Thursday, April 09, 2015

Leftist distrust of science experts

I occasionally hear people claim that Republicans are anti-science, but the Democrats seem much more anti-science to me. Here is an editorial cartoon from Monday's Santa Cruz Sentinel, the daily paper for a leftist Democrat California beach town.

Thalidomide was never FDA approved (until it was later approved for leprosy). No one was injured a Three Mile Island. I don't think that anyone ever said that the space shuttle was perfectly safe, altho the risk did turn out to be higher than estimated. (Note also the spelling error of Challenger.) Dow Corning was bankrupted over breast implant lawsuits in 1995, but that is just proof that our legal system is broken. There is a consensus now that the lawsuits were bogus, and millions of women get implants today without major problems. Asbestos is not really that dangerous unless you are a smoker who inhales the fibers.

Leftists also hate GMO foods, pesticides, DDT, antibiotics, and preservatives.

Journalist Chris Mooney has made a career out of blaming Republicans for not trusting scientific experts, and has a Wash. Post column on The science of why you really should listen to science and experts. SciAm's John Horgan refutes it:
I recently knocked science journalist Chris Mooney for asserting that “You Have No Business Challenging Scientific Experts.” Non-experts have the right and even the duty, I retorted, to question scientific experts, who often get things wrong. ...

He cites a study that found that judges and other lawyers show less ideological bias—or “identity-protective cognition”–in their application of the law than law students and lay people. ... To my mind, the study merely shows that lawyers and judges know the law better than law students and non-lawyers.

Mooney’s citation of Tetlock is bizarre, because Expert Political Judgment—far from a defense of experts—is a devastating critique of them....

“people who make prediction their business—people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables—are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they’re rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. ... People who follow current events by reading the papers and newsmagazines regularly can guess what is likely to happen about as accurately as the specialists whom the papers quote.”

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