R.I.P. This Week in Science

I appreciate political insights as much as anyone — but in the interests of keeping politics and religion out of places where they just distract from primarily neutral subjects like science, technology, and engineering, I try to keep my partisan political and religious opinions separate from my technical and scientific writings.  Hence, although I include my technical and science blog (“The Cyberherbalist”) on this one’s blogroll, and this one on The Cyberherbalist’s blogroll, I try not to mix and match.

And my reason?  Simply a desire not to force those who come for one to have to partake of the other.  If they want it they can get it.   And while it is true that science sometimes impinges on religion (and religious morality), most of the time they speak to different things.  If it happens to be appropriate to speak of one while dealing with the other, fine, but they are not natural fellow travelers.  Especially since while the speed of light is constant no matter what your politics are, your mileage can and will vary when it comes to taxation and public policy.

Which leads me to This Week in Science.

One of my favorite podcasts has been This Week in Science.  I’ve listened for a number of years and have always enjoyed it, but for some reason, Justin and Dr. Kiki have been getting less and less neutral about political topics on the show.  Well, that’s kind of not good, but if they had been even-handed about it then they could have made it fly.  But this isn’t what has been happening, and I’ve reached my saturation point.

The April 5th, 2012 show included an interview with a gentleman named Chris Mooney, whose primary claim to fame includes a number of articles in various publications, and four books.  I know nothing about his articles, but given that he has written for Mother Jones magazine, published by the Foundation for National Progress (keeping in mind that the term “Progress” is lefty-speak for creeping socialism), it would come as no surprise to realize that (gasp!) Mooney thinks Republicans and Conservatives are victims of some kind of brain damage.

Mooney was on “This Week in Science” in order to tout his new book, “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science–and Reality”.  According to Mooney, his previous book on a similar subject, “The Republican War on Science”, wasn’t quite sufficient.  And according to Mr. Mooney, the book is his contribution towards re-electing Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Nope, no political partisanship here!  Just pure and unadulterated science, right?

With “The Republican Brain,” Mooney and This Week in Science have together crossed over into the surreal.  This is science?  One Amazon.com reviewer, who says of himself that he is an evolutionary biologist, had this to say:

“This book must be read, but as an example of the distortion of science for the benefit of politics.”

Not that most of the other reviewers felt there was anything wrong with this book!  Oh, no!  The largest portion of the reviewers are just ecstatic over Mooney’s book, except possibly one of them, who withheld one star from his otherwise 5-star rating because Mooney had grudgingly admitted that Republicans weren’t all bad.  Shocking.

Another generally positive reviewer gave him only three stars, saying that the book is “not going to convince any conservatives – unfortunately”.  Gee, I wonder why that would be?  And goes on to say “The majority of the book confirms opinions that many scientifically-minded liberals hold about conservative bias.”  Which is a telling point!  Can you say “confirmation bias“?  This is “a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses.”  And thus we have the central problem with “The Republican Brain.”

I say “Rest in Peace” to This Week in Science, because it has clearly slipped the surly bonds of reality and has become something else.  I wrote a farewell email to Dr. Kiki, to which I expect no answer, in which I regretfully concluded:

“…if Mooney’s partisan political polemic posturing is what you plan to present from now on as science, then you and I must part ways.”

And so that is the way of it.

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