When Science Influencers Polarize Our Politics


Lets acknowledge who started politicizing climate change. Who vilified people like Michael Mann in the first place?


We’ve seen this play out many times before, with Big Tobacco and lung cancer, YEC and evolution, etc… One side benefits from polarization, and the other faces a choice of ignoring it or fighting back, and it can be really hard to ignore.

I’m in favor of fighting back carefully, targeting the root argument and making a positive case fire science. YEC/ID is apologetics and should not be argued as science unless a specific scientific claim is made. For the positive case it’s easy to demonstrate that science works.

Climate change is more slippery - there is no single book of climate change denial to point to as the basis of an apologetic claim, but it’s still an apologetic claim. The positive (but sad) response is that glaciers are melting and weather patterns are changing as a result of human influence.

I haven’t found any great answers for overall political polarization yet, but I don’t think it is sustainable. Something is going to break, politically, socially, or economically, and fixing it will be messy.


It may be, um, impolitic to go as far as Mann does, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Plenty of Republicans think the GOP can’t be salvaged, and the party is one of two primary sources of disinformation on climate change, the oil companies being the other. This is especially true of the Trump wing. Is there something more effective than pointing this out?


Absolutely point this out. Keep pointing it out until they make an evidence based claim (THEN clobber them with science).

We should all be working as hard to destroy the Republican Party now as people should have with Germany’s National Socialist party in 1932.

The only question is how to best do that.

Before anyone accuses me of hyperbole, they should read this:


I’m hoping we might get a little help from the 14th Amendment.

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Bets on whether Thomas recuses himself from that one?

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Science can and should be used to criticize harmful practices and policies, and to advise on better practice. I think it would be more accurate to say that politics were already polarized, and this has influenced science promoters.


I’ve been following the news about the groups of fake Electoral College voters with morbid fascination (and a sense of disbelief that they aren’t behind bars yet).

When the leader of one party insists that global warming is a Chinese hoax, polarization is already extreme.

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This is a tired trope and is little better than saying, “I wish actors and actresses would just stick to making movies and not speak on politics”. Long before any scientist was a scientist, they were a political actor - they were born into a society governed by laws and rules established by political entities. They made political choices: attended public or private school, bought one brand over another, entered into the workforce, went to public university, etc. Their entire lives are shaped by political decisions. Science is something that comes later - a simple methodology for investigating the universe. But even it isn’t free from politics. Every scientific study published is political, it exists because someone funded it, whether private or public. And who gets that funding is a political decision: society believes it’s more valuable to fund research on cancer than on the systematics of deep-sea polychaete worms. And thus we know a lot more about cancer than we do about worms in the deep-sea. That simple fact demonstrates how political science is. Furthermore, who gets access to those studies is political - most are hidden behind paywalls that only those with the capital or are affiliated with institutions can access them! But despite all of this, we delude ourselves with the “scientists shouldn’t be political” idea because that somehow degrades science. Again, science is a tool, but the way we approach it, how we perform it, who gets to perform it, and how it is presented and disseminated is fundamentally political. And who else is going to speak up for science if not scientists? Who understands the needs of basic science research and funding better, and how imperiled we are as a society (and potentially species) if we don’t start making better policy decisions?

TLDR: Science is political. Always has been. And not only is it okay, it’s necessary. If that makes people feel yucky, welcome to the real world. It’s yucky.



  1. this will almost certainly end up with SCOTUS;

  2. the degree of leeway that the lack of settled law on this point will give them; and

  3. the degree to which the the current conservative super-majority of SCOTUS is willing to ignore precedent (and even the facts, on occasion),

I’m not optimistic that anything will come of this.

Hello Zach, and welcome to Peaceful Science. :smiley:

Well said!

Given how openly theocratic and anti-democratic the GOP is getting, I wouldn’t disagree with that. See for example:

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I happened to catch the notice of the Substack article, which is quite interesting and thoughtful. I don’t, however, propose to remark on that article, but only on one comment here, i.e.:

May I ask a naive question?

I was under the impression, perhaps because you are a faculty member in Toronto, that you were a Canadian. Is it appropriate for a Canadian, speaking to an audience primarily of Americans, to say that “we” should be working to destroy an American political party?

If an American professor, perhaps one of a conservative political bent, were to say to a group of Canadians that “we” should be working to destroy the Canadian Liberal Party, would that be appropriate? Would you, as a Canadian (assuming you are Canadian), not find that at least mildly offensive, and perhaps even arrogant or imperialistic?

I was given to understand that there were international protocols against interfering in the politics of other nations. I remember an interview once where Bill Clinton (I think perhaps after he had left office, but I don’t remember for sure), asked about a current Canadian election, said that he didn’t want to say too much because “I know the law,” implying that some kind of prosecution could follow from improper interference or attempt to influence by a non-citizen.

But even if it’s not if not strictly illegal, is it appropriate for Canadians to involve themselves actively in intra-American politics?

I’m not saying anything about the propriety of a Canadian having an opinion about the policies of the Republican Party, or an opinion about the policies or personality of Donald Trump. The question I’m asking is only about the propriety of a Canadian offering to collude with Americans in order to destroy an American political organization.

Just asking…

I’ll answer that - YES, he should. Given the anti-democratic agenda of the modern Republican party, that is appropriate. Perhaps Faizal could refine that message, as I don’t think he means to include more traditional conservatives, or that he is intent on murder. :slight_smile:

If the Canadian government were to suddenly turn into an ultra-Nationalist dictatorship, I think a lot of liberal professors in the US might have similar feelings about it. MAGAlicans would probably think that is great.

@eddie, you are never just asking. The evidence for this will be presented in your next 40 comments in this topic. :wink:

ETA: I think it is also apparent that Faizal is representing his own opinion and not that of his employer.


Comedy gold. