Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ben Shapiro Invents Anti-Science Liberals, Commentors Reveal the Reality

In a pathetic attempt at "I know what you are but what am I" journalism, Ben Shapiro over at Townhall tries to paint liberals as the ones at war with science instead of conservatives by basically making shit up (I know, what else is new), and making arguments that are comically self-defeating. And a funny thing happened along the way, which I'll get to in a moment.

First, the self-defeating arguments. Shapiro claims liberals ignore the science in three areas: sex education, abortion, and gender differences. On sex education, he claims the science shows that "teens are biologically incapable of inhibiting risky behavior", which by his distorted logic means that we can't expect teens to use condoms, but we can expect them to abstain.

On abortion, Shapiro yammers on about the development of the fetus (cell differentiation in a matter of weeks, brain development within a couple of months), and somehow concludes that those who would allow abortions are less scientific than those who claim a fetus is a baby from the moment of conception, which isn't even a moment at all.

And finally, Shapiro invents out of whole cloth the idea that liberals "insist[] that men and women are identical, and that gender is merely a social construct, [and] that entirely false belief is the basis for the gay marriage movement". As usual, Shapiro gives no cite or backing of any kind for this claim, for the simple reason that he made it up, as usual. Even the most ardent liberal acknowledges that men and women have different naughty bits.

To be fair, sure, there are some people out there who believe what Shapiro describes, but they are nowhere near the mainstream of liberal thought. But if Shapiro had really wanted to talk about anti-science liberals, he had plenty of legitimate targets such as PETA, homeopaths, the genes-mean-nothing crowd, and some gun control advocates who play fast and loose with the data (didn't know suicides and rightful police shootings are included in "gun death" stats? You do now). Instead, in classic conservative style, he just made shit up for political purposes hoping no one would notice. Sorry Ben, we did.

However, the real laugh comes in the comments of his blog, where the creationists and global warming deniers come out of the woodwork in droves to demonstrate just how numerous and anti-science they really are. Even the most, ahem, liberal estimates would have these conservatives outnumbering anti-science liberals by an order of magnitude. Be sure to check it out, it is good for many laughs.

The crux of the issue is that the anti-science view so common among conservatives is not a random happenstance likely to be different in the future. It is a function of conservative philosophy, which discourages change, and values revelation, both concepts being antithetical to the hypothesize-experiment-revise method of science. Conservatives will always be more anti-science than liberals, even when they are right. It is inherent in their nature. They say things like "To say otherwise is counterintuitive and ridiculous - I don't care what study you cite". There's your anti-science attitude in a nutshell: my intuitions count more than your evidence.

Not in science they don't. In science, if the evidence is counter to one's intuitions (like it is in quantum mechanics, plate tectonics, heliocentrism, evolution, and many other areas), then its the evidence that must rule. If you can't handle that, it doesn't necessarily mean you are wrong, but it does mean you aren't being scientific. Until conservatives can learn to place evidence over revelation, intuition, and even reason, they will always be more anti-science than liberals, even when they happen to be right.


parakeet said...

"gender is merely a social construct, [and] that entirely false belief is the basis for the gay marriage movement". As usual, Shapiro gives no cite or backing of any kind for this claim, for the simple reason that he made it up, as usual. Even the most ardent liberal acknowledges that men and women have different NAUGHTY BITS."

I'm wondering if you are conflating gender with sex. I ask this based on what I found on the scienceblogs site:

"Gender is merely a social construct that dictates how certain sexes should behave. Sex refers to penises and vaginas and their equivalents in other taxa."

ScienceAvenger said...

Hmmm, I was unaware of that distinction. It harpoons Shapiro even worse than my original interpretation, since his claim is now wrong by definition, but that's too easy. I'd argue that the implication on the evolgen article, that 100% of the differences in behavior between the sexes is socially constructed, is precisely the kind of liberal denial of science in lieu of ideology that Shapiro was probably trying to get at. 100% is a tough argument to make, given so many cultural universals with regard to gender roles. Is there any society that sends its women to war, or where women raping men is the dominant sex crime? Still, it is no doubt closer to reality than Shapiro would like to believe.

