The AAAS Decides to Further Politicize Science

It looks like the American Association for the Advancement of Science is transforming itself into a partisan special interests group:

AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific organization, announced Thursday that it will partner with the March for Science, a nonpartisan set of activities that aim to promote science education and the use of scientific evidence to inform policy.

I suppose we should not be surprised by this effort to make science more political.  Consider who is in charge of the AAAS:

AAAS CEO Rush Holt said, “AAAS will encourage and support its members and affiliate organizations to help make the March for Science a success. We see the activities collectively known as the March as a unique opportunity to communicate the importance, value and beauty of science. Participation in the March for Science is in keeping with AAAS’ long-standing mission to ‘advance science, engineering and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.’”

According to Wiki:

Rush Dew Holt Jr. (born October 15, 1948) is an American politician who was the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 12th congressional district from 1999 to 2015. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

Holt is not politically moderate, but represents the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party:

As a Congressman, Holt maintained liberal viewpoints on several major issues, and consistently voted accordingly. For example, he supported abortion rights, opposed the privatization of Social Security, and supported a public health care option…..In 2009, the National Journal rated him as one of the eight most liberal members of the House of Representatives.[37] Holt’s rankings released by various interest groups reflect his liberal views. Since 2009, he has been rated 100 percent in accordance with the interests of the following interest groups, among others: American Public Health Association, Americans for Democratic America, and NARAL Pro-Choice America.[38]  Holt was a member of the New Democrat Coalition and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

I’m shocked, shocked I tell ya, that an extreme lefty from the Democratic Party would lead the AAAS into partnering with the Science Against Trump March for Science.

But it gets a little more interesting.

If you click on the red Donate button for the March for Science, you will learn that:

ScienceDebate.org is the fiscal sponsor of the March for Science

And check out your url.  When you clicked on “Donate” you were redirected to the ScienceDebate.org webpage.

What is a fiscal sponsor?

Using a fiscal sponsorship arrangement offers a way for a cause to attract donors even when it is not yet recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3). In essence the fiscal sponsor serves as the administrative “home” of the cause. Charitable contributions are given to the fiscal sponsor, which then grants them to support the cause.

I see.  So by donating to the March for Science, you are donating to ScienceDebate.org.

So who is running that show?

One of the co-founders is none other than atheist activist Lawrence Krauss, the extremist who argues that teaching children creationism is child abuse  and argues that religion is bad for society. 

But that’s not the interesting thing to note.  Is it that that another founding member is a contributing editor for the anti-religious The Skeptical Inquirer?

No.

Check out the Advisory Committee:

Rush Holt, CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science; Executive Publisher, Science magazine; Former Democratic congressman from New Jersey

Hmmm. So the recent ex-politician who heads the AAAS has helped steer the AAAS into supporting the political March for Science.  This will likely increase donations for the March, which means more money being sent to ScienceDebate.org, the organization that Holt himself is part of as its Advisory Committee.

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13 Responses to The AAAS Decides to Further Politicize Science

  1. Just Wondering says:

    I actually intend to participate in the march, carrying a sign that reads something like “Catholics for Science” (haven’t quite decided on the exact wording yet).

  2. Dhay says:

    > If you click on the red Donate button for the March for Science …

    The accompanying text tells us:

    All proceeds will go to funding the March for Science. Any additional support will be used to promote science outreach and education.

    Let’s paraphrase slightly: 100% of donations (etc, there’s reference to logo’d clothing sales below) “will go to funding the March for Science”; and anything extra “will be used to promote science outreach and education”.

    If I said to a three year old, I’ll have all the ice-cream and you will get what’s left over

    With even the lowest levels of scientific competence requiring basic numeracy, does something there tell you that those March for Science organisers in particular who are responsible for the website and for fundraising — but all of the organisers are jointly responsible for correcting glaring errors — are not themselves scientists.

    *

    How about protesters for science? The AAAS’ magazine, Science has just updated (28 Feb) its “Which science groups have endorsed the March for Science?” article which Michael linked to earlier. The heading picture is entitled, “Demonstrators rally for science near the AAAS annual meeting in Boston in February”, and depicts one demonstrator holding up a hand drawn rectangular sign saying:

    THE EARTH IS FLAT
    &
    THIS SIGN IS SPHERICAL
    #alternativefacts #alternativescience

    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/will-they-or-won-t-they-what-science-groups-are-saying-about-joining-march-science

    Despite the #hashtags, this is fake news: whatever Wikipedia’s faults, spending a few seconds challenging your ignorance is better than relying upon hearsay gleaned from the equally ignorant — as this ignorant and pig-ignorant protester has done.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myth_of_the_flat_Earth

    Even the 2016 Reason Rally managed to qualify hence limit their folly to ‘SOME SAID “The world is flat”’, using the past tense, and using “some”.

    Nowadays, only a few odd people believe the Earth is flat; and only very stupid people believe there are people (in numbers worth a writing a placard against) who believe the Earth is flat. This protester for science has a superior “scientific” intellect? No, he’s got his fake news from hearsay, not from evidence and reason, he’s scientifically illiterate.

