Proving Conservatives Know More About Science Than Liberals

Conservatives are getting excited about a survey which purports to show that conservatives and libertarians know more about economics than liberals. I do have a problem which tries to break everyone down into such groups considering the wide amount of variation in beliefs in people thrown into such categories. There certainly are people on the far left who have as little understanding of economics as conservatives have of science. In general l I’ve found mainstream liberals do gave a better grasp of economics due to the conservative movement being increasingly dominated by those who think they can bend reality to their ideological wishes.

A major problem with the survey is that it is really it is really a test of agreement with conservative economic theories, written under the assumption that their views are correct regardless of how disastrous application of their views has been in the real world. As Jonathan Chait wrote, “The only thing this study demonstrates is the ideological hackery of its authors.”

Using the same technique, one could “prove” that conservatives know more about science than liberals. Here is a sample test written from such a conservative perspective. To make things simple I’ll make this a true or false test, with all answers true from a conservative perspective on science:

1 ) An intelligent designer is responsible for the development of complex organisms.

2 ) Darwinists believe men descended from monkeys.

3 ) Evolution is just a theory–there is no evidence for it.

4 ) The earth is 6000 years old or less.

5 ) The Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood.

6 ) Global warming is a hoax.

7 ) The earth is cooling, not warming.

8 ) Dinosaurs and humans both lived together, like on The Flintstones.

9 ) The earth is the center of the universe.

10) The earth is flat.

Conservatives who answer true to all these questions could claim to understand more about science than liberals who would get these questions “wrong.” This would be as meaningful as their claims of knowing more about economics.

Context Is Everything, Including In Ass Kicking

There has been a lot of talk about an answer Obama gave to a question with the headlines decreasing it to limited sound bites such as “Obama looking for ‘whose ass to kick'” from CNN. Out of context this sounds too much like Bush-type bravado. It sounds much different when placed in context:

LAUER: Critics are now talking about your style, which is the first time I’ve heard that in a long time. They’re saying here is a guy who likes to be known as cool and calm and collected, and this isn’t the time for cool, calm and collected. This is not the time to meet with experts and advisers; this is a time to spend more time in the Gulf and — I never thought I’d say this to a president — but kick some butt. And I don’t mean it to be funny.

OBAMA: No, and I understand. And here’s what — I’m going to push back hard on this. Because I think that this is a — just an idea that got in folks heads, and the media’s run with it. I was down there a month ago, before most of these talking heads were even paying attention to the Gulf. A month ago I was meeting with fishermen down there, standing in the rain talking about what a potential crisis this could be. And I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers so I know whose ass to kick.

It would be one thing if Obama had planned to talk about kicking ass. It is different when he responds in such a manner to a question about kicking some butt.