Friday, February 27, 2009

You Can't Choose Your Own Science

Joel Stein is a Los Angeles Times columnist whose links I usually avoid while reading the paper online (yes, that is where I do 99% of my newspaper reading). His columns contain an especially annoying blend of snark and fluff (snarff? flurk?). I prefer to read columns about issues that matter to the world and me.

Today, Stein wrote a column that does matter. Science is not a friendly subject, writes Stein, especially for conservatives:

People on the far right don't believe in evolution, global warming or doing stem cell research. Most of their opposition is rooted in the fact that these ideas challenge the Bible, which is the oldest book they know. I'm guessing Greek conservatives are OK with killing your dad and making love to your mom.

It's terribly easy to snicker at right-wingers who fear the fossil. On the other hand, scientific illiteracy rears its silly head in lefty-land, too:

Liberals have an irrational fear of inoculation and genetically engineered food, no matter how conclusive the science is on these topics. They believe that the body needs to be detoxified with foot pads, colonics, mud wraps and maple-syrup-and-cayenne-pepper fasts. They take echinacea and Emergen-C, heal themselves with crystals and magnets, and believe that energy flows through different "centers" of their bodies. They practice, I swear, a form of healing massage called reiki in which the masseuse usually doesn't even touch you. I believe my wife and I have a reiki marriage.

How easy it is to watch other people, and how hard it is to watch ourselves.

We lefties must see bullshit clearly. If we don't, and then open our mouths and our laptops to pass it on to others, we become so much low-hanging fruit for the conservatives to munch on.

Truth is not your sociopolitical ally. Truth is just truth. Our first allegiance should be to truth, even when, as in what family compostion is best for children or how to be a loving spouse, the truth is that there is no one, indisputable truth. Free your mind -- but keep your filter.

1 comment:

  1. Just to clarify a misconception that is very prevalent: There actually are significant numbers of people who reject certain aspects of the theory of evolution for scientific reasons, not religious ones. It's unfortunate that so many people equate a disbelief in evolution with blind, irrational faith or knee-jerk conservatism.

    In fact, there are many brilliant scientific minds who dare to question the blind acceptance of the theory, and urge people to look at the facts and draw their own conclusions based on critical thinking.

    The first allegiance of both lefties and righties ought to be Truth, indeed. But we ought not make the intellectual mistake of declaring unproven theories as "Truth," and regarding those of other viewpoints as stupid or foolish, at least not until we have found out why others think as they do. They may in fact have logical, rational, trustworthy reasons.

    We will never be able to ask an eyewitness about the origin of the Universe, and by that token, the matter should always remain open to debate. As long as all sides use science as their tools, we stand to gain. But the unwillingness to respect other points of view only cripples the pursuit of Truth.

    The assumption that most conservatives have an aversion to science is an erroneous and dangerous prejudice. Our society has made great strides in conquering racism...I hate to see us instead falling prey to blind prejudice about political affiliation.