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Luddite Greens
Yes, the Left Can Be Anti-Science Too

For all the vitriol concerned environmentalists love to heap on conservatives that deny anthropogenic climate change, there remain plenty of Luddites on the other side of the political spectrum. Eduardo Porter writes of the prevalence of anti-science thinking on the left for the New York Times reports:

[E]ven as progressive environmentalists wring their hands at the G.O.P.’s climate change denial, there are biases on the left that stray just as far from the scientific consensus. “The left is turning anti-science,” Marc Andreessen, the creator of Netscape who as a venture capitalist has become one of the most prominent thinkers of Silicon Valley, told me not long ago. […]

[L]iberal biases may be most dangerous in the context of climate change, the most significant scientific and technological challenge of our time. For starters, they stand against the only technology with an established track record of generating electricity at scale while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases: nuclear power.

Only 35 percent of Democrats, compared with 60 percent of Republicans, favor building more nuclear power plants, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.

Politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle will ignore science when it’s expedient for the points they’re putting forward—this isn’t news. But the Left, and specifically its green contingent, has plenty of recent experience calling out its detractors for ignoring the latest research, while assuming a posture of sober studious reflection to lend its policies gravitas. Don’t be fooled, though: liberal greens will sever that link to science at the drop of the hat, especially when it comes to crafting solutions to the environmental problems they so dutifully enumerate.

Two of the most promising green options humanity has—GMOs and nuclear power—receive precious little support from the Left, despite the fact that these technologies at this point form the foundation of any realistic view of a thriving, sustainable future. Porter points out that liberal rejection of this pair of winners can be boiled down to a mistrust of corporate greed, quoting a Northeastern University professor of communications who says that “[w]hen science is aligned with big corporations the Left immediately, intuitively perceives the technology as not benefiting the greater good but only benefiting the corporation.” That’s a problem.

Science is meant to cleave away subjectivity in pursuit of fact, and of course those efforts are perverted when research is used as the basis for arguments in the policy world. Let’s not pretend, though, that this is a fault unique to one side of the political spectrum.

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  • Bob Hawkins

    In other words the Left doesn’t care a wit about the environment or the climate; all they care about is hurting profit-making corporations. Yet these corporations and the free enterprise policies that make them possible have generated the standard of living that gives all of us the luxury of worrying about policy issues and the future we would like to leave to our children.

  • Fat_Man

    Actually, the left is anti-nuclear because of a Soviet anti-nuclear dezinformatsiya campaign. One that has been fed by the environmentalist shills for the petro-states.:

    The Global World Hits a Snag” By Richard Fernandez on April 18, 2016:

    “Bernie Sanders ‘during a campaign event in New York … declared his intent to impose a nationwide ban on hydraulic fracturing,’ like some witless zombie who ‘has made clear his intent to ruin the U.S. economy, put people out of work, and make Americans totally reliant on imported oil’ while probably hoping to achieve the opposite result.

    “That’s how the Narrative works. Sanders, like many a well-meaning liberal, may become so habituated to the mental Kool-Aid that he no longer detects the poison in it and like many other individuals is convinced he can fundamentally transform America by adopting policies which but for the artful camouflage of political consultants could easily be recognized as authored in Saudi Arabia or Beijing.”

  • Andrew Allison

    Let’s not pretend that “climate science” cleave(s) away subjectivity in pursuit of fact. The fact is that we have absolutely no verifiable evidence as to the extent to which anthropogenic CO2 emissions are warming the planet. All the alarmist hypotheses have, without exception, failed to be realized. If any further evidence of subjectivity were required, consider the lack of publicity surrounding the fact that Artic ice loss has been discovered to be a result of geothermal, not atmospheric, warming.

  • Blackbeard

    That there are fools on both sides of the political divide is not a surprise. But the situation is hardly symmetrical. Since the Left controls the media, the entertainment industry, academia, and most of the government, if someone on the Right strays they will be called to account immediately. The Left, on the other hand, can be as illogical and unscientific as they like and they will never be called on it. As an example. Google around the blogosphere and see what the reaction on the Left is to Porter’s rather mild article. Hint: It isn’t thoughtful introspection.

