Sunday, October 15, 2006

The War on Science Continues

I think it's safe to say exactly no one was surprised by the right-wing reaction to this week's mortality estimate from the Lancet. Obviously, such a heartbreaking estimate of excess death from this war was going to be rejected by Bush partisans. But it's interesting to me how, in so many issues we can name, the GOP response to inconvenient science is to reject the possibility of scientific knowledge.

We're familiar enough with the GOP response to climate change and evolution - the President has said he doesn't believe in either. Nice. But the Lancet survey has effectively been dropped in to whatever GOP algorithm dictates these Pavlovian responses, and is producing much the same results.

The same people who say the incomplete fossil record negates the theory of evolution are saying that cluster sampling (a well-respected statistical method) invalidates the entire Lancet survey.

The same people who say that the global climate is too large to estimate our impact upon are saying the war in Iraq can't possibly be estimated based on a few tiny samples - see Instapundit's too-clever-by-half talking point that the Lancet only found "500 dead."

The point is that this is about more than just the war. These partisans - as Lindsay Beyerstein calls them, these "innumerate cowards" - are effectively rejecting peer review, statistical sampling, and basic demography all because they don't like the idea that their war has actually, you know, killed people.

It's worth asking how many Iraqi dead this war is worth to them. The President has indicated he's comfortable with the IBC's estimate of approx. 40,000 dead Iraqis. Meanwhile, he rejected the Lancet's 2004 estimate of 100,000 as far too high. Presumably then, the line of unacceptable deaths in Iraq lies somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000. Unless, of course, it was unacceptable for 100,000 to have died in 2004 but it's acceptable by 2006.

It's all so confusing.


Robert McClelland said...

I don't think calling it a war on science captures its true essence. A war on knowledge would probably be more appropriate. Consider this exchange I recently had with a right whinger. I posted part of Jean Piaget's stages of development to back up an argument and the right whinger responded by saying, "Try as you might, I don’t buy whatever leftwing socialogical idiology you subscribe to."

Conservatives are simply choosing ignorance over knowledge.

leftdog said...

WELL SAID ROBERT!! "Conservatives are simply choosing ignorance over knowledge."


auntiegrav said...

Science isn't the objective in this particular war. Money is. The war is fought by tiny armies of hormones and pheromones, pumped by advertisers and spindoctors to relieve the Masses of the burden of their fears(cash, apparently), while at the same time, creating additional fears to increase the burden from working overtime to purchase the things which 'science' develops to relieve them of their boredom (that 'black hole' fear of thinking).
Science hasn't helped the issues much, since most scientists have been bullied their entire lives against actually speaking their mind on emotional issues such as religion (and the associated coercion/marketing which accompanies/comprises it).
In other words, science isn't fighting back because they are defeated at baptism. Corporations want kids in school early to start the factory model process of development into Production/Competition, but not so early that they are taught to question Blind Faith in authority. Thousands of years of religious marketing development have gone into this System of systems, and a few decades of 'tune in, turn on, drop out' aren't going to change it.

auntiegrav said...

P.S. I just like the name of your blog. Spent a couple of days last week at the Henry Ford museum and toured the Dymaxion House.