Join 3,514 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Peer Reviewing an Opinion on Science and the Political Agenda
December 8, 2010 10:30 PM   Subscribe

An opinion piece in Slate argues that the scientific agenda would benefit from increasing the paltry six percent of American scientists who identify as Republican. (This statistic previously on Metafilter.) Knight Science Journalism Tracker offers peer review of this point.
posted by jjray (98 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think that if it's really true that only 6% of American scientists identify as Republican, there's a whole wealth of inferences we might draw from that. Just sayin'.
posted by zoogleplex at 10:33 PM on December 8, 2010 [23 favorites]


Yep. A political party that uses anti-science rhetoric and policy has no hopes of attracting scientifically minded people. The Slate article is terrible and as the peer review points out uses utterly no evidence to back up the assertions made.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:37 PM on December 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


"SCIENCE" is a rather broad field...I'd be curious to see whether those 6% are clustered in any particular disciplines.
posted by jaynewould at 10:40 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


That was perhaps the worst article I've ever read on Slate - as IvoShandor points out, perhaps the fact that the Republican Party has been dominated by the anti-scientific, evolution-disbelieving Religious Right for decades has something to do with this disparity.
posted by twsf at 10:41 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is stupid.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:42 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


We also need more Republican Geologists, Whig Computer Scientists, Democratic Etymologists and Green Party Astrophysicists. They are all so underrepresented. It is getting so unbalanced that the science is being biased. Neutrons are voting for Nader. What is the world coming to?!?
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:45 PM on December 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


Batman is a scientist.
posted by ecurtz at 10:47 PM on December 8, 2010 [16 favorites]


For 20 years, evidence about global warming has been directly and explicitly linked to a set of policy responses demanding international governance regimes, large-scale social engineering, and the redistribution of wealth. These are the sort of things that most Democrats welcome...

That's a straw man if I've ever read one.

Though I don't disagree on the basic premise - that science would benefit from more republicans - politics is so ridiculously polarized (see FNC's Cavuto giving Fabio a hard time over promoting electric vehicles) that often you can't get through to people unless theyre on your same political wavelength. So on that level, its basically mandatory for some smart republican scientists stand up and speak out. They'll probably be called RINOs by the unthinking masses but you have to start somewhere. Rush and Palin aren't going to lead the charge.
posted by SirOmega at 10:48 PM on December 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Was it Bring Your HuffPo Bullshit Editorial To Work Day over at Slate?
posted by munchingzombie at 10:51 PM on December 8, 2010 [23 favorites]


I imagine an alternate, equally self-congratulatory thread by Republicans who are saying, "I wish there were more Democrats who are smart enough to be investment bankers."
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:52 PM on December 8, 2010 [26 favorites]


I'd be curious to see whether those 6% are clustered in any particular disciplines.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the ones where you make a lot of money.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:53 PM on December 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


The easiest way to increase the number of Republicans that are classified as scientists would be to pretend that economics is a science.
posted by vorpal bunny at 10:53 PM on December 8, 2010 [17 favorites]


First of all, in the poll data presented in the article, 55% of scientists consider themselves Democrats. That's not a large majority- 45% are NOT Democrats. However, the tone of the article makes it sound like it's 6% Republican vs an overwhelmingly large majority of extremely partisan Democrats.

The article states that the lack of Republican scientists indicates that "there is clearly something going on that is as yet barely acknowledged, let alone understood."

Remember how both John "Bear DNA" McCain and Sarah "fruit fly" Palin openly mocked scientific research during the debates? Sorry, Slate, I don't think there's any big mystery as why there aren't more republican scientists.
posted by emd3737 at 11:00 PM on December 8, 2010 [14 favorites]


What everyone else said about the anti-science party not attracting scientists.

That Slate article reminded me of this one, where the author exhorts the citizens of DC to strategically vote Republican so that the GOP will permit them to have representation. Well, if there weren't a constant stream of GOP rhetoric about how cities generally-- especially DC-- aren't Real America, to say nothing of the Southern Strategy, maybe that would make sense.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:10 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm with the commenters over on Slate who are openly wondering if this is a reprint of an Onion piece. My god does that article bring the stupid, in freight car loads.

Think about it: The results of climate science, delivered by scientists who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are used over a period of decades to advance a political agenda that happens to align precisely with the ideological preferences of Democrats.

