Thursday, December 9, 2010

"A democratic society needs Republican scientists."

So says this Slate article, which complains that only 6% of American scientists are Republicans. (55% are Democrats.)

The author, Daniel Sarewitz, argues:

For 20 years, evidence about global warming has been directly and explicitly linked to a set of policy responses demanding international governance regimes, large-scale social engineering, and the redistribution of wealth. These are the sort of things that most Democrats welcome, and most Republicans hate. No wonder the Republicans are suspicious of the science.

Think about it: The results of climate science, delivered by scientists who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are used over a period of decades to advance a political agenda that happens to align precisely with the ideological preferences of Democrats. Coincidence—or causation? . . .

How would a more politically diverse scientific community improve this situation? First, it could foster greater confidence among Republican politicians about the legitimacy of mainstream science. Second, it would cultivate more informed, creative, and challenging debates about the policy implications of scientific knowledge. This could help keep difficult problems like climate change from getting prematurely straitjacketed by ideology.
Sarewitz concludes that the United States "needs Republican scientists," but by his own account, we already have them: 6% of scientists. That's a lot of people. Why doesn't Sarewitz make any attempt to look at some of these scientists' work and explain how they've made a distinctive contribution that non-Republican (Democratic, independent, or apolitical) scientists wouldn't have made?