  3. Dhay says:

    Oops > If I said to a three year old, I’ll have all the ice-cream and you will get what’s left over [unfinished sentence]

    … I would expect immediate howls of complaint. Why cannot a March for Science organiser match a three year old’s intellect?

  4. mechanar says:

    @Just Wondering
    best Idea ever! Please do that, lets find out what nonpartisan really means. My guess is there will be more than enough Postings on the web the day after wondering why “someone like you” was there.

  5. Dhay says:

    > <em.This will likely increase donations for the March, which means more money being sent to ScienceDebate.org, the organization that Holt himself is part of as its Advisory Committee.

    Reading between the lines of the March organisers’ innumerate …

    All proceeds will go to funding the March for Science. Any additional support will be used to promote science outreach and education.

    … it looks like donations or profits received in excess of what the March actually uses will end up in the coffers of ScienceDebate.org.

    *

    For an overview of the success story which has been Francis Collins’ leadership of the NIH, and of his views on the dangers of “if this longstanding dynamic were to shift, and decisions started to be made more on the basis of political expediency or special interest” — that’s either side rocking the current consensus, whether politicians or lobbyists such as the AAAS — see:

    https://www.statnews.com/2016/12/16/nih-francis-collins-interview/

  6. Dhay says:

    Two fans of trusting science and scientists are James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian:

    To survive [the threat of nuclear armageddon, global warming, etc] we have exactly one option. We must trust science. We must listen to experts.

    http://richarddawkins.net/2016/12/we-must-trust-science-or-die-like-e-t/

    That is, we are to believe scientists simply because we trust them. Looks like we already do believe scientists simply because we trust them … but should we?

    A recent paper entitled “Explaining the alluring influence of neuroscience information on scientific reasoning” has looked at the effect on readers of including mentions of neuroscience. The researchers presented volunteers, 54% of whom claimed to have taken a university statistics course, with a fake and deliberately flawed study into whether listening to music while studying was beneficial for learning.

    Like similar previous studies it was inconclusive on whether a mere passing mention of neuroscience improved (compared to those in the control group) the perceived quality of the researcher.

    But this paper was different from the others. It looked not only — as just mentioned — at whether or not a mere mention of the word, “neuroscience”, boosted the mentioning researcher in the eyes of the reader, it also looked at whether a mere mention of the word, “neuroscience”, affected the readers’ ability to detect flaws in the scientific evidence presented to them. And here there was a major effect: those who had read a mere mention of the word, “neuroscience”, were “2.3 times more likely to claim to understand the mechanism behind the claim about music and learning” than those who hadn’t seen the word, “neuroscience” in the introduction.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/defending-science-from-sam-harriss-attacks/#comment-8597 for more details.

    Whether this generalises from mentions of “neuroscience” to mentions (explicitly or implicitly) of “science” must await further research. If it does so generalise, as can reasonably be expected, we can conclude that the idea that ‘science’ underlies a claim is likely to make the claim’s reader 2.3 times ** more likely to think they understand the mechanism behind the false claims of faked and deliberately flawed studies.

    ( ** Or some other figure — it might vary widely between claims’ subjects, but the 2.3 found here is a reasonable ball-park figure to run with for illustration purposes.)

    And I suspect we can generalise further: that the idea that ‘science’ underlies a claim is likely to make the claim’s reader 2.3 times ** more likely to think they understand the mechanism behind the ‘scientific’ claims, whether false or not.

    Put simply, the idea that a claim is scientific is likely to distort the judgement of the reader in ways which are just plain irrational.

    It’s not quite so catchy a meme, is it: “Science and Irrationality”.

  7. Regual Llegna says:

    Dhay says:
    “Put simply, the idea that a claim is scientific is likely to distort the judgement of the reader in ways which are just plain irrational.”

    FTFY “Fixed That For You”
    Put simply, “People can be more easily deceived by who/what they trust”.

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/how-the-march-for-science-can-hurt-science/

    Most people believe that “science” is something apolitical.

  8. Dhay says:

    James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian, above: “To survive [the threat of nuclear armageddon, global warming, etc] we have exactly one option. We must trust science. We must listen to experts.”

    Here’s a quote from theoretical physicist Richard Muller, who was interviewed by Physics Today for their article entitled “Q&A: Richard Muller on why the flow of time is not an illusion”; which then branched to other topics, including how he used to be a climate skeptic before becoming a supporter of global warming being largely man-made; but:

    I get along very well with [climate] skeptics, largely because I respect them. Most of their complaints against climate change are legitimate. Most headlines and most comments made by politicians―and by many scientists!―on this subject are either exaggerated, misleading, or false; that’s why there are so many skeptics. I’ve talked privately to very prominent scientists who admitted to me that they exaggerate on purpose to garner public concern and action. But I think such exaggerations are counterproductive; they lead to a mistrust in science.