Yeah, it's kind of like the way doctors empower the ideological preferences of Democrats by promoting the germ theory of disease, which in turn leads to things like suggesting healthcare is a good thing; as opposed to the other equally reasonable hypothesis that disease is caused by God either hating you or testing your faith. What's wrong with these sciento-liberals anyway?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:17 PM on December 8, 2010 [19 favorites]


It's not that science needs more Republicans. It's that Republicans need to stop being science-, education-, and expertise-hating fucksticks.
posted by bardic at 11:18 PM on December 8, 2010 [13 favorites]


That said, my father is a retired biologist. Fairly moderate Democrat most of his life who later became a Reagan Democrat. Now centers his day around listening to Rush Limbaugh and writing strongly worded letters to his local newspaper about the global warming "hoax" and how Obama wants to tax everyone to death. Literally.

Receives a tidy pension payment every month from the Federal government too, along with excellent life-long healthcare benefits.

So go figure.

Love ya Dad! And let's keep our promise to your daughter/my sister never to talk about politics ever again!
posted by bardic at 11:21 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Breaking: web editorial about politically charged science mixes cause, effect.
posted by auto-correct at 11:24 PM on December 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


The easiest way to increase the number of Republicans that are classified as scientists would be to pretend that economics is a science.

I think someone's got you beat there.
posted by item at 11:38 PM on December 8, 2010


Hmm. These days to be a scientist don't you basically have to be motivated by something that is not money? I see a problem.
posted by Artw at 11:42 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Receives a tidy pension payment every month from the Federal government too, along with excellent life-long healthcare benefits.

If I had a dollar for every conservative that hates big government but gets a pension or a job from it I'd qualify for the second tier of the Bush tax cut.
posted by clarknova at 11:57 PM on December 8, 2010 [15 favorites]


Nice use of the reality_has_a_liberal_bias tag!
posted by paisley henosis at 11:58 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Was it Bring Your HuffPo Bullshit Editorial To Work Day over at Slate?

Slate was doing idiot contrarianism and fad crises long before Huffpo came along.

Remember how both John "Bear DNA" McCain and Sarah "fruit fly" Palin openly mocked scientific research during the debates?

Don't forget Bobby Jindal mocking volcano research in his response to Obama's State of the Union address a mere two months before a major eruption from Mt. Redoubt in Alaska.
posted by fatbird at 12:14 AM on December 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


He says, "A democratic society needs Republican scientists." But by his own account, there are Republican scientists: 6% of American scientists. That's a lot of people. Why doesn't he make any attempt to look at their work and explain how it makes a distinctive contribution that non-Republican (Democrat, independent, or apolitical) scientists would have made?
posted by John Cohen at 12:30 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, this guy thinks that we'd benefit from increasing the number of scientists that are Republicans from the current laughable 6%. Let's assume his conclusion is correct: there are two ways to accomplish this. One is to increase the raw number of scientists that are Republicans, thus tilting the numbers - if 6 out of 100 are Republican, let's make that 26 out of 120, a rise to 21.6%. This would of course be good, not only because it would mean more scientists, but because it would mean Republicanism is broadening enough to accommodate a wider range of ideas.

The other way, which seems like the one he meant, is to decrease the number of non-Republican scientists. 6 out of 100 ain't much, but 6 out of 60 is a much bigger percent! Or even 6 out of 30! Hell, let's make it 6 out of 6 and everybody wins!

note: nobody actually wins
posted by kafziel at 12:30 AM on December 9, 2010


I recall now (though I haven't been able to find) an article that appeared in Salon probably just a few years ago about difference between liberals and conservatives vis-á-vis their hopes and wishes for their children. Liberals are supportive and happy if their kids turn out to be artists, teachers, scientists, or other not-so-highly-paid roles that nevertheless enrich society; conservatives prefer their kids to go into a profession such as law or medicine.

There was a lot of simplification. Plus, most of my conservative relatives and friends have fuck-ups for children, meaning their most earnest wish is that their kids don't end up in jail or knock up their girlfriends without having a job, so it's hard to compare to my own experience. (Most of my liberal relatives and friends have fuck-ups for kids, too, mind you.)
posted by adoarns at 12:30 AM on December 9, 2010


I wouldn't have guessed that the number of Republican scientists was quite that low. Now I'm really curious about the causality--are the numbers low because people who are already scientists get put off by anti-science attitudes in the Republican party, as many in this thread have suggested? Or do people who identify as Republican tend not to become scientists in the first place? Or does the actual process of studying science make people less conservative, perhaps because it requires them to continually question assumptions?

More data!
posted by fermion at 12:39 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was always under the impression that, at least at the university level, there tended to be more Republicans in the engineering and hard sciences departments as compared to the liberal arts department. At least that's been my own anecdotal experience.
posted by gyc at 12:53 AM on December 9, 2010


The process of studying science does mean that you spend a large number of your formative years in college towns, or even studying in another country (be it the U.S., or not). You also spend a ton of time around people from all over the world.

