I’m in the midst of Chris Mooney’s book, and I must admit that while I think he has assembled a masterful catalog of science misuse, the discomfort I’ve felt about his thesis remains – that the Right is not alone in its misuse of science and any useful discussion of the issue needs to recognize this broader issue. I was reminded of that this morning by Dennis Overbye’s piece in the New York Times this morning:
Once it was the left who wanted to redefine science.
In the early 1990’s, writers like the Czech playwright and former president Vaclav Havel and the French philosopher Bruno Latour proclaimed “the end of objectivity.” The laws of science were constructed rather than discovered, some academics said; science was just another way of looking at the world, a servant of corporate and military interests. Everybody had a claim on truth.
The right defended the traditional notion of science back then. Now it is the right that is trying to change it.
Until we recognize the broader forces at work here on both Left and Right – the willingness of both to select and understand science in ways that fits their individual values and policy choices – we’re not going to make any progress on this issue.