The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It
a book by Shawn Lawrence Otto
(our site's book review)
The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It is winner of the MN Book Award for Nonfiction. "Wherever the people are well informed," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "they can be trusted with their own government." But what happens when they are not? In every issue of modern society—from climate change to vaccinations, transportation to technology, health care to defense—we are in the midst of an unprecedented expansion of scientific progress and a simultaneous expansion of danger. At the very time we need them most, scientists and the idea of objective knowledge are being bombarded by a vast, well-funded, three-part war on science: the identity politics war on science, the ideological war on science, and the industrial war on science.
'Wherever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government'—Thomas Jefferson (The inverse is true also: 'Wherever the people are not well informed, they can not be trusted with their own government')
The result is an unprecedented erosion of thought in Western democracies as voters, policymakers, and justices actively ignore the evidence from science, leaving major policy decisions to be based more on the demands of the most strident voices, which are indirectly the Kochs and the extremist think tanks AEI and AFP (see below).
Shawn Lawrence Otto's provocative new book investigates the historical, social, philosophical, political, and emotional reasons for why and how evidence-based politics are in decline and authoritarian politics are once again on the rise, and offers a vision, an argument, and some compelling solutions to bring us to our collective senses, before it's too late.
"Otto's masterful account of how one of the worst wars in history is being conducted and how we should counter it deserves the attention of all those who desire to advance the human experiment."—Rod Cooper, Prof. emeritus of Psychology, U Calgary
"Every so often a book comes along that changes the way you view the world. The War on Science: Who's Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It is one of those rare books. If you care about attacks on climate science and the rise of authoritarianism, if you care about biased media coverage or shake-your-head political tomfoolery, this book is for you."—The Guardian
"Otto marshals an astonishingly broad range of facts, trends and history to make his case. that science, by its nature, does not fear or favor any single human being or group. Thus, the knowledge it produces almost invariably upsets the status quo, challenging whomever or whatever depends on that status quo for their staying power."—Scientific American
Other books that deal with dumping or ignoring or discrediting science are The New Know-Nothings: The Political Foes of the Scientific Study of Human Nature, Culture Wars: The Struggle To Control The Family, Art, Education, Law, And Politics In America, The Twilight of American Culture, and The Demon-Haunted World.
Extremist right think tanks, science-hating fundamentalist churches, and Big Oil are all in league together discrediting science for their own reasons
Otto seems to be criticizing academics, industrialists, journalists, politicians, and churches. But worst is the “antiscience of those on the right—a coalition of fundamentalist churches and corporations largely in the resource extraction, petrochemical and agrochemical industries,” says Otto. [Their effort] “has far more dangerous public policy implications because it is about forestalling policy based on evidence to protect destructive business models.” In oher words, the extremist right think tanks, science-hating fundamentalist churches, and Big Oil are all in league together discrediting science for their own reasons (profit, ignorance, religious extremism), and the end result is more air and water pollution, negative climate change, global warming, and environmental devastation. "Science, by its nature, does not fear or favor any single human being or group. Thus, the knowledge it produces almost invariably upsets the status quo, challenging whomever or whatever depends on that status quo for their staying power," says Christine Gorman. (Source: The War on Science [Book Review], Christine Gorman, Scientific American)
We need people working on global warming issues, but we instead spend a fortune spying on U.S. citizens and warmongering, making the U.S. look like the Great Satan the Islamics see us as
While older people value democracy highly, younger people that never experienced WWII do not—1 in 6 in the U.S. wouldn't mind authoritarian rule! (by a demagogue?)
Otto makes a convincing case that democracy is facing an existential challenge. While older people value democracy highly, younger people that never experienced WWII do not—1 in 6 in the U.S. wouldn't mind authoritarian rule! The failure to value democracy—manifested by our young—is easy to understand given the fact that our democracy is a pretense that has been usurped by warmongering neocons and transformed into a corrupt oligarchy whose main effect is the concoction of successful strategies to effect massive wealth transference from the 99% to the 1%. See Democracy—an American Delusion.
Global warming? What global warming?
"But the momentum on the [climate change] issue stopped suddenly in 2010, [Sheldon Whitehouse] said, with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case. As Whitehouse sees it, the Supreme Court ruling in that and other related cases freed corporate interests, especially oil-and-gas companies, to browbeat Republican legislators into withdrawing support for any climate-change legislation. . . . [The think tank Americans for Prosperity] took credit for the political peril that they had created in stopping any Republican from going the green-energy route. . . . the idea that this crowd of crooked fossil-fuel types is able to take over and run our democracy like we are a banana republic—I find that repellent." (Source: What Makes Sheldon Whitehouse Angry?, Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker)
Asking the G.O.P. to give up the fortunes they're making getting campaigns supplemented by dark money for denying climate science is like taking a banana from a 900 pound gorilla
Climate change? What climate change? Will they see the light before it is too late?
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is an influential right-wing think tank that advocates for lower taxes, fewer protections for consumers and the environment, and cuts to the social safety net. AEI is the dominant conservative think tank—it's a breeding ground for neocons that are happy to have OTHER PEOPLE dying for their empire building wet dreams. AEI was noted for providing the George W. Bush administration with the neocon-minded hawkish officials and advisers who promoted the administration’s phony "war on terror" policies, including John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and John Yoo. It is deeply connected to the infamous Koch brothers, to American empire building ideas, the tobacco industry's misinformation war, the climate change deniers and it actively promotes ugly Middle Eastern military entanglements for both the US and its allies. (Source: American Enterprise Institute)
Whitehouse: the idea that this crowd of crooked fossil-fuel types is able to take over and run our democracy like we are a banana republic—I find that repellent
Lately, it has become obvious that society is headed for regression, not just because they elected Trump who is proud to be taking society backwards as fast and thoroughly as possible, but because truth and science and knowledge and wisdom are on the way out while religious beliefs and ignorance—"alternative truths"—are in.
