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Science, heroes, and GM food

August 6, 2014

Ezra Klein has an interesting article on the reaction to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s dismissal of the protest over genetically modified foods. He makes two points. First:

In laboratory settings, there’s no evident difference between liberals and conservatives in their propensity to believe what they want, evidence be damned. In one experiment, Yale law professor Dan Kahan showed you could get liberals to start doubting global warming (and conservatives to begin accepting it) by making clear that any solution would require geoengineering. In another, he showed that both liberals and conservatives were more likely to rate someone an expert on climate change if they agreed with their conclusions. In a third, he showed liberals were about as resistant to evidence showing concealed carry laws are safe as conservatives were to evidence showing climate change is dangerous.

But he goes on to argue that there is an institutional difference between today’s Democratic and Republican parties. While the anti-science prejudices of the Republican base have been carried by Republican politicians, that isn’t the case in the Democratic Party. Why? Because the Democratic Party lacks the kind of “validators” who buttress the anti-science position. (We can all identify those on the conservative side: Rush Limbaugh. The Heritage Foundation. Any number of religious groups.) The interesting question, of course, is why that is? It’s nothing core to political views. Forty years back, Republicans respected science as much as Democrats. But it has to be something particular to today’s Republican Party. And in my view, runs deeper than their opposition to climate science.

Phil Goetz on LessWrong describes his loss of heroes and villains. That might be related.

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