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The Left’s “War on Science”


The Left’s “War on Science”

John Tierney explains that the real war on science is the one from the left. April 9, 2018
Politics and law
The Social Order
Technology and Innovation

City Journal contributing editor John Tierney joins John Stossel to talk about the politicization of science and how the dominance of left-wing thinkers in academia and the scientific community impedes progress.

For years, liberals have portrayed themselves as champions of science and maligned conservatives as anti-science. As Tierney points out, though, the Left’s opposition to important advances like genetically modified food and the study of human genetics (among others) has done much more damage than, say, conservative creationists, who have zero impact on scientific funding or decision-making.


Read John Stossel’s column on this topic, published April 11, 2018.

This video is part of a special collaboration with John Stossel and City Journal contributors.  

Video Transcript

John Stossel: Have you heard? Certain politicians don’t believe in science!

Rep. Lynn Woolsey: Republicans are showing themselves to be anti-science.

Chris Matthews: Once again, the Republican party looks like it's the anti-science party.

Stossel: The media say there’s a conservative war on science. But is that true?

John Tierney: The real war on science is the one from the left.

Stossel: For 25 years, John Tierney has written about science for the New York Times. He often questions conventional wisdom, as in this story, which revealed the pointlessness of much recycling.

Tierney: It set a record for hate mail at the New York Times Magazine.

Stossel: Now Tierney writes for the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, where he recently argued that the real war on science comes from the left. That seems odd since surveys show people on the right are more likely to believe in creationism.

Tierney: Right, but creationism doesn't affect science. It doesn't affect the way science is done.

Stossel: But wait, what about President Bush's opposition to stem cell research?

George W. Bush: Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical.

Tierney: He didn't stop stem cell research.

Stossel: It was just the government wouldn't fund it. The taxpayer wouldn't have to pay for it.

Tierney: And it turned out that it really didn't matter much. People talk about this Republican war on science, but if you look around, my question is "where are the casualties?" What scientists lost their jobs? I can't find examples where the right-wing stopped the progress of science, whereas you can look on the left and you see so many areas that are taboo to research.

Demonstrators: Hell no GMO!

Stossel: Some research on genetically modified foods became taboo because of protests from the left. Tierney says that stifled research into what could have been a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Also, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and her baseless claim that DDT caused cancer in humans is still taught in high schools today, but there's no mention of the millions killed by malaria because countries needlessly banned DDT. And scientists can't even talk about whether genes affect intelligence.

Tierney: The federal government stopped funding IQ research decades ago.

Stossel: Researchers who looked at it anyway, like Charles Murray, are screamed at at college campuses.

Tierney: People who studied IQ needed bodyguards for their lectures. It's something that can't be discussed.

Stossel: Likewise, researching gender differences has become taboo.

Tierney: You can't talk about sexual differences between men and women. I mean, it's ok if they favor women. You can say that men are more likely to commit crimes, but you can't suggest anything that there might be some kind of sexual difference that might predispose men to be more interested in a topic.

Stossel: Google fired engineer James Damore merely because he wrote a memo suggesting that sex differences might explain why more men work in tech.

Tierney: Damore just pointed out very basic scientific research about differences between the sexes. The experts in this, as soon as he published that memo, said, "Yes, he basically got the science right.

Stossel: But that didn’t matter.

Tierney: To even mention that there are these differences in the sexes was just taboo. You can't say that there are more men interested in sitting all day doing computer coding than women are.

Stossel: It’s not that women aren’t doing well in life says Tierney, women get most college degrees, and graduate degrees.

Tierney: Women dominate virtually every extracurricular activity, but all the focus has been, why aren't there more women physicists and mathematicians, and of course in the sports area too. And so there's this idea that they're being discriminated against there, when in fact the evidence really shows the reverse. There have been just enormous studies of who gets grants, who gets tenure, who gets interviews for jobs, and women get preference, if anything.

Stossel: The women would say, "You men run most of society. You head the corporations. You make more money. It must be discrimination."

Tierney: Men are more aggressive. They're more risk-taking. The status matters more to them. Making money matters more to them. Women aren't as interested in that.

Stossel: You can't say that.

Tierney: Well... I guess I won't be President of Harvard.

Stossel: He says today’s universities are dominated by leftists.

Tierney: In the social sciences, Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least eight to one. In some fields, like sociology it's 44 to one. Students are more likely to be taught in sociology by a Marxist than by a Republican. It's gotten worse and worse. Once an academic department gets a majority of people who are on the left, they start hiring people like themselves, and pretty soon the whole department is that way. And they start to think that their opinions and that their interests are not only the norm, but the truth.

Stossel: So they publish articles like this one saying, conservatives have lower IQ and are more likely to be prejudiced. Science shows conservatives are more close-minded.

Tierney: The problem with this is that it's been done by all these liberal social scientists. They would ask people about left-wing groups like communists, and conservatives were more prejudiced. Finally someone went out, and started asking different kinds of questions. When he asked liberals about things that mattered to them, like environmentalism or like Barack Obama, turned out they were just as irrational and dogmatic as conservatives were.

Stossel: One survey question asked, "Do you believe in the long run, hard work usually brings a better life?"

Tierney: I mean, that seems obvious to anyone, right? But that was classified as a rationalization of inequality.

Stossel: Another study asks if you agree that the earth has plenty of natural resources if we just learn how to develop them.

Tierney: That is conventional wisdom among people who study economics, but that was classified in that study as a denial of environmental realities.

Stossel: So think about that next time you hear about that conservative war on science.

Tierney: When it comes to science I mean, if anything conservatives are more scientifically literate than liberals are.

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