The Cycle | October 02, 2012
>> what soup can do.
>>> our next guest claims both parties are to blame for failing to making scientific advances. we're talking about clean energy to space to stem-cell research to name a few. can science stay objective out of politics? alex is co-author of science left behind , feel good fallacies in the rise of the anti-scientific left. welcome.
>> thank you for having me on.
>> sure. you argue here that for all of the talk about republicans being the enemy of science , anti-scientific rhetoric is a by partisan project. tell me how you came to this opinion that democrats are not necessarily the party of science .
>> well, on a whole host of issues, so as you know, on the right the conservatives are wrong on evolution and on climate change , and there's this it media narrative that somehow anti- science believes are unique to the right side of the political spectrum . what i found through reading a lot of science is basically that the left side also has some pet ideas not lining up with the scientific mainstream. for instance, opposition to genetic modification . the california democratic party endorsed this proportion to label food in direct opposition to the american medical association . the anti-vaccine movement started on the left even though it spread beyond those confines and also opposition to natural gas . there's a whole host of issues. i found that the left is not always pro- science .
>> in a lot of ways, science like religion, has been co-oped by politics and is used to strans an agenda by both sides. how can we retain a faith in science when even science journalists can't be trusted anymore it seems?
>> well, i think that sometimes -- you are right that sometimes science journalists can fall prey to hype and fall prey to political biases. the best way to avoid that is to have people more engaged in actual reading of like scientific journals or read more addition read the news arm of, for instance "nature." if people read more scientific journals and get the general gist of what a scientific article says, you can go right to the source and learn right from the source and read a wide variety of viewpoints in science . that's what we do at real clear science . we have as many viewpoints as possible.
>> alex , i wouldn't make the claim that everyone on the left is pro- science and everyone on the right is anti- science . certainly you have written about this. people on the left have pushed the idea of a link between vaccines and autism, and i think that's very troubling and worth pointing out. you're putting in an equivalent see here. that's a different matter. this is one example why that is unfair to say. i think of the republican party platform right now on the issue of climate change . in the republican party platform it's referred to in square quotes as if it's not a real thing. mitt romney said he's not sure how much humans have to do with this. other republicans have gone farther and basically jim inhoff said this is a total coax. there is a prevalence of that mindset to challenge the climate change on right. it's far more prominent and prevalent on the right than the left. you can say there's issues with the left in science , but there's no equivalent see here, is there?
>> i would agree and disagree. i think that you're right that the republican party has really rejected climate change as a science , and i think that's a very bad thing. however, you don't always have to have people in charge dictating how it goes. you have the anti-vaccine movement. you had high profile democrats embrace it. for instance, robert f. kennedy jr ., and there's democrats who are opposed to genetic modification , the california democratic party . i don't know if it's part of their platform, but it is their position for this election in 2012 .
>> that's not presidential candidates . that's a one prominent democrat, that's one state party. when you have -- we talk about republicans at a presidential debate . three republican candidates raise their hand saying we don't believe in evolution. where is the democratic equivalent of that?
>> barack obama in 2008 said that vaccines might cause autism, and in 2008 it was well-known by then that vaccines didn't cause autism. hillary clinton said the same thing and so did john mccain . all three made the connection between thimerosol with a trace of mercury in it. that's been debunked.
>> again, you're talking about dabbling in some theories, and completely grant you that it's troubling when you talk about people on the left that pushed this idea of a vaccine/autism link. that's troubling and needs to be called out. when you talk about as a party, mitt romney 's in his acceptance speech at republican convention mocked the idea of combating climate change . he talked about obama promising to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. he mocked it, and it was a huge applause line. you have a republican party platform using scare quotes to talk about climate change . you have republicans in major positions of influence in the congress saying it's a complete hoax. that's totally out of whack with the kind of hostility of science you see overall on the left.
>> so my response to that would be that, see, you're focusing more on the republican party and the democratic party , and that's not the point of the book. the point is to talk about progressive ideologies. what elements lead people down anti-scientific paths? we tackle myths like the idea that natural things are better, that unnatural things are bad for you. those are the myths we tackle. those have become pervasive in the culture. so that's why we don't focus -- we purposefully try not to talk about partisan politics . we don't make an ekwif lens between republicans and democrats. we talk about ideas common on the left, which lead people toward anti- scientific thinking . i think that if you look culturally, if you look through progressive culture , you will see these ideas about rejecting vaccines and embracing organic food , even though lots of studies show there's no difference. those are the kinds of ideas we're talking about. we're purposefully not talking about political parties , republicans versus democrats.
>> thanks for the book, alex , and thanks for joining us.
>> thanks for having me.
>> our favorite presidential debate moments. i can't wait. another one of our favorites "the cycle."
>> if it's mitt romney first time at the rodeo i bet jennifer granholm thinks the president has an enormous advantage.
>> the president is going to lose the first debate. he's just not a great debater.
>> look whose feelings about barack obama came back to her. i guess what happened in charlotte stayed in charlotte.
>> many american markets broke down, who jump started our engine? barack obama ! when america needed him most, who got us rolling again on the road to recovery?
>> let me ask you this, people! who couldn't get laid in a whorehouse with a fist fun of hundreds? barack obama .
>>> americans are hoping for a few magic moments during the debate. we thought it was fun to look backwards and talk about our favorite debate moments throughout history. experts disagree how much the debates affect the voters. there's no question they shape how we recommend the elections. we all thought about this and came up with a signature moment from debates past. i'll lead it off. i had a lot that came to my mind, but one stands out from