Evolution seems to be going in reverse lately, with billions of brains that have dumped science, embraced religion, and stopped thinking completely since they believe religions will tell them all they need to know; but, unfortunately, all this disuse of human brains can have only one eventual effect on human evolution
Evolution seems to be going in reverse lately, with billions of brains that have dumped science, embraced religion, and stopped thinking completely since they believe religions will tell them all they need to know; but, unfortunately, all this disuse of human brains can have only one eventual effect on human evolution. Or as Otto says, a vast war on science is underway, and the winners will chart the future of power, democracy, and freedom itself.
A classroom in America's inadequate school system
Carl Sagan is like the swinging banjo in the movie Deliverance, forewarning us of grave repercussions should we continue on the wrongheaded path we're on in which political and religious authority undermine truth and science
Carl Sagan, in The Demon-Haunted World, decries the cultural lag whereby cultural is so far behind technology that we haven’t the ethical or moral maturity to handle the technology and weapons at our disposal; and he warns us about authoritarianism in all its forms, all the way from the Inquisition to the current fundamentalist attempt to go back to the Dark Ages.
The repression of science by the Religious Right
This retreat from Enlightenment insights is nothing new in more repressive countries, but most true, red-blooded Americans have always hoped that it wouldn’t happen here too. Will the new repressors halt or even reverse the advent of the Third Wave and the Information Revolution? As Morton Hunt says, “The diffusion of antiresearch attitudes and behavior throughout the body politic should deeply disturb all those that believe that science, rather than religious, political, or philosophical doctrines, offers the best hope of understanding the world and human nature.”
When climate change scientists and climate change deniers are two of the guests on talk shows, the deniers usually scream the loudest and are therefore believed
" . . . public education and the press are unduly influenced by corporations focused on financial outcomes, religious extremists intent on forcing biblical literalist policies, and postmodernist academics who’ve laid the foundation for all this by teaching that science is but one of many equally valid 'ways of knowing' and that all truth is relative. [Hence, Creationism taught parallel to evolution, to appease fundamentalists.] In particular, Otto argues that journalists are taught there is no such thing as objectivity. [Hence, climate change scientists and climate change deniers as two of the guests on talk shows, and the deniers usually scream the loudest and are therefore believed.] This has created an over-emphasis on balance, which these days often pits scientists relaying objective knowledge on the one hand, against impassioned advocates seeking to persuade on the other. This false balance skews public dialogue toward extreme views by presenting opinions as if they had the weight of knowledge, weakening the press’s role as democracy’s tiller. . . . [What can we do about all this?] Otto lays out a dozen 'battle plans' by which people can arm themselves and society to both battle back anti-science disinformation campaigns and create a firmer foundation for the rocky road ahead." (Source: The War on Science will change how you see the world , John Abraham, The Guardian)
There is a new public attitude afoot that science is the whore of the corporatocracy or of the politicians, and, sadly, there is some truth in this attitude
Most off our citizens' educations failed them and they have few critical thinking skills to bring to bear so they take fake news as real news (2016 election)
On top of all the other entities in the war on science comes the fact that with so many scientists taking corporation money and industry money to "prove" or support controversial opinions not accepted by science, there is a new public attitude afoot that science is the whore of the corporatocracy or of the politicians. Sadly, there is some truth in this attitude. People see talk shows that pit fake science purveyors against true scientists. More educated people can see the contest is between truth and lies, realness and fakeness, fact and hogwash. However, more educated people are the least likely people to be wasting their time with this infotainment malarkey—most viewers will fall for this false equivalency—their grade school and high school education failed them and they have few critical thinking skills to bring to bear.
The public is exposed to fake news, fake science, politicians' lies, mainstream media propaganda, advertising propaganda, and truthiness on talk shows; we're all choking on misinformation
Since the Bible is riddled with errors, perhaps it is getting too much credit for being inerrant, since—inspired by God or not—it was written by men
Or they were taught that all truth is relative, so they don't accept proven science facts but do accept the absolutes of Biblical literalism, in spite of the fact that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions. Religion and science disagree. They contradict one another. The Bible is God's word so since science disagrees with religion, science is simply wrong. So believe religion and reject science. However, since the Bible is riddled with errors, perhaps religion is getting too much credit for being inerrant, since—inspired by God or not—it was written by men. See What The Christian Fundamentalist Doesn't Want You To Know: A Brief Survey of Biblical Errancy, by Scott Bidstrup.
"Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers."—Bruce Calvert
To answer the question 'when did it become acceptable for U.S. politicians to be antiscience?,' one merely needs to follow the money
"In 2012, Shawn Otto posed the conundrum, 'It is hard to know exactly when it became acceptable for U.S. politicians to be antiscience.' One could ask the same question about leaders of industry. The answer may be fairly obvious. This became acceptable the moment the interests being served by those politicians shifted from the populace to the smaller subset of owners and investors of business and industry. The money trail, which one is often advised to follow to find a truth, leads pretty directly to that answer." (Source: The War On Science: What It Is And How To Win It, Greg Laden, SciencebBlogs)