That, and the whole skeptical thing, make being a straight-up conservative difficult.

I did know a libertarian physicist though. Boy was that confusing-- especially because he was a theorist. How exactly did he think he was going to get funded in a world that only cared about direct economic gain?
posted by nat at 1:27 AM on December 9, 2010


This is incredibly stupid. The reason to subscribe to a school of political thought is to agree with it, not to even up right-wing scientists.
posted by JHarris at 2:14 AM on December 9, 2010


I don't want to know what shock the author is in for when he learns how much science is done by non-Americans (even in the US!) who don't readily fall into a US political party. I strongly suspect you could disregard every American climate scientist and still wind up with an extremely solid case for climate change. And that's the only topic I can think of with any real partisan discord, due to the uncertainties involved in the predictions and measurements; even evolution comes in as a distant second, since the only opposition comes from people who don't understand the science at all.

(I actually did know a couple of conservative Christian physicists in my early grad school days. One left for the more abstract, but self-contained, pastures of math, and the other clearly had a difficult time trying to reconcile god's influence in a universe whose rules we understand pretty well and don't easily allow supernatural intervention.)
posted by Schismatic at 2:19 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah Slate, never stop being contrary for contrary's sake. Actually, please do stop. As soon as possible.

The reason that there are not as many scientist's declaring themselves Republicans (as opposed to Democrat or not at all) is the same reason there are fewer gay people, black people, and people of non-Christian religions declaring themselves Republican. Because the GOP not only has stances that disagree with these groups but are actively hostile to these groups. Most African-Americans know that George Bush hates black people, even if they don't know the history of the Southern Strategy and the Dixiecrat realignment in the wake of the Civil Rights Bill. It's the same reason that there are very few openly proud gay people in the party, though many politicians have shown themselves to be self-hating closet cases. Log Cabin Republicans being a notable exception, but I still think they are largely self-hating. Why would a Muslim person want to be a Republican when the leaders of the Republican party, elected and otherwise, declare Islam to be a religion of terrorism, hate, etc?

The Republican party is a party that is hostile to, that openly fights against, any number of forces of progress, and anything that isn't white, male, Christian, and corpratist. It is a party that actively disagrees with scientific evidence on global climate change, evolution, etc. That denies funding to anything that might disrupt its white, male, Christian, corpratist message.

That's why there aren't more Republican scientists. And this Slate article is the usual idiotic trash of a person asking a question that they either should know the answer to or if they do not should get out of the political prognostication field.
posted by X-Himy at 2:43 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the Slate piece:
"How would a more politically diverse scientific community improve this situation? First, it could foster greater confidence among Republican politicians about the legitimacy of mainstream science."

lulz
posted by dhens at 2:51 AM on December 9, 2010


Batman is a scientist.

Don't like what I think you're insinuating there. Iron Man is a scientist too.
posted by fuse theorem at 2:55 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was always under the impression that, at least at the university level, there tended to be more Republicans in the engineering and hard sciences departments as compared to the liberal arts department. At least that's been my own anecdotal experience.

That's true, but there are still very few self-identified Republicans in the hard sciences. I think it is a combination of things already mentioned--the questioning of assumptions, the motivation by things other than money--and, yes, even that favorite bug-a-bear of the Rush Limbaugh wing-nut faction, the fact that it is uncomfortable to work in an environment where everyone else's political viewpoint is strongly opposed to yours. Of course, I would guess the first two factors explain about 99% of the disparity.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:00 AM on December 9, 2010


You lost me at "scientific agenda".
posted by gjc at 3:08 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that article was the biggest load of horseshit I've read in a long time, and that's saying something. This sentence in particular: "For 20 years, evidence about global warming has been directly and explicitly linked to a set of policy responses demanding international governance regimes, large-scale social engineering, and the redistribution of wealth. These are the sort of things that most Democrats welcome." What. a. jackass. As if the fucking Republicans don't have their own "large-scale social engineering" wet dreams, and the last three Republican administrations have been about nothing if not redistribution of wealth--look at the fucking numbers.

My impression is that conservatively-minded people who are strong in math and science skills tend to partition out into econ and engineering. I remember reading reports in the not very distant past that engineers as a group tend to be very conservative. Too lazy to look up and link, though.

