Kevin Williamson’s Tirade Against Science

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"Kevin Williamson’s Tirade Against Science"

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A very curious Kevin Williamson column for National Review castigates liberals for caring about whether or not politicians accept valid scientific accounts of policy-relevant issues. According to Williamson, progressives “do not in fact give a fig about science, which for them is only a vehicle to be ridden to the precise extent that it is convenient.” He then head fakes in the direction of offering a simple hypocrisy argument (“[i]f you want to see how dedicated a progressive is to dispassionate science, spend two minutes talking about the heritability of intelligence”) but he ultimately concludes with a jeremiad against the principle that public policy should be guided by factually accurate information:

Perry is making an error by approaching these questions as though they were scientific disputes and not political ones. The real question about global warming isn’t whether one computer simulation or another is the better indicator of what our climate will be like a century hence, it is whether such policies as envisioned by the environmentalist-anti-capitalist green coalition are wise. They are not. Evolution is a public question not because politicians have anything intelligent to say about the science, but because the question provides a handy cudgel to those who wish to beat the Judeo-Christian moral tradition into submission in the service of managerial progressivism. Perry should talk about that, not about alleged “gaps” in the scientific evidence, about which neither he nor his questioners nor the great majority of his critics nor the great majority of his supporters knows the first thing.

I can only assume that Williamson has extremely stupid parents, because this is rank nonsense. How are we supposed to know which environmental policies are wise if we’re not allowed to make reference to scientific evidence about climate change? Does it make sense to treat questions about the implications of different FDA rules for the evolution of antibiotic resistant bacteria as primarily questions about the viability of the Judeo-Christian moral tradition? I note that Williamson seems to be in possession of neither facts about nor interest in actual Jewish views on evolution.

Williamson further argues that “progressive types who want to know politicians’ views on evolution are not asking a scientific question; they are asking a religious and political question, demanding a profession of faith in a particular materialist-secularist worldview.” That seems mighty roundabout! Both Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are professed believers in evolution and professed believers in the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This seems consistent with the diversity of Mormon views on evolution, and I take both of them at their word that they’re not secret adherents of the materialist-secular worldview. I wonder if Williamson thinks that they, and other politicians who profess belief in religion but also in evolution, are all lying?

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