Matt's Grand Ideas

Conservatives distrust science? So right, and yet so wrong

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I should know better than to read the news right before bed. I know I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight without mentioning this. Daring Fireball author John Gruber posted a link to an article on that studied 36 years of polling data and came to the conclusion that conservatives’ confidence in science as an institution has steadily declined in America. He’s right, it is a shame, but it would have helped if the “news” article wasn’t actually written as a PR stunt to sell a book by Chris Mooney.

Do you remember some time ago when a highly inflammatory story hit the news about the Chinese “Tiger Mom” method of parenting? It got people very upset but it was a carefully crafted piece designed to do exactly one thing: sell a book.

I don’t doubt the data in the article about conservatives. As a conservative, I can admit that it does echo my own sentiment. I love science and empirical research but I feel that many leading scientific institutions are driven not be a desire to inform and expand their knowledge but in many cases some other agenda, often times personal greed.

But I laughed out loud as I read down the article and came to this part: (emphasis mine)

Gauchat took on this project to assess the claims made by science journalist Chris Mooney in his 2005 book, “The Republican War on Science” — and Mooney, who reviewed the paper before publication, said the findings confirmed those claims.

Now Mooney is coming out with another book, titled “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Don’t Believe in Science.”

What a coincidence! The author has a new book ready to hit the shelves, just at the exact time a study was released that announces exactly the same thing, and, look at this, it uses almost the exact wording as the title of the book!

If you want to learn more about this method of PR, please read the excellent article “The Submarine” by Paul Graham.

Web guy, big thinker, loves to talk, teach and write. I make technology easier to use @ John Deere ISG.

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