Comments about ‘Michael Gerson: A need for trust in scientific enterprise’

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Published: Tuesday, May 13 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

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Roland Kayser
Cottonwood Heights, UT

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves while wiser people are always full of doubt."---Bertrand Russell

Far East USA, SC


Flouridated water is bad for you, vaccines are causing autism, and the earth is only 6000 years old (and flat).

We certainly don't need scientists to weigh in on matters where religion, politics or conspiracy theories have already provided perfectly good answers.

Open Minded Mormon
Everett, 00

God is our Kind, Loving Father, who by profession happens to be a Scientist, not a Magician.

He has also given us a beautiful home,
and told us to take good care of it.

So we should ignore the false prophet college drop outs on the radio,
and clean it up before he gets here.

liberal larry
salt lake City, utah

The text book example of discrediting science was written by the tobacco industry. They exploited the fact that you can't prove a negative. For example you can say:

"he didn't die from the bullet to the heart, he could have died from cardiac arrhythmia just be he was being shot"

In other words, you can never be totally, absolutely, certain about anything, but science is our best bet for figuring out what is going on.

The minute we reject science we are left with tea leaf reading, religion, or more probably, junk "science" information generated by the well funded special interests.

There You Go Again
Saint George, UT

"...I met a South African health official who argued that AIDS could be treated with garlic because she believed that pharmaceutical treatment was a neocolonial plot. Resistance to evolution in America is often associated with conservative religion. And skepticism about climate change is correlated with libertarian and free-market beliefs...".


As long as science confirms a pre-conceived bias...

It's all good.

Pleasant Grove, UT

@Michael Gerson

And what happens when the sea level stays constant, the coasts don't flood, the fisheries don't shift, the ocean doesn't acidify, the water supply remains, the fields continue to yield crops, and the ecosystems don't vanish?

(I would add: ...when global average temperatures don't rise, the glaciers don't melt, the ice caps don't disappear, and the polar bears don't go extinct.)

Do you keep on believing in the myth, or do you adjust your thinking? Are you really willing to go wherever the science leads you?

Virginia Beach, VA

“How can you make serious political decisions based on scientific likelihoods when politics thrives on the feeding of ideological certainties?”

There is no ideological certainty.

There is only ideological certitude, especially if you’re referencing the wacky world of Right Wing Ideology. And yes, the resistance to Science in the certitudinous world of "Conservative" America is undeniable and unyielding.

“Is a 40 percent increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the Industrial Revolution driving disruptive warming?” Well yeah. A 40 percent increase is a lot. We’ve already gone past the tipping point, but optimists say we can still remediate some of the worst effects of global warming . . . unless we cannot.

It looks like GMO technology has arrived at just the right time. Instead of transplanting millions of displaced coastal denizens to higher ground, maybe we can just give them gills and let them stay where they are.

Open Minded Mormon
Everett, 00

Articles of Faith
9. We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.


Truth (i.e., Science) falls into this category as well.

Pleasant Grove, UT
@Michael Gerson

And what happens when it DOES...

Conservatives can't even admit following GW Bush was wrong,
let alone when Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck are.

Far East USA, SC


But, what happens if it does.

From Nasa dot gov yesterday.

"The new finding that the eventual loss of a major section of West Antarctica's ice sheet "appears unstoppable" was not completely unexpected by scientists who study this area. "

The right just may embrace these scientific findings because it plays right into what they want to hear. If it is "unstoppable" then we don't have to make any changes.

Which appears to be their ultimate solution on most things.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@Roland Kayser – “Bertrand Russell quote…”

Maybe the best and most appropriate description of the growing anti-intellectual “distrust of our best & brightest” group of politically active citizens I’ve seen posted here.

Science will always have doubts – it’s the difference between inductive and deductive knowledge, and this growing group of anti-intellectuals is very good at inserting ideology (or God) into the gaps of scientific knowledge… a strategy we should note (the only thing that gives me hope) that has always eventually backfired. And yet these people continue to believe in the project of magical thinking as a legitimate path to knowledge… crazy.

It’s telling that when Reagan was elected something like 40% of all scientists were Republicans. Today that number is below 10%.

Of course I have no doubt that this will be explained away by calling scientists a bunch of conspiratorial leftists (because if facts conflict with your ideology, you naturally jettison the facts), but given the basic disposition of most scientists (logical, evidence based thinkers) the truth is damning.

But by all means, keep getting your facts from AM radio emotional button pushing, magical thinkers.

Salt Lake City, UT

There's good reason that people are skeptical of scientific claims. It's this critical nature of our brain that helps separate truth from speculation. It's the key to moving scientific discovery forward.

