Misplaced obsession with ranking anti-science behavior

Chris Mooney got a bit upset when Alan Berezow claimed “for every anti-science Republican that exists, there is at least one anti-science Democrat”:

This is a truly mind-boggling statement. What is this numerical claim based on? I can give you polling data on Tea Party followers, for instance, who reject evolution and climate change in dramatic numbers. I’d love to see similar data on a scientific topic where liberals reject a widely accepted scientific fact in similar numbers, and do so for clear political reasons.

Both Berezow and Mooney display this bizarre obsession with ranking anti-science behavior. As if once we decide that Republicans politicize science more or less than Democrats there’s nothing more to discuss. As if scoring political points is all that matters. As if once we hear science, Republicans and Democrats in the same sentence, the only thing left to do is pass judgment on someone. But as others have ably observed, there is more to science and politics than a simple ranking.

I’m consistently disappointed Mooney rarely deploys his rhetorical prowess and authority in the science blogosphere to move us beyond this simplistic discussion. We get it–he thinks Republicans politicize science more than Democrats. And yes, he even has some fancy statistics in support.

But surely it’s important to note that the term anti-science is semantically and epistemologically problematic, and so we should use it carefully. That for many people science isn’t a deciding factor either way issue, and so branding them is inappropriate.

This piece is especially unfortunate since a couple of his recent posts suggested Mooney was finally moving in this direction. I guess it’s one step forward, one step back.


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