Ronald Bailey: Do Researchers Risk Becoming Just Another Leftwing Interest Group?Posted: April 22, 2017
“We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely,” warns the march’s mission statement. “Staying silent is a luxury that we can no longer afford. We must stand together and support science.”
From whom do the marchers hope to defend science? Certainly not the American public: Most Americans are fairly strong supporters of the scientific enterprise. An October 2016 Pew Research Center poll reported, “Three-quarters of Americans (76%) have either a great deal (21%) or a fair amount of confidence (55%) in scientists, generally, to act in the public interest.” The General Social Survey notes that public confidence in scientists stands out among the most stable of about 13 institutions rated in the GSS survey since the mid-1970s. (For what it’s worth, the GSS reports only 8 percent of the public say that they have a great deal of confidence in the press, but at least that’s higher than the 6 percent who say the same about Congress.)
The mission statement also declares, “The application of science to policy is not a partisan issue. Anti-science agendas and policies have been advanced by politicians on both sides of the aisle, and they harm everyone—without exception.”
I thoroughly endorse that sentiment. But why didn’t the scientific community march when the Obama administration blocked over-the-counter access to emergency contraception to women under age 17? Or dawdled for years over the approval of genetically enhanced salmon? Or tried to kill off the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility? Or halted the development of direct-to-consumer genetic testing?
One problem is that many of the marchers apparently believe that scientific evidence necessarily implies the adoption of certain policies. This ignores the always salient issue of trade-offs. For example… (read more)