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In general, I’m no fan of intellectual whack-a-mole. Nevertheless, there’s one bad idea that circulates and recirculates with such frequency that once in a while, you just have to dust off your mallet.
I’m talking about the idea that when it comes to misusing or abusing science, both sides do it—a pox on both their houses—and the left is really just as bad as the right.
This idea is currently being championed by the generally clear thinking (but also ideologically libertarian) Michael Shermer, who wrote in Scientific American recently about the “Liberal War on Science.” I just appeared in an hour-long discussion of this subject on the Canadian public affairs program The Agenda With Steve Paikin, which also featured Shermer and Mark Lynas, the British environmentalist and author who recently gained great attention for his resounding defense of genetically modified foods:
Shermer begins his article by conceding that conservatives have a bad scientific track record, noting their global warming denial and evolution denial in particular. The latter, he writes, springs from the “erroneous belief that the theory of evolution leads to a breakdown of morality.” But then he goes on to argue that since some Democrats also doubt these scientific verities—or more particularly, a recent Gallup poll found that 41 percent of Democrats are Young Earth Creationists, and 19 percent doubt the Earth is warming—science denial is a problem on the left too.