The Incompatibility of Politics and Science: Case Study #1

As we have seen, politics and science are incompatible. Let us begin a series of case studies to help demonstrate such incompatibility.

Today, let us consider how scientist Jerry Coyne sought to explain the recent disasterous defeat of Democratic candidates in the 2014 congressional elections. Coyne explained it as follows:

This represented a vote against Obama by an electorate who votes on their own pocketbooks and not on principle. I truly don’t understand the demonization of Obama. He’s gotten healthcare through, largely pulled our troops out of the Middle East (though he tends to waffle on foreign policy), and had sensible policies on immigration. I can’t help but think that those Republicans disaffected by his victories, and the fact that he’s black, are striking back in a big way when they have the opportunity (if you think Obama’s race makes no difference, you’re living in Cloud Cuckooland). Obama, whatever you may think of him, had decent policies but was blocked by a truculent Republican faction in Congress.

I really do despise the Republic Party and all that it stands for.

There are many elements of this explanation that are incompatible with scientific thinking.

1. It is rather clear that Coyne’s thinking is guided by emotion – he “despises” the GOP and “all that it stands for.” In science, our explanations should not be guided by hate.

2. Coyne thinks Obama has been doing a good job and is admittedly perplexed by the “demonization.” But these views are nothing more than assertions rooted in subjectivity.

a. Given that Coyne is a liberal Democrat and Obama-supporter, he makes no effort to control for these biases in his assessment.

b. “Demonization” is a loaded word and there are no objective criteria for determining whether it occurs.

c. There are no data to support the subjective belief that Obama has done a good job on healthcare , foreign policy, and immigration and Coyne makes no effort to a) understand the views of those who would disagree and b) provide evidence their disagreement is flawed.

3. Coyne’s explanation is that the histortic losses in the 2014 elections are due to racism.

a. Coyne provides no evidence that there exist enough racists to have such a dramatic effect in an national election.

b. The explanation is extremely oversimplistic and appears rooted in Coyne’s stereotypes about the people he “despises.” Let’s not forget that in 2008, John Edwards was a Democratic nominee for president. Let’s imagine he won the nomination and general election. Let’s also imagine that Edwards carried out the exact same policies as Obama. Are we really to believe that the Republicans would then embrace them because Edwards was white?

c. The explanation is unfalsfifiable. Imagine that Obama issued an executive order that would withhold all federal money to any state that refused to make a religious upbringing illegal. This would undoubtedly result in his disapproval ratings soaring above 90% and then his impeachment. Coyne, who favors making a religious upbringing illegal, would be similarly perplexed, and could argue that people must be opposed to it because they are racists.

In summary, Coyne’s “explanation” is guided by emotion, biased, subjective, without evidence, oversimplistic, and unfalsiable. Such explanations are very common in politics, but they are incompatible with science.

Once again, it becomes clear that scientists, and those who value science, need to become apolitical.

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3 Responses to The Incompatibility of Politics and Science: Case Study #1

  1. Crude says:

    A brilliant move, Mike. Well done. I hope this seeps into the consciousness of others.

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks, Crude. The Religion/Science Incompatibility Argument has always been nothing more than rhetoric built on cherry picking.

  3. apollyon911 says:

    I’ve noticed lately a lot of US Media is complaining about the ‘unfair’ portrayal of Obama and the ‘attacks’ on him (and his family). Do they not recall the attacks on Bush, Palin, et al.? (Whether or not you support(ed) or like(d) them, there is no way one can possibly not notice that the media has been particularly gentle with Obama vs. how they treated Bush.

    Do they all suffer from cognitive dissonance and/or willful ignorance or is this just plain disingenuous?

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