I will also say that Chemical and Engineering news, the weekly magazine of the American Chemical Society, gets no shortage of conservative-to-the-point-of-wacko letters from the readership. So even though I haven't met many of them, yep, there are some conservative scientists out there.
posted by Sublimity at 3:43 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think both the article and many of the comments above miss an important point. I'm a scientist; I got my PhD from one of the world's top universities and have worked for years at high profile research institutions trying to further the understanding of the role of various genes in cancer. My salary during this time - although perhaps a little better than my peers working in less prestigious institutions - has been a tiny fraction of what I could have earned had I gone into law or medicine or finance (or plumbing or carpentry). I accepted the shitty pay and the 7-day work week and the lack of security because I wanted to help the fight against cancer. Much of my research has been publicly-funded; I believe it's right to spend a lot of public money on education and science and healthcare, so we can work together to improve everybody's lives. The people who choose to be scientists are people who have had a lot of opportunities before them, and have chosen one of the least lucrative careers because of the non-tangible rewards, both personal and to humanity, that are afforded.
Now, I'm not American and so am neither Republican nor Democrat, but guess which side I would come down on if put on the spot? How would you convince somebody of a "Republican mindset", freshly graduated with all the debt that entails, to choose 5-6 years more school followed by a post-doc position for $35k over an MBA or law school or medical school and the lure of $$$$$$ to follow that?
posted by nowonmai at 3:52 AM on December 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


Some affirmative action could fix this.
posted by yesster at 4:28 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


....Why are we even paying attention to the political affiliation of scientists?

A scientist's political affiliation has as much to do with their career as do the number of moles they have.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:35 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Number of moles of what, Empress Callipygos?
posted by WyoWhy at 4:53 AM on December 9, 2010 [16 favorites]


god, slate is awful
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 4:56 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I imagine an alternate, equally self-congratulatory thread by Republicans who are saying, "I wish there were more Democrats who are smart enough to be investment bankers."

Wall street was a major source of money for democrats 2000-2010. I don't know that ibankers have souls, but they act like democrats sometimes.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:11 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Apologies in advance. I cannot resist making a post using some arguments I have heard from conservatives over the years ...

Why are there so few Republicans in science? Well, for one thing, Republicans themselves will tell you that they tend to be far more "family oriented" than Democrats. Probably much of the numerical difference can be explained by Republicans dropping out of their universities and careers to raise their children. It would be a mistake to see this as a problem -- Republicans are simply naturally more *interested* in children than they are in careers.

It's probably particularly evident in the sciences, because, meaning no disrepect to them, Republicans are simply not as good at math. I don't have a link to the data with me *right here*, but think about it -- the Laffer curve? Trickle-down economics? These are not theories that are developed by people with lots of math skills. This isn't to say that Republicans aren't perfectly good at other things, however; someone has to raise all those families, right?

Now, of course it's not known exactly why Republicans have neither the inclination nor the ability to do science. But some recent studies seem to indicate that there are differences in brain structure between Republicans and members of other political parties. Here's a quote from a 2007 study: "The brain neurons of liberals and conservatives fire differently when confronted with tough ... Conservatives tend to crave order and structure in their lives ... Liberals, by contrast, show a higher tolerance for ambiguity and complexity".

So, clearly, brain structures of those dear dear Republicans are simply not suited for scientific tasks, which are often ambiguous and complex.

The mistake the Slate article makes is presenting this as a problem that needs to be solved. We are blessed with a variety of different political groups that are ideally suited to different tasks -- Democrats serving as scientists, and Republicans cooking food for them and their children. It's just the natural order of things, and all trying to mess with it is going to do is make a lot of those poor, order-craving Republicans very upset if they try to perform a task they're simply not naturally suited for.
posted by kyrademon at 5:22 AM on December 9, 2010 [11 favorites]


I like how the article seems to pretend "Republican" is an inborn inherited non-changeable trait, like "Latino", rather than a choice made in voting booths based on one's interests and which party PUBLICLY DENIGRATES scientific research.

"lolvolcanomonitoring, whoever heard of a volcano harming anyone anyway rofl XD XD"
posted by Greg Nog at 5:53 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like how the article seems to pretend "Republican" is an inborn inherited non-changeable trait, like "Latino", rather than a choice made in voting booths based on one's interests and which party PUBLICLY DENIGRATES scientific research.

yes and, after the "scientific agenda," what about the "gay agenda"?
posted by ennui.bz at 6:18 AM on December 9, 2010


The suggested strategy doesn't work so well for the gay agenda.
posted by srboisvert at 6:20 AM on December 9, 2010


The right and its apologists are so, so busy trying to root out and overturn any parts of society that have a preponderance of unacceptable (in their view) thought. Such thought is just labeled, not out of any coherent reasoning but as an emotional hook for the mass audience, as "liberal" (or "Dem", or "socialist", or "commie", or...). It's all just name-calling in the end, and this is another example of it.