Tiger said...

You forgot the antivaxxers and the all-organic produce guys. You could probably also argue that alternative medicine is a left-wing thing too, especially the more spiritual aspects.

Luke said...

With regard to gender roles and customs, how many cultural universals are there? There are probably quite a few, but the existence of even one culture that differs eliminates a universal. Cultures are a lot more diverse than most of us know. I'd love to know what real honest-to-goodness anthropologists have to say about it.

You stopped a little too early on Shapiro's gay marriage quote, which continues:
..., which states that a child with two mommies has essentially the same upbringing as the child of a traditional mother-father coupling.

That is even more fun. Aside from confusing the issue, the (belief in) equivalence of sexes has no bearing on the equivalence of same-sex and traditional parenting. If there is a difference, it should show in some way. But, according to a American Psychological Association policy statement, which cites real studies and reviews of literature:
Overall, results of research suggest that the development, adjustment, and well-being of children with lesbian and gay parents do not differ markedly from that of children with heterosexual parents.

Thank you for going over to townhall and taking on those folks. I'm wary of registering there for fear of junk mail. Too, it has been my sad experience with some of my conservative friends that they have no interest in hearing anything that does not validate their belief system.

parakeet said...

"It harpoons Shapiro even worse than my original interpretation, since his claim is now wrong by definition,"

I'm confused.

The evolgen site said "Gender is merely a social construct" and Shapiro said "gender is merely a social construct." Is the scienceblogs/evolgen site a "Townhall-ish" site, too?

ScienceAvenger said...

Tiger, that's what I was getting at with homeopathy, but yeah, I guess I should have said "alternative medicine". I wasn't sure if there was a political bent to the anti-vaxers. I could have included most of the one-with-nature crowd (ie the folks Penn and Teller got to sign a petition banning water) and the Gaia crew as well, though I think their numbers are vanishingly small compared to some of the other groups we've mentioned.

ScienceAvenger said...

Luke, in Pinker's "The Blank Slate" he lists hundreds of cultural universals, which I'd still count even if there were insignificant deviations (ie <1%). After all, a nonzero proportion of men are born with breasts like women, but that doesn't change our definition of "male". Frankly, my years of anthropological studies and subsequent analysis leads me to believe that cultures are a lot less diverse than most anthropologists would like us to believe. Their ideology seems driven to see differences where there really aren't any, and to treat those that do exist as more sigificant than they are.

As for Townhall, I'd not fear registering, the junk mail is minimal and entertaining, and the few sane minds left over there reading the comments can use your informed sanity. I try to encourage them to come over here, or to Panda's Thumb, if they really want to discuss science, but of course none of them ever do. They are safe in their echo chamber.

ScienceAvenger said...

Parakeet, go back to the original line you quoted from my article. Shapiro is not agreeing with Evolgen. Shapiro claims the idea of gender as socially constructed is an "entirely false belief". Your mistake is understandable, as your brain probably automatically dismissed that interpretation as too idiotic. Never make that mistake with Shapiro, his idiocy knows no bounds.

parakeet said...

"Shapiro is not agreeing with Evolgen"

Of course not; when shapiro used the same words as evolgen, shapiro was mocking them while evolgen was maintaining them.

Which is the false belief, that gender is a social construct, or that gender is MERELY a social construct?

I saw the emphasis on the word "merely," which would allow Shapiro to reject the statement with full force.

Tommykey said...

Over at Sadly, No, they call Ben Shapiro the nation's worst lawyer. After graduating from law school, he lasted a few months as an associate at Goodwin Proctor. Now he has his own consulting practice, because he clearly has so much legal experience under his belt.

ScienceAvenger said...

Well, now he can add "Nation's Worst Political Writer" to his list of accolades.

Anonymous said...

His examples are crap, but then so is the insinuation that the party of anti-vax, Animal Rights, homeopathy, anti-GMO, environmental hysteria, 911/JFK/Moon conspiracy theories and so forth ISN'T anti-science.

And these aren't just a few borderline miscreants. These are very acceptable, mainstream views among those who prescribe to Left Wing ideology.