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Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science

The most common tricks politicians use to muddle inconvenient science  “I think my primary message would be learn to appreciate evidence.” VOX,  by  Apr 20, 2017 On Saturday, thousands of people will march on Washington in support of science. And they’ll do so for very good reasons: Science, under the Trump administration, is under assault. As Vox’s Brian Resnick noted recently, the Trump administration has proposed cutting around $7 billion from science programs, including stifling research funding for the EPA and the National Institutes of Health.

In this interview, I talk to Dave Levitan, author of the new book Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science. A how-to guide for spotting nonsense, Levitan’s book highlights the rhetorical tricks and logical errors politicians use when they distort science for political purposes. Here, we discuss the ideological roots of science denialism and why it’s so important for citizens to demand evidence in support of policy claims.

Dave Levitan  The whole idea for the book came about when I started seeing patterns. Cherry-picking data is probably the most familiar. The tendency to draw on a single data point in support of some broader argument, like Sen. James Inhofe did with the famous snowball on the Senate floor. Or taking a very specific subset of data, like Ted Cruz did when he claimed there hasn’t been any global warming for 17 years. That might be the most commonly seen one where you really just pick and choose exactly which study and data point, which subset or source to use, and then conveniently draw on that when it aligns with your political narrative.

 Another really common one is where they claim that because there is still some degree of uncertainty around whatever the subject happens to be, then that means we shouldn’t do anything about it. Climate change is a great one for that, but it dates back much farther. Conservatives used the same tactics for delaying action on acid rain in the ’80s, for example. President Reagan would say, “Well, we still have to study this and figure out what’s going on. There’s not enough data to do anything.”
First of all, they were wrong. There was plenty of data. We knew exactly how to deal with acid rain and ended up fixing it pretty well. So that one comes up a lot, the idea that because there’s any degree of uncertainty that we shouldn’t do anything, which is of course ridiculous because every scientific measure ever taken has a degree of uncertainty and always will……..

I think my primary message would be learn to appreciate evidence. I really wish that your average reader of news would keep in mind that evidence is important and just because someone said something doesn’t make it true. That’s true for people on the right or left, for scientists themselves, and for everyone. People have to back up their claims with evidence.

If individual citizens have this in mind at all times, I think they’d do a better job of spotting bullshit and lies. Make sure that people show their work, that their policy pronouncements are backed up with reliable data. http://www.vox.com/conversations/2017/4/20/15339844/science-climate-change-republican-party-march-for-science

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April 21, 2017 - Posted by | climate change, resources - print, spinbuster, USA

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