    • Jim__L

      That’s a pity, because only one side really wants a thriving, sustainable future.

      “Two of the most promising green options humanity has—GMOs and nuclear power—receive precious little support from the Left, despite the fact that these technologies at this point form the foundation of any realistic view of a thriving, sustainable future.”

      Hint: It’s not the Democrats.

  • ronetc

    Luddites were workers who smashed machines, the new technology of the day, in a vain attempt to preserve their manual labor value. I see leftists attempting to destroy technological breakthroughs such as fracking and nuclear . . . but who on the right is trying to block, much less smash emerging technologies . . . except perhaps the magical thinking of solar/wind/tidal. And even there the right just wants to see it actually work rather than just spend money on wishful thinking.

    • Jim__L

      People keep talking about the Luddites, I suppose in the way of “If it bleeds, it leads”.

      Less people talk about exactly the trends that made the Luddites *wrong*. An analysis of those trends, and an application of those lessons to the present-day, is probably the most critical way historians could constructively inform the debates of today.

      Is anyone doing that kind of work?

  • bottomfish

    There is a fundamental difference between arguing for future global warming and arguing for nuclear power.

    Global climate is immensely complex, even if the human influence is not considered. The factors that contribute to it are by no means well-understood. Any prediction of the future course of climate is necessarily intuitive and based on estimations of probability. How accurate are the predictions that we have now? Even after some 35 years of supposed forecasting, the anticipated catastrophic outcomes have not occurred. Climate forecasts are like economic forecasts — the latest prediction of GDP growth in the next quarter is usually in a wide range.

    The physics of nuclear reactions is different. It’s not a matter of science, but technology. No one can be a “climate engineer” in anything like the sense that one can be a nuclear reactor engineer. The equations of nuclear reactions and chemistry are all clear-cut and the anticipated results entirely predictable.

    The split between “climate change skeptics” and “nuclear energy skeptics” is really a split between people who have a skeptical view of the human power to extrapolate in an extremely complex situation, and those who think magically. To the left, nuclear power is demonic — and therefore we can’t have anything to do with it. That is the magical element in leftist thinking.

    • Jim__L

      Read a summary of the 2001 IPCC report here:

      But I’ll save you the trouble. Here’s the money line:

      *** “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.” ***

      No disrespect meant to nuclear engineers, but compared to climate, nuclear reactors are a vastly simpler system. It’s a qualitatively different animal. You can model nuclear reactors with closed-form equations. Climate? Not possible. Period.

      For a generally accessible treatment of what a “coupled non-linear chaotic system” is and the difficulties with modeling them, I’d recommend Gleick’s “Chaos”.

      • bottomfish

        If you can’t predict future climate states over the long term, then what is the basis for the predictions of more violent storms, huge rises in sea level etc.? Are you saying the IPCC is contradicting itself? That is what I infer. As far as I can see you and the IPCC are mainly re-stating what I have said.

        • Jim__L

          I am saying the IPCC is contradicting itself, yes. There is every reason to be skeptical of anyone who claims confidence in climate models. At one point even the IPCC was honest enough to admit this. Nowadays? It’s heresy.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Something needs to be done about the huge level of scientific fraud. In some fields like psychology, 75% of the papers published by journals are lies, with unrepeatable experiments, fabricated data, incestuous peer reviews, and other violations of scientific rigor. Even in the hardest of sciences “Physics” the level of scientific fraud runs into the double digits. A civilization built on the enlightenment ideals (Reason, Scientific Method derived truth, the Separation of Church and State, and the most important “Rule of Law”), can’t thrive in this environment of lies and untruth. This scientific fraud is really a “crime against humanity”, costing mankind time and treasure taking dead end paths, and paying the criminals taking mankind down these paths.
    To reduce crime you have to prosecute the criminals, and punish them severely enough to make getting caught a real deterrent. We know from the “Climate-gate emails” that the “Global Warming” scientists have been engaged in a systematic corruption of the data, in order to support their political opinion. Their calls to prosecute “Climate Deniers” are simply attempts to steal a march on what they fear the most. Which is facing charges of fraud, which they know they are guilty of committing.

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