October 16, 2010

Science scorned - in Nature magazine

In its editorial Science scorned, Nature magazine accuses the political right wing in the United States of being anti-science - against evolution, climate change, and fruit-fly, stem-cell and embryo research - and anti-"science-based" government regulation. I agree that the US political right is anti-scientific. But Nature's stance is just political posturing.

Nature criticizes certain kinds of anti-science streaks, but it happily indulges in others. Economics is a science. There exists a mainstream body of knowledge about human collective behavior. And there exists a populist anti-science streak that holds that economists should have anticipated and averted the current financial crisis, that jobs are benefits and not costs and that governments can create millions of them with tax money, that government regulators are at a higher level of insight and altruism than us mere mortals, or that the US is involved in, and must win at all costs, some kind of economic competition with China. And there stands Nature, proudly defying economic science in countless editorials, news items and invited articles, and telling and retelling the old fairy tale of the good guys (the Democratic Party, government regulators, bioethicists) fighting the bad guys (the Republican Party, businessmen, Wall Street, China) to help the hapless, if not outright retarded, victims (consumers, patients, women, "indigenous peoples"). It is anti-scientific, but it helps to sell "science" magazines.

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