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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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