This guy is of the particularly sneaky variety of propagandist, since he's an apologist who has taken the form of a concern troll. He's telling scientists that they have to become more ideologically rightist so that they can get more funding. So he's only doing it "objectively", for the scientists own good.

Now, why do I feel justified saying this is propaganda that is part of a relentless, long term culture war strategy? It's this: the direction of these pieces always goes "from left to right", that is, it always says there are too many Democrats/Liberals/Secular Humanists/etc. in profession X. When was the last time you saw an article talking about how there were too many CEOs or evangelical preachers that voted Republican? That would be never, right? That's because the other side--the lefty side--doesn't play the same game. They should, because this shit is taking a toll, and eventually it will succeed.

Just another piece of the right's overall strategy of guiding America's decent to total klepto-idiocracy. It's really the one thing the are good at, and, boy, are they ever good at it.
posted by mondo dentro at 6:28 AM on December 9, 2010


Think about it: The results of climate science, delivered by scientists who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are used over a period of decades to advance a political agenda that happens to align precisely with the ideological preferences of Democrats. Coincidence—or causation?

Wow. I never thought of it that way. Clearly if there were more Republican scientists we'd have disproved Darwin by now, too. HAMBURGER WITH OLIVES, SWISS CHEESE AND EXTRA PICKLES.

Seriously, I bet you'd find the same slant in the arts (if not even more so). It's simple really. Funding for the arts and sciences are the first thing Republicans tend to cut when elected. Why the fuck would someone who makes their living off that money voluntarily support the people who take away the money while claiming the work itself is neither valuable nor important?
posted by caution live frogs at 6:34 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hahahah... the whole point of the article is that if there were more Republican scientists it would advance science, change the Republican party from within etc. And the response here is all "Oh noes, they're trying to sabatoge science".

Raeburn is entirely wrong when he asks: "Can Sarewitz show that scientists’ political beliefs affect their findings, which is what he is alleging?"

That's actually not his point at all.

See how he writes this:
How would a more politically diverse scientific community improve this situation? First, it could foster greater confidence among Republican politicians about the legitimacy of mainstream science. Second, it would cultivate more informed, creative, and challenging debates about the policy implications of scientific knowledge. This could help keep difficult problems like climate change from getting prematurely straitjacketed by ideology. A more politically diverse scientific community would, overall, support a healthier relationship between science and politics.
His point is things like "If there were more Republican climate scientists, then the Republican party wouldn't be against taking action to prevent global warming."
posted by Jahaza at 7:12 AM on December 9, 2010


The fault is 100% with the Republican party which has decided to build up and cultivate a hardcore, cultish evangelical base that explicitly derides and hates science.

There's a reason that 39% of scientists don't identify as Democrats but don't identify as Republicans either. Basically, they're aligned with old school Republican values. Hell, I could probably identify with a lot of those values too. I probably wouldn't have a lot in common with a 1950s Democrat.

I'm not at all clear on exactly when and how the Republican party became the party of intolerance, racism, sexism, classism, ignorance, etc. But it does seem to me that the only way you can have a large base that is actively voting against their economic and social interests, the only real way to build it is by not only appealing to someone's base nature, but fostering it and growing it.

There's a reason fewer people believe in evolution now than a few decades ago. In the 1950s, if a scientist said something, a majority of the population believed it, even if it was patently untrue and didn't even face the same level of scientific inquiry and criticism that such claims face today. Nowadays, it's very popular among some circles to actively dismiss the words and claims of scientists, or to manufacture fake scientists to counter reality.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:16 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


His point is things like "If there were more Republican climate scientists, then the Republican party wouldn't be against taking action to prevent global warming."

Republicans believe that global warming is a myth and/or contrary to either religious realities or economic interests, and so therefore they would not become climate scientists (excepting a few who become climate scientists with the explicit purpose of debunking climate change).

This is sort of like saying that if only there were fewer gays in musical theatre, we might see manlier shows on Broadway.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:19 AM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


I too want to know more about the moles.
posted by Mister_A at 7:25 AM on December 9, 2010


Anyway, what cracks me up about all these anti-science wackos is how willing they are to embrace the science that they like—cellphones, internet, TV, airplanes, automobiles, pentagon death ray hope beam, etc., but how completely willfully ignorant they are to the fact that the same scientific tradition that produced those gadgets they love, and which allows them to live for almost 38 years on average despite a diet of nothing but pork rinds and Dr. Pepper, that same tradition, the same sort of mind, produced the current models of anthropogenic climate change, of evolution via natural selection, and so on.
posted by Mister_A at 7:29 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


The whole point of science is that, if you're doing it right, your political beliefs won't effect the outcome of the experiment.

