Saturday, March 28, 2015

Un-Reason-able Science

Reason magazine has published the first anti-Republican science based hit piece of the 2016 campaign season, taking the Republicans to task for being "anti-science." Let's take a look at the seven areas Reason examines and their criteria for grading Republicans in those areas.

Three of the areas Reason uses and their criteria for grading are unobjectionable: whether a candidate has shown support for storage of nuclear waste at Yucca mountain, whether he has shown support for vaccinations, and whether he has shown support for GMO crops. I take no issue with looking at those areas or the criteria Reason applies.

The next four issues are problematic indeed.

1. Did the Republican support either quarantine for people, especially medical practitioners, returning from Ebola stricken countries or a temporary ban on travel with those countries. If so, than Reasons gives a failing grade.

Reasons Explanation: [An article predicted that there would only be a small outbreak of Ebola in the U.S., and that is what happened. Regardless,] panicked politicians began ordering quarantines of U.S. health care workers who returned from treating Ebola cases in West Africa. Some pols demanded a ban on commercial air travel from the region. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opposed such a travel ban, cogently arguing that it would be counterproductive to efforts to stamp out the epidemic.

Comment: Nothing has been more devastating to humanity than epidemics. The most recent major pandemic, the Spanish Flu of 1918, took the lives of upwards of an estimated one hundred million people. Ebola, for which there is no cure, has in some strains a mortality rate several times that of the Spanish Flu and double that of the Black Plague that carried off half the population of Europe in the 14th century. Ebola was and still is raging out of control in several African nations, according to a Feb. 11, 2015 WHO Report. According to a December, 2014 NBC Report, healthcare workers in the country seeing the greatest outbreak of Ebola are at a 100% increased risk of contacting the disease as compared to the general population. Ebola has on average a 21 day gestation period and tests are negative until several days after a person becomes symptomatic and contagious. And, despite initial claims that Ebola could not be transmitted through the air, those claims subsequently were proven false.

Those are the science facts. Whether to quarantine under those conditions and the efficacy of restricting travel were and are political questions. Reason is conflating political decisions of the left with science.

2. Does the Republican contest climate change? If so, than Reasons gives a failing grade.

Reason's Explanation: "On the issue of climate change, all temperature data sets agree that the last decade has been the warmest one in the instrumental temperature record. All the records agree that the planet has warmed since 1979 at a rate of somewhere between +0.16 and +0.13 degrees Celsius per decade. Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) reports temperature trends derived from satellite measurements and concludes that "climate models cannot explain this warming if human-caused increases in greenhouse gases are not included as input to the model simulation."

Comment: According to the temperature records, and indeed, according to the single best record that we have, satellite data, our planet has not experienced any statistically significant warming in the past 18 years. Given that the theory of man made global warming is predicated on the simple belief, written into computer models, that our temperatures will go up in direct proportion to the amount of carbon dioxide we pump into the air, and given that there has been a lot of carbon dioxide released in the past eighteen years, that ought to lead everyone to at least question the validity of the theory of global warming.

There is little about the global warming theory that should give one any confidence, including the repeated tampering with the land based temperature records. The "instrumental temperature record" only exists since 1880. Whether our planet is warming in an unusual fashion requires observations going back several millennia before 1880. And indeed, by all accounts, the Medieval Warm Period was warmer planet wide than our current warming -- and that was clearly not due to increases in carbon dioxide output by man. Nor is the fact that we have been warming in any way surprising, since the planet is recovering from a Little Ice Age. And lastly, it is interesting, is it not, that Reason would pick the year 1979, 36 years ago, from which to calculate a ten year average until today for increases in ten year average temperatures. They couldn't possibly be gaming the system by cherry picking a particular year with an unusually low temperature as a start point, could they. What disingenuous people.

Reason has it backwards. To embrace man-made global warming theory at this point is an act of blind faith. It is a rejection of science, which requires the constant reevaluation of assumptions in light of new data.

3. Does the Republican support further restrictions on abortion? If so, than Reasons gives a failing grade.

Reason's Explanation: "Pro-life activist groups like the Family Research Council claim that fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks of gestation. This claim has been used by such anti-abortion proponents as a justification for declaring that states have a "compelling interest" in limiting abortions after that period. The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, for example, was introduced in Congress most recently in January, 2015; it would impose such a limit nationally. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reviewed the scientific evidence and determined that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester (24 weeks). Ultimately, the controversy over fetal pain isn't about the scientific debate as much as it's about how people feel about the morality of abortion."

Comment: Reason doesn't even try to hide the ball here. They take the fact that it is groups who are opposed to abortion who have highlighted the science showing fetal pain at and after 20 weeks, then dismissed the findings by concentrating solely on the moral stand of the anti-abortion groups. Leaving aside that the methods used to conduct late term abortions are so horrendous that they could not possibly, in any way, survive an 8th Amendment challenge if used as methods to execute adults, and even accepting that the science suggesting fetal pain is contested, to dismiss the science and claim that anyone who believes that fetal pain is felt after 20 weeks is anti-science, that's just a disingenuous non-sequitur.

4. And then the old leftie favorite, has the Republican embraced creationism? If so, than Reasons gives a failing grade

Reason's Explanation: "Many object that candidates' views about evolution are irrelevant, since they will not be making public policy about it. Nevertheless, how a candidate thinks about evolution provides an indication of their overall level of respect for scientific reasoning and evidence. Or else it shows that they are willing to set aside what they believe to be true in order to pander to voter ignorance and prejudice. That tells you something about a candidate too."

Comment: Is there evidence in any of the 'tested' candidates individual backgrounds to make such an extrapolation valid? This is indeed irrelevant, but since it allows the left to assume an air of intellectual superiority, it is inevitably going to make it into every science based hit piece on Republican candidates from now until . . .

So the seven Republicans tested under Reason's suspect criteria were the potential presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush. How did they fare? According to Reason:

Ted Cruz - 3 Cruz failed their tests on Ebola, climate change, abortion and creationism. Actual score: 6 of 6

Rand Paul - 3 Paul failed their tests on Ebola, vaccinations and abortion. He passed their test on climate change. Actual score: 5 of 6

Marco Rubio - 3 Rubio failed their tests on Ebola, climate change, abortion and creationism. Actual score: 6 of 6

Jeb Bush - 2 Bush failed their tests on Ebola, climate change, Yucca Mtn., abortion and creationism. Actual score: 5 of 6

Scott Walker - 2 Walker failed their tests on Ebola, climate change and abortion. No answer on Yucca or creationism. Actual score: 4 of 4

Chris Christie - 2 Christie failed their tests on Ebola and creationism. He passed on climate change and has not stated a position on the other. Actual score: 2 of 4

So, other than Chris Christie's and Rand Paul's stances on climate change, Republican presidential hopefuls look quite strong in respect to their standing on science . . . actual science, at least, not Reason's unreasonable tests.

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