Sunday, October 02, 2005

Bugs and left-right bugaboos

Kevin V. has an interesting post on identifying scientific issues that divide the left and right, with the key idea being that in theory, scientific disagreements are apolitical, so the left-right alignment shows a distortion in the use of science.

I wrote a long-winded, blathering comment to attach to his post, but submitting it didn't work (maybe he has an automatic quality control filter for comments to his posts). I then tried to email Kevin to tell him his website has a problem, but my email isn't working. This technological revolution isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Anyway, blogspot is working now (it wasn't earlier this morning), so I'm putting up this post here - feel free to read Kevin's post at the link above, and my blathering comment is below:
Interesting idea, Kevin. The picky refinement I'd make is that on many of these issues, people could theoretically agree on the science and disagree on preferred policy for reasons they acknowledge are unrelated to science. That means looking at policy preferences does not by itself tell you whether science is being distorted or ignored.

On the other hand, some subsidiary issues are purely scientific questions (or close to it), and what people say about those issues should be revealing. In particular, the effectiveness of a proposed policy in achieving a well-defined goal should be scientific. People may disagree on abstinence-only versus integrated sex-education, but if the science was undistorted, there should be much less disagreement on which is more effective in preventing teen pregnancy.

Other potential questions:

Do homosexuals make good parents (as opposed to whether homosexuals should be allowed to adopt children)

Is there a genetic component to homosexuality

Is there a genetic component to intelligence with a measurable difference between ethnicities or genders

Is there a genetic component to any aspect of being human, other than disease susceptibility, that is measurably different between ethnicities or genders

Does second-hand smoke cause or aggravate disease

Does thimerosal (or mercury in general) cause autism

Do electromagnetic fields cause disease

Does the present level of exposure to endocrine-disruption chemicals cause disease

Some of these questions are too arcane for your purposes, but I think they're interesting anyway.

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