Is NAS Anti-Science? A Reply to a Critic

Peter Wood

  • Article
  • March 10, 2010

It is good to hear again from our old friend, the splenetic Professor Derryberry!  I had been under the impression that he was too disgusted with NAS to pay us any more attention, but I underestimated his generosity.  Welcome back Doug! 

Let me start by calming your concern that my comment on Al Gore’s op-ed was defective as a “form of scholarship.”  My response was an opinion essay, not a research paper. Opinions too, however, should be founded on well-attested facts and good argument and I am perfectly happy to have mine evaluated by that standard.  But Doug!  Labeling the National Association of Scholars “conservative” doesn’t bear on the quality of the facts or the argument. It is just a form of ad hominem attack. 

As it happens, NAS does not consider itself a conservative organization.  We take no stand at all on the vast majority of issues that divide conservatives from liberals.  We focus almost exclusively on higher education and in that realm we take independent stands.  But I’m used to the logic of the left: if we don’t march lock-step with leftist orthodoxy (and we don’t) we must therefore be “conservative.”  Thanks, Doug, for the nice reprise of that little bit of logic chopping.

So Doug accuses us of “conservative political biases” that “distort science” and “filter” findings.  He knows we have that supposed bias because…because?  Evidently because I expressed an opinion he disagrees with. He infers from this that I embrace a conservative “economic agenda.”  I am not aware that I do embrace such an agenda and I am at a complete loss as to what I wrote in “Unimaginable Calamity” (or elsewhere for that matter) that displays my fondness for such an agenda. 

Hey Doug, it is kinda fun to see you take a running leap past the evidence to accuse me of avoiding the facts and overgeneralizing. You clearly know a thing or two about the broad jump. I defer to your expertise, but I really can’t compete with someone in your league. 

I let the rest of your statement stand as a nice monument to the moment in history when retired psychology professors felt entitled to speak with authority on the integrity of climate science. But in defense of the numerous physical scientists who are members of NAS, some of whom have been victims of the reign of intellectual intimidation and abuse of the peer review process that had become the hallmark of the bogus “global warming consensus,” I will add that yes, NAS does support freedom of inquiry and we are robustly pro-science.  The reality or non-reality of global warming is now an open question precisely because scientific inquiry has been undermined by the political advocacy of the warmists. 

I don’t expect that advocacy to disappear overnight.  Too many people have invested too heavily in it and when expectations are that intense, the tide goes out slowly.  Doug, perhaps you should refresh yourself on that classic study by Festinger, Riecken, and Schachter, When Prophecy Fails.  When the UFOs fail to arrive, the cultists don’t immediately pack up and go home.  They just recalculate.  Or, mutatis mutandis, they imagine a “conservative” conspiracy to distort the facts.       

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