James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

November 6, 2009

More on why Science Isn’t a Perfect Fit with the Right or Left

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — James @ 2:40 am

In a follow up to my post yesterday afternoon.

The opponents of science are those who put ideology over empirical facts, putting how they want the world work over how data shows the world actual does. On one side the extreme left is fine with the observational side of science telling us everything that’s wrong with the world, but when scientists try to come up with ways we could try to solve those problems, we get shouted down. Since I’ve written plenty about genetic engineering, consider how Steve Levitt, the author of Freakonomics*, was received when he simply suggested we should evaluate geo-engineering techniques as one of the ways to mitigate climate change.

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Or watch the interview of Bill Frist (a former Republican Senator) with Bill Maher, and cringe at the discussion of vaccines.

On the other hand the extreme right is mostly ok of with all the goodies scientific reseach produces: modern “Western” medicine (including vaccines and antibiotics), genetically engineered crops, computers, and microwaves. But when it comes to believing anything science tells us from “hey, the planet is getting warmer” to evolution (without which, let me tell you, comparative genomics would be a very boring field of study, an I’m not bored, I’m fascinated!), to not so much.

I am exasperated with the world. Try back tomorrow.

*Freakonomics is a fascinating read. I haven’t had the chance to read Superfreakonomics, which is what apparently generated this controversy.


  1. Whenever I get depressed about all that’s wrong in the world, I remember a chance encounter I had about 5 years ago. There was this kid, his friend was hitting on my friend, so I asked him about himself. He told me he was going to Austin to work with his brother. “What’s your brother do?” I asked. He asked if I knew about laser technology, like the kind used to improve eyesight. I said sure. He said his brother got to wondering if you could use lasers to clean up Superfund sites. So he tried, and it turned out the laser reduced the toxic waste to ash, which he could then vacuum up and safely dispose. He moved to Austin to work with a firm interested in his idea.

    I didn’t follow up and find out if these guys are blazing across America, solving tough problems and cleaning up toxic waste. But I think about them often, and they make me realize that for all our problems, we’ve got lots of bright people working on solutions. Keep up the good work, James, you’re doing your part.

    Comment by Liza Wheeler — November 6, 2009 @ 8:01 am

  2. That’s just what I needed to hear last night, when I was breaking my self-imposed social web ban. Environmental problem, meet laser.* I hope it worked out for him and his brother.

    *Scientific and technological solution.

    Comment by James — November 6, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

  3. You’re saying I was too slow dynamo? Drat! Ok, think of those brothers the NEXT time you’re exasperated with the world.

    Comment by Liza Wheeler — November 6, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

  4. Will do. The world can be pretty exasperating, so it shouldn’t take too long…

    Comment by James — November 7, 2009 @ 12:41 pm

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