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 previous issue                         issue #58,  posted 10 /18/ 2018                      archive of all  issues

Believing Scientists or Politicians? 

in the news: President Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the USA Supreme Court threatened to unravel as Ph.D.  in psychology / scientist / biostatistician Christine Blasey Ford testified (before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on September 27th) how Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her long ago at a high school party . Despite these charges, and despite other concerns that Kavanaugh's impassioned denial underscored what many viewed as his highly partisan political stance, he was eventually confirmed. Meanwhile, the October issue of Scientific American magazine contained the interesting remarks of Representative Bill Foster —in "A Conversation with the Only Physicist in Congress"—distinguishing between science and politics: "In science, if you stand up and say something you know is not true, it is a career-ending move...In politics...for many who practice it, the question is not "Is it true?" but "What can I convince the voting public is true?" Meanwhile, Trump (as of this writing) supports Saudi crown prince and defacto ruler Muhammed bin Salman's (MbS) denial of knowledge about the disappearance of Saudi and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Just as he discounted Ford's testimony and other evidence against Kavanaugh, he ignored seemingly damning forensic science and other evidence implicating MbS's associates in torturing and killing Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Trump even cited the same "need to presume innocent until proven guilty" and connected this to his defense of Kavanaugh. The headline to Richard Wolffe's op-ed in The Guardian: "As Trump cozies up to Saudi Arabia, the rule of law collapses further" captured the concerns of many. 

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org) Would you rather have a top of his or her profession scientist or politician on the US Supreme Court?  If honesty is what matters most to you, recent history suggests you wouldn't want a politician! If playing fairin science it's called striving for reproducible results (see "The Scientific Method" worldview theme #6) is what matters most, again recent history suggests you wouldn't want a politician! Of course one idealistically likes to think the Supreme Court is populated by lots of fair-minded, legal scholars who dispassionately weigh cases on their legal (not political!) merits. Could be the the 2001 Supreme Court decision that decided the Bush vs. Gore 2000 USA presidential election on a 5 to 4 party line vote relieved many of that notion! 

In investigating a crime—say the death of barnyard chickens—do you want those complicit in the killing / supporters of the criminals in charge of the investigation—that is, the foxes guarding the chicken coop—or fair-minded, impartial folks in charge? If your goal is to get at the truth, obviously you prefer the latter. Alas, it seems increasingly that self-serving, highly loyal to their "tribe" politicians are less interested in the truth than in promoting their agenda / in their side "winning", than in allowing independent, lengthy investigations to uncover truths they wish to suppress. Many of those in charge at the top undoubtedly justify suppressing truth / spreading misinformation with a "I Know What's Best for You" (theme #2B) orientation. While many voters seemingly prefer this arrogant assuming one has all the answers stance in politicians to a "Humbly Unsure" (theme #1A) orientation, many others prefer what common sense suggests: that humans are imperfect creatures, that many heads working together are better than one, etc. .  

Whether one is talking about partisan Supreme Court decisions, conducting sham investigations, silencing journalists, ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence that links climate change to human activity, or whatever, seldom do biased, fact ignoring, lacking in reasoned analytical procedure type investigations or decision-making serve society well in the long run. Seems they are to be associated more with worldviews built more on assuming the general public is more comfortable with a  "Collective Cognitive Imperative" (theme #15) herd mentality than science, "Authoritarianism" (theme #20B) and "Proud Identification" (theme #37A), and less on "The Golden Rule" (theme #16), "Intellectual Freedom (theme #30), "Valuing Human Rights" (theme #32) and an "Ethical Orientation (theme #42). And it seems that when playing with loaded dice trumps playing fair, or coverup triumphs over ferreting out the truth, "Cynicism" (theme #36A) grows—something that hardly bodes well for future societal happiness and stability!    

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