On that note, we need more Democrat corn growers. My breakfast cereal has a distinctive right-wing bias! (Do you see how stupid and pointless this argument is? Slate's usually pretty good -- it's embarrasing that they let this piece get through.)
posted by schmod at 7:35 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reality has a liberal bias. -- Colbert.
posted by KaizenSoze at 7:49 AM on December 9, 2010


Batman is a scientist.

Don't like what I think you're insinuating there. Iron Man is a scientist too.


Dabblers. Mr. Fantastic does more science before 6am than either of them does all day.
posted by steambadger at 8:03 AM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


His point is things like "If there were more Republican climate scientists, then the Republican party wouldn't be against taking action to prevent global warming."

Well, Jahaza, just to go for the low-hanging Godwin fruit: isn't this analogous to saying "if there were just more Jew-loving Nazi's, it would be easier to prevent genocide"?
posted by mondo dentro at 8:24 AM on December 9, 2010


Batman is a scientist.
...
Don't like what I think you're insinuating there. Iron Man is a scientist too.
...
Dabblers. Mr. Fantastic does more science before 6am than either of them does all day.


YOURE ALL WRONG, ALL THESE MEN ARE SIMPLY TOOLS IN THE POCKET OF BIG SCIENCE

GOOGLE DOCTOR STRANGE
posted by Greg Nog at 8:28 AM on December 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


His point is things like "If there were more Republican climate scientists, then the Republican party wouldn't be against taking action to prevent global warming."

And if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:30 AM on December 9, 2010 [6 favorites]


Dabblers. Mr. Fantastic does more science before 6am than either of them does all day.

Not sure he's a great example, given that so many monsters he fights are there as a result of him Playing God and going Too Far.
posted by Artw at 8:41 AM on December 9, 2010


It is no secret that the ranks of scientists and engineers in the United States include dismal numbers of Hispanics and African-Americans, but few have remarked about another significantly underrepresented group: Republicans.

No conservative engineers? I thought we were all ultra-conservative, deeply religious types "that disdain ambiguity and compromise".
posted by electroboy at 8:46 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Batman is a scientist.

Don't like what I think you're insinuating there. Iron Man is a scientist too.


Where is their hypothesis? Where is their control group???
posted by schmod at 9:05 AM on December 9, 2010 [4 favorites]


The fault is 100% with the Republican party which has decided to build up and cultivate a hardcore, cultish evangelical base that explicitly derides and hates science.

They don't hate science, they just don't want it to ram itself down their throats or get married. Keep that shit private.
posted by blucevalo at 9:10 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I absolutely agree that the Republican agenda would benefit by abandoning widespread antagonism towards several topics of widespread scientific consensus.

Wait, what?
posted by nanojath at 9:19 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Raeburn is entirely wrong when he asks: "Can Sarewitz show that scientists’ political beliefs affect their findings, which is what he is alleging?"

That's actually not his point at all.


If he didn't mean to allege that, perhaps he shouldn't have written:
Think about it: The results of climate science, delivered by scientists who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are used over a period of decades to advance a political agenda that happens to align precisely with the ideological preferences of Democrats. Coincidence—or causation?
posted by John Cohen at 9:32 AM on December 9, 2010


Dabblers. Mr. Fantastic does more science before 6am than either of them does all day.

But Mr. Fantastic only does science. Rusty Venture takes it to the next level and does SUPER science.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:34 AM on December 9, 2010


...cause, you know, having more African American members would help change the direction of the Ku Klux Klan.
posted by Xoebe at 9:50 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, the new chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee is Ralph Hall, who represents the northeast corner of Texas, is Republican, and is 87 years old. He has a zero rating from the League of Conservation Voters.
posted by blucevalo at 9:55 AM on December 9, 2010


"They don't hate science, they just don't want it to ram itself down their throats or get married. Keep that shit private."

From the way that Republicans handle fiscal matters, they don't want "math" rammed down their throats either.
posted by Xoebe at 9:59 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can the Party of Reagan Accept the Science of Climate Change?, written by Sherwood Boehlert, Republican and former head of the House Committee on Science.

short version: no. no they cannot, despite Mr. Boehlert's good example.
posted by electroboy at 10:03 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, they'll accept it all right. As soon as their ocean-front summer home is under water.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:10 AM on December 9, 2010


I too want to know more about the moles.

There are several different ones.

Are you motivated by molality modalities or would you be mollified by the modality molality?
posted by Herodios at 10:23 AM on December 9, 2010


...cause, you know, having more African American members would help change the direction of the Ku Klux Klan.

Or, perhaps more analogously, having more Ku Klux Klan members might alter the direction of the NAACP?
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:31 AM on December 9, 2010


Oh, they'll accept it all right. As soon as their ocean-front summer home is under water.

