Experts versus Republicans redux

Nice follow-up post from Bill Ayers.  I saw headlines about the “300 physicists,” but I didn’t realize it was nuclear energy/weapons experts (of course you are likely a physicist if that’s you, but that would be a much more accurate description).  Ayers explains:

Now a group of physicists has sent a very public letter to the White House with a very similar message. These aren’t just any physicists – they include Richard Garwin, one of the inventors of the hydrogen bomb, as well as Frank von Hippel, Freeman Dyson, and some 26 others. Some of these guys have Nobel prizes; several of them have had Q-clearances to work on nuclear weapons. One of them ran the Los Alamos weapons lab for over a decade. Important note: if you don’t know who any of these people are, you should probably go read their bios before expressing further opinions about nuclear arms control.

In short, of the people who have the technical know how to really understand the deal; they support the deal.  Neither you, nor I, nor Mike Huckabee, nor Lindsey Graham have this kind of expertise.  These nuclear experts are the type of people we should be listening to.  Nobody expects that people should know everything or have expertise in a broad array of fields.  But it is not unreasonable to expect that we should listen to subject-matter experts on important policy questions, rather than talking heads and politicians seeking personal political gain.

I don’t deny for a second that we could not see the converse of this where motivated reasoning causes Democrats to eschew science and expertise, but we do have an asymmetry in our politics where Republicans keep denying science and experts on major policy issues and Democrats do not (GMO is not a major policy issue, nor is the asymmetry nearly as strong as you’d think).

Love Bill’s conclusion:

I don’t expect any of the people running for the GOP nomination to pay any attention to this, of course. But it gives the rest of us a chance to demonstrate which side of the real divide are we on. Do we stand with science, evidence, reasoned argument, and the hope that these tools can help us come to a common understanding of the world? Or do we stand with the tribalists who divide through fear, reject the common search for truth, and adopt the language of science only when it suits their purposes? Politicians always reason backwards from the answer they want. But we only make progress as individuals, in communities, and as a species when we reason forward from ideas and evidence to conclusions and when we are willing to adjust in the face of new evidence. [emphasis mine] Some among us have a lot of practice in doing so. We should listen to them and heed their advice.

Short version, you really need to ask yourself why you are listening to Charles Krauthammer instead of people who, you know, understand nuclear power and weapons enrichment.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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