More Bethell Bashing!
On the subject of Tom Bethell not having the faintest idea what he is talking about, check out Chris Mooney's review of Bethell's new book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science.
The book starts with two strikes against it even before we come to its substance. First, anyone who insists on bragging about being politically incorrect can be dismissed out of hand. That's so passe. Second, Bethell's book was published by the ultra right-wing Regnery Publishing. They're the delightful folks who brought us Jonathan Wells' Icons of Evolution, and the anti-John Kerry sleaze fest Unfit for Command, by John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi. Let me suggest that when you see Regnery's imprint on the spine, you should assume the book is a pack of lies.
Initially, the question of whether or not to even write this column gave me pause. In criticizing Tom Bethell--author of the conservative Regnery Press's Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, which misrepresents the state of scientific knowledge on issues ranging from global warming to the vulnerability of endangered species to evolution--I wondered whether I would simply wind up bestowing upon its author more attention than he ultimately deserves.
It was a serious fear, but I decided to overcome it, for two reasons. First, Bethell's book is already getting plenty of attention. It's selling well, and one prominent conservative outlet, the Heritage Foundation, has even sponsored an event to promote it. And second, precisely because of its misleading content, the publication of Bethell's book represents a highly significant development that's well worth remarking upon. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science takes what is already a well-documented war on scientific knowledge from the political right in this country to a new level of intensity. In the process, it flushes out into the open the anti-science sentiments that are unfortunately nourished by all too many conservative Republicans today (although rarely by the party's moderates).
Sadly, the ones running the show in the Republican party these days are also the ones who are most virulently anti-science. To them, science is just one more stumbling block standing in the way of doing what they want to do. They treat science exactly as they would any other political opponent. It's nice that the moderates don't share this view. When they start challenging their leadership publicly I'll be impressed.
But let me give the final word to Mooney, who offers this eloquent summary of the state of affairs:
Overall, then, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science is a very saddening and depressing read. While they have undoubtedly made mistakes, and certainly nourish individual biases just like all the rest of us, scientists in universities and in government have generally worked very hard and have--thanks to the scientific process--come up with a great deal of important and relevant knowledge. But along comes someone like Bethell and, in a book that's likely to be read by a lot of people, radically distorts and undermines their conclusions and findings, while whipping up resentment of the scientific community among rank-and-file political conservatives. That Bethell is finding such a ready audience underscores the severe threat to the role of science in modern American life and, most importantly, in political decision-making.