They'll accept that it's all the fault of the terrorists and the gayz.
posted by blucevalo at 10:40 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, they'll accept it all right. As soon as their ocean-front summer home is under water.

At which point all these small-government, anti-welfare deficit hawks will be squealing for federal disaster relief money to rebuild those summer homes above the new shoreline.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:20 AM on December 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Keep in mind that the Pew Research Center data is a survey of members of the "American Association for the Advancement of Science" which is a large group, but is going to be a subset of people that identify themselves as scientists and certainly would be a very small subset of people who identify themselves as engineers.
posted by Edward L at 11:38 AM on December 9, 2010


One wonders whether this is a result of science attracting Democrats, or of scientists abandoning a party that spits on them.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:39 AM on December 9, 2010


This article is not a lament or an observation of some interesting social phenomenon.

It's primarily a threat and a warning to scientists to submit to the Republicans and stop making them look so bad-- or else.

Or else lose funding or even suffer vicious, cynical, and selfconsciously false and misleading attacks like Climategate.

I'm sure you could find similar threats made against science and scientists as the Nazis rose to power, and for exactly the same reasons.

Slate soils and disgraces itself by publishing this.
posted by jamjam at 11:52 AM on December 9, 2010


Wait -- the jackass who wrote this piece implies that six percent of scientists self-identifying as Republicans reflects badly on scientists and not Republicans?!
posted by Gelatin at 11:59 AM on December 9, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've wondered about this a bit, being fascinated in science, and dating a scientist who reports that some of his colleagues are Republican.

I've found some religious people noting how much religion is hogwash, at the same time actually working at the Vatican in seriously high roles, as well as religious scientists.

I'm really pretty fascinated in how these people process the facts of their jobs, whether in religion or science, with their beliefs.

It's also interesting that I made the leap, unconsciously, from Republican, to religious. Hm!

As far as Republicans + science though, well, from the impression I have, Republicans tend to decide things taking fewer facts + humanity into consideration, perhaps.
posted by 8175309 at 12:04 PM on December 9, 2010


I'd be curious to see whether those 6% are clustered in any particular disciplines.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the ones where you make a lot of money.


... and sadly, the ones where you make very little, drjimmy11 (judging from the red-state/welfare statistics).
posted by IAmBroom at 12:17 PM on December 9, 2010


I'm sure you could find similar threats made against science and scientists as the Nazis rose to power, and for exactly the same reasons.

Why hypothesize? Leonor Michaelis (who elucidated what is now known as Michaelis-Menten Kinetics with Maud Menten) pretty much torpedoed his academic career by criticizing the work of Emil Abderhalden. Abderhalden went on to develop a blood test for Aryanism and a lot of other things that are widely discredited. Ultimately he ended up in the US.

Michaelis' contributions, while significant, did not totally rewrite the biochemistry text books. On the other hand, no one had to change them back when they realized he was just making shit up.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:27 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


One odd thing about this article is it seems to be asking, in a roundabout way, "Why does Science not choose more Republican scientists?!"

But, of course, Republicanism is (at least nominally) a set of ideas that, you know, anyone can choose or reject. The non-bizarre form of this question would be, "Why do so few scientists decide to be Republicans?"
posted by kyrademon at 1:59 PM on December 9, 2010


Note to journalist: not all science revolves around climate change.

A very Republican value persuades scientists to identify as Democrats: Democrat politicians and regimes tend to support the federal and state funding of the sciences. Money talks.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:26 PM on December 9, 2010


People are taking the wrong conclusions from creationism and global warming denial. The truth is that Republicans and Democrats do equally well on math and science tests. In fact conservatives are stronger on math skills and mathematicians, engineers, and other math-oriented disciplines tend to be more conservative, while the humanities and verbal-centered disciplines tend to skew heavily liberal.

There are a lot of reasons that there are more liberals in academia than conservatives. It's a less attractive career option from the standpoint of earnings, family, and religion. Science, like art, is also better suited towards disagreeable, neurotic, "unconventional" (one might say more sociopathic) personality types.

But one other important reason you can count on, from this initial disparity, is heavy discrimination against conservatives in academia, at every level from student admissions, to faculty hiring and tenure. (This isn't a literature review of course, but this should be prima facie obvious given just the incentives and ability to discriminate in academic hiring-- much more than in the profit-motivated private business sector, where people like to focus their discrimination concerns.)

