the Right’s critique of left-win science politicization rings rather hollow when you consider that conservatives have shown little concern about the systematic, and often far cruder, war on science conducted by their own ideological allies, especially industry and pro-life religious conservatives.”
Bruce Chapman, of course, is the head of the Discovery Institute and a former Census Bureau chief under Ronald Reagan. Mooney notes later in the book that Chapman and Disco. Inst. co-founder George Gilder “have become everything they once criticized. Once opponents of right-wing anti-intellectualism, they are now prominent supporters of conservative attacks on the theory of evolution, not just a bedrock of modern science but one of the greatest intellectual achievements of human history. With this transformation, the modern Right’s war on intellectuals–including scientists and those possessing expertise in other areas–is truly complete.”
Could Chapman be a POW in the war on science?