    OK, it’s one person’s anecdotal evidence, but it looks like we are justified in mistrusting some scientists, including some “very prominent scientists”, whose pronouncements are “either exaggerated, misleading, or false”, including “exaggerate[d] on purpose to garner public concern and action.”

    Politicised science that certainly seems to be.

    And it’s counterproductive. It leads to a justified mistrust in science.

    I rather think the general public needs increased intelligent and informed skepticism rather than the Lindsay/Boghossian approach of doubling down on gullibility, and of a kind of fideism regarding science.

  9. Dhay says:

    Someone who recently criticised a fellow biological scientist (and fellow New Atheist) for politicised science is Jerry Coyne. In his blog post dated 09 March 2017 entitled “When ideology trumps biology” Coyne takes PZ Myers to task for uncritically accepting a claim by Cordelia Fine about differences between the sexes, a claim apparently based on dodgy maths. One of Myers’ readers checked the maths:

    In a rare occurrence at his site, the commenters, usually a choir of osculatory praise, gave him pushback. In fact one, “Charly”, did the math correctly and showed that males in relationships with multiple females (bigamous or polygamous) have the potential to have more offspring than do monogamous males, supporting the ideas that men are selected to compete for women. (Duh!) Charly ended his calculations with this statement: “But maybe my reasoning and math is wrong, I am sure someone will point flaws out.”

    In the next comment, Myers admitted that Charly’s math was actually right—math that invalidates Fine’s argument—but then he said this:

    Your math is fine. It’s your humanity that is broken.

    And there we have it, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters: an admission that the biology is right, at least in theory, but the person who did the calculations is immoral. What better example can we find of someone who opposes the truth because it’s ideologically repugnant? Even Myers’s regular commenters couldn’t live with that pronouncement. …

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/03/09/when-ideology-trumps-biology/

    Hmm, “usually a choir of osculatory praise” is a phrase which applies at Coyne’s blog; non-osculators get banned on slight offence.

    Anyway, there you have it. For Myers, “ideology trumps biology”. For Myers, science is A+ political.

  10. Kevin says:

    PZ and his commenters manage to make Coyne and his [chosen] commenters look well reasoned. That is truly impressive.

  11. Dhay says:

    Is it me, or is the ‘Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science’, given its title, remarkably quiet about the March for Science.

    https://richarddawkins.net/news/

    The “parent” Center for Inquiry organisation seems equally quiet so far, just a bare entry in its Newsletter No.76 saying:

    April 22:

    The March for Science: “A celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community.”

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/news/cause_effect_76/

    And the link provided just goes through to the March for Science’s Home Page, that’s it!

    Damned by faint praise?

  12. Dhay says:

    Over at PZ Myers’ Pharyngula blog I see Myers is very openly of the opinion that science is political; he posts a meme:

    Science isn’t political! *

    * Translation:
    “I don’t have to think about how
    science is political because I don’t feel
    personally affected.”

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2017/03/14/the-cry-of-the-dudely-science-bro/

    And he questions how the March for Science can not be political when it’s:

    … a march on Washington, DC, in the long tradition of other marches for civil rights, and it was motived by the need to protest the destructive policies of a recently-elected politician? Give me a break. This is a political action, and what muddles it isn’t the multiplicity of causes that drive it, but the foolish people who try to pretend they can organize such an event without it being political.

    Towards the bottom of the post Myers makes some points (which have already been made here at S2L) about racially politicised scientists promoting eugenics, quotes a source, and comments:

    Eugenics would have been so much bizarre parlor talk had it not been for extensive financing by corporate philanthropies, specifically the Carnegie Institution, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Harriman railroad fortune. They were all in league with some of America’s most respected scientists hailing from such prestigious universities as Stanford, Yale, Harvard, and Princeton. These academicians espoused race theory and race science, and then faked and twisted data to serve eugenics’ racist aims.

    Yet now some want to declare science “apolitical”, and it’s because they dislike the idea that the values of non-white people might taint the purity of their theories about race.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2017/03/12/theres-a-reason-the-tower-is-made-of-ivory/

    Phew. That’s a very sweeping generality, so let’s test it with a particular instance; Jerry Coyne declares science apolitical: Myers’ reckoning paints Coyne “dislik[ing] the idea that the values of non-white people might taint the purity of [Coyne’s] theories about race”; odd, that, for one would have supposed that with Coyne being, as he often reminds his readers, a Secular Jew, someone touchy about criticism of Jews — only he may criticise them, as he indeed does criticise on his blog the excesses of the Orthodox — and with him being presumably someone as Semitic as a Palestinian Arab, Coyne’s values would technically and actually be the values of a non-white person. I’d say Myers’ generalisation fails that test, and quite probably lots more; it looks like a wild fancy.

    (FYI: Myers links to a long article Storify article entitled “Science March Los Angeles: Moral Panic”, which discusses the ideological issues. https://storify.com/othersociology/science-march-los-angeles-moral-panic)

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