The effect of this over time may be a blessing or a curse to Democrats. They're well along in cementing their position as the party of the elites (a factor in the creation of the Tea Party), and this will indeed cause a defection of smarter people towards the party over time. But a smart, rich Democratic party, and a dumb, poor Republican party, will also be a sort of Pyrrhic victory since a rich person Democratic party will likely begin to look a lot more like a Republican party.
posted by dgaicun at 2:53 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a PhD student in psychology, and let me tell you it would be the very definition of so-called cognitive dissonance if I were to vote for the people who would probably just as soon take half the NIH budget (which has kept me in tacos and beer for a while now) and spend that on a drone or two.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:54 PM on December 9, 2010


Dabblers. Mr. Fantastic does more science before 6am than either of them does all day.

I think that's stretching it.
posted by Sparx at 5:15 PM on December 9, 2010 [3 favorites]


Dabblers. Mr. Fantastic does more science before 6am than either of them does all day.

Not sure he's a great example, given that so many monsters he fights are there as a result of him Playing God and going Too Far.


Well, yeah -- but it's still science, man. I mean, who discovered the Negative Zone?
posted by steambadger at 5:32 PM on December 9, 2010


This isn't a literature review of course, but this should be prima facie obvious given just the incentives and ability to discriminate in academic hiring-- much more than in the profit-motivated private business sector, where people like to focus their discrimination concerns.

As someone who has been going on academic job interviews a lot lately, I can assure that the only things we talk about are my teaching and my research. I have no clue how they would ever judge my political beliefs. But since it's prima facie obvious to you, maybe you'd like to explain it to me.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:47 PM on December 9, 2010


The original article linked above that referenced the Pew Poll that shows that only 6% of scientists are Republican also notes that only 9% are conservative [FDL story].

I would contend that this matter goes beyond actual party affiliation and tends to have more to do with political ideology in general (even though 6% is less than 9%), as when we examine who denies science, it tends to be those who self-identify as conservative from around the country (with a higher bias towards folks in the countryside).

@jaynewould from my experience (I do archaeology work), the few conservative scientists I meet tend to be in engineering subfields, although as someone else pointed out in this discussion, "science" is a huge and varied field, so there could be other areas where they tend to be drawn to (one would think aerospace).
posted by novenator at 7:34 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder why scientists don't like the Republican party.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:32 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


"the scientific community enjoys the trust of 90 percent of Americans"

"[Scientists] will, of course, be loath to [investigate why there are few Republican scientists] because it threatens their most cherished myths of a pure science insulated from dirty partisanship."

"A democratic society needs Republican scientists."

Could this guy be any more in denial?
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 10:19 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


A few people in this thread are making an assumption that scientists in the hard sciences are less liberal than in the "softer" sciences.

As someone coming from a hard science, I wouldn't be so quick to make that assumption. Maybe this is the case among engineers, but even us physics & math types are liberal. The only conservative scientists I've seen have been libertarians, but all have possessed a big dose of social liberalism.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 7:55 AM on December 10, 2010


Engineer =/= scientist
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:09 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


As the Republican platform depends more and more on tailored information to give it any semblance of plausibility, they need to debilitate all the mainstream sources of authority. It's not just a snarky joke that reality has a liberal bias; Republicans know it does and work determinedly to undermine that reality. Academe has at its core the clear-eyed pursuit of knowledge and inevitably that knowledge conflicts with the Republican position on just about anything. That's why they've spent the last three decades accusing academe of having a liberal bias, of being hostile to conservative ideas, and of "indoctrinating" students with Marxist ideas. They are desperate to impugn the credibility of the professoriate in any way they can. Yeah, so it might be possible that fewer scientists, especially academicians, are willing to call themselves Republicans.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:14 AM on December 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


heavy discrimination against conservatives in academia, at every level from student admissions, to faculty hiring and tenure

dgaicun, I'm not sure how to say this politely, so I'll just be blunt: you're full of shit.

There are no shortage of conservative students on college campuses, for crying out loud. And faculty hiring and tenure in the sciences--which is what's relevant to the topic at hand--could not be any less concerned about political party or orientation. Science faculty are hired and attain tenure on the strength of their research programs and funding, primarily. Even other kinds of job-related tasks (teaching, service to the university) play an incredibly small role in these decisions.
posted by Sublimity at 6:28 PM on December 11, 2010


dgaicun is referring to the paranoid view of the Rush Limbaugh/Fox News axis that desperately wants to believe that all the research coming out of academe as well as the "indoctrinated" graduates lack credibility because of this supposed "bias". It's all made-up bullshit, but it is central to their world view, because without it they would have to admit that their theology is wrong and has led to terrible harm. They obviously can't do that.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:23 PM on December 12, 2010


« Older “When I was a kid growing up I was obsessed with a...  |  The radical human rights and s... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments