The title question is prompted by a recent entry by Chris Mooney at his newest non-climate blogging post over at Science Progress. He finds it productive to fight back against any mention of science ‘abuse’ by non-Republicans by reminding everyone that Republicans do it worse and that he wrote a book (six years ago) detailing it.
The particular misstep this time is an effort to consider the two parties equally anti-science because while one side dismisses climate change and evolution, the other isn’t keen on animal research, nuclear energy or genetically modified organisms. In an exceedingly rare instance, Mooney makes some good points that are unfortunately drowned out by his partisan perspective. (As Paul Raeburn notes over at Knight Science Journalism Tracker, the article Mooney is responding to has its issues with sufficient evidence). Personally, cloaking disagreements over policy in debates about science wastes my time and yours, but YMMV.
Here’s my real issue with the piece. The title is “Classic False Equivalence on Political Science Abuse.” Too short, certainly (is political science being abused?), and probably not written by Mooney. However, he does classify the assertions of liberal anti-science or scientific ignorance as “the cases adduced for liberal science abuse by the author.”
So, to choose policy positions that conflict (or appear to conflict) with scientific evidence is science abuse? To not believe in the scientific consensus on the safety of vaccines, or of pesticide treated vegetables, is abuse? It’s just as bad as preventing the publishing of scientific research, or editing reports to give the appearance that scientists concluded something that they didn’t? I don’t think so. Whether Mooney was being careless with his words, or with his ideas, I have no idea. But to be guided by his conceptions of what constitutes science abuse (and what doesn’t) continues to be a bad idea.