How many of us were, or possibly still are, 100% convinced that eating saturated fats as found in butter, cheese, whole milk, red meat and eggs is strongly correlated with heart attack, cardiovascular disease and stroke? How many billions on dollars have been spent on the production and consumption of low-fat, non-fat, non-dairy and meat substitute products in the certainty that these “terrible” foods would kill us? After all, the science on high-fat diet was settled, right? For 50 years we've been bombarded with dietary advice from every doctor, health expert, 10's of thousands of books and the media that saturated fat was very bad stuff.

If you haven't caught up with the latest “science” on diet: google “meta-analysis American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”.

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT

The real problem for some, well all of us at times I guess, is when science shows that some belief we hold dear is false. That is the test. In almost every case where science shows some matter of faith to be wrong - that person usually dismisses the science as wrong. This in turn makes it easier to dismiss other aspects of science for even less sincere reasons like denying climate change simply because of a political belief.

I believe this has resulted in a large part of society lacking the ability to consider issues in a rational fact based way. Basing decisions more on what they want to be true or feel to be true rather rationally reviewing the available facts. I've heard too many politicians and religious leaders speak dismissively of science or even show outright contempt of science (or any higher education). It's all very disconcerting.

Fairview, UT

...and liberals stick their fingers in their ears and yell, "Nya, nya, nay. I'm not listening," when you try to explain the scientific truth that global warming comes from the sun, along with it's variability, and the distance and orientation of the earth to the sun, which is also variable. Those variability factors are several orders of magnitude greater than the measly output of homo sapiens. As long as you refuse to recognize the Author and Designer of that celestial orb that keeps us from freezing or boiling away, you'll never understand anything.

Far East USA, SC

"the scientific truth that global warming comes from the sun, along with it's variability, and the distance and orientation of the earth to the sun, which is also variable. "

Gee Kiddsport.

I hope all of the climate scientists read your post. Possibly they just neglected to factor in all of these variables when they did their research. Thanks for pointing it out.

The Wraith
Kaysville, UT


I can hear them all now. The SUN! Oh my I can't believe we forgot to include the sun! This is going to change everything.

Provo, UT

Roland Kayser, the irony of that quote is that Bertrand Russell was a fool and a fanatic, continually sure of himself when he should have had some doubts.

None of his serious work in philosophy and logic has held up well under the test of time.

His more popular works- the cheap shots he took at Christians, those who were fighting totalitarianism, etc- can now be appreciated as the dishonest tripe they always were. His writings on ethics and critique of "traditional morality" from the basis of his own supposed moral superiority appear sadly ironic in light of the disastrous consequences of his immoral behavior in the lives of those closest to him (see Ray Monk's biography).

Cedar Hills, UT

Scientists lost credibility when they allowed themselves to become political pawns.

If "global warming" had been studied without government interference and government imposition, it would either stand on its own merits or have gone the way of the "global cooling" fad of the 1970's.

Steve in Ohio
Galloway, OH

This article appears to be written with a political agenda, as are many of the comments- persuade people that climate change is happening and is caused by man-made CO2 emissions. Does the author reference scientific articles to back up his claim? Like too many these days, he seems to be trying to bully others into believing as he does by name calling, ridiculing, and appeal to scientific "authorities". Just because you are a scientist doesn't make your investigations and conclusions valid!

This article has nothing to do with science, nor the scientific method. The preposterous quote that "GMOs have 'been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects'". What do they mean no reported ill effects? Is that the result of a scientific study where populations consuming the GMO foods are compared to populations who do not, while correcting for other factors? No, because this article is not based on science, but is propaganda, with a little truth mixed in.

Pleasant Grove, UT

@Joe Blow "appears unstoppable"

And yet, in spite of all the speculation, Antarctic sea ice is setting new records. Extent in April was at the highest levels since 1979, when measurements began.

My question again: do you believe the myth, or the measurements?

Provo, UT

Those on the left have plenty of science denialism as well.

As Gerson notes, most of the hysterical anti-GMO claims have long since been scientifically refuted. The case is similar with many of the claims made in support of supposedly environmentalist food fads (organic, locavore, etc), the real environmental benefits of which are effectively nil. (The only food fads which could have a large environmental benefit are vegetarianism/flexitarianism; that we should consume much less meat should not surprise anyone who's read the Word of Wisdom.)

And those who trust Paul Krugman over the consensus in macroeconomics are the mirror image of those who rely on some of the leading "global warming skeptics." In each case you have someone who did some good scientific work long ago (microeconomics) but is now making overhyped claims defying the scientific consensus in another field where they have no expertise or real accomplishments, being well-paid to tell people what they want to hear rather than the politically inconvenient truth.

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