June 28, 2004

Ideology vs. Expertise

There's a wonderful article in The New Republic by Franklin Foer: The Case Against Bush, Part 1: Closing of the Presidential Mind. It describes how this White House has systematically overruled the views of experts and forged ahead with a view of reality based on its own preconceptions.

"The most common explanation for this animus is that the White House overflows with political hacks uninterested in the nitty-gritty of policy. But the administration's expert-bashing also has deep roots in ideology. Since its inception, modern American conservatism has harbored a suspicion of experts, who, through adherence to inductive reasoning and academic methodologies, claim to provide objective research and analysis. To be sure, this social-scientific approach has its limits. Conservatives have raised genuinely troubling questions about its predilection for downplaying the role of 'culture' and 'values' in shaping human behavior. But the Bush administration has adopted a far more extreme version of this critique: It takes the radically postmodern view that 'science,' 'objectivity,' and 'truth' are guises for an ulterior, leftist agenda; that experts are so incapable of dispassionate and disinterested analysis that their work doesn't even merit a hearing. And the results have been disastrous."

One thing I didn't know before reading this was the background behind the administration's skepticism about global warming. It's rooted in a subtle PR apparatus funded by the tobacco industry to make all scientific research suspect: the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. This phony group has outlived its usefulness and disbanded but the meme of "junk science" continues to inform government policy. The result: environmental damage, inadequate planning for post-invasion Iraq, stem cell research going abroad, and more.

What a mess. We have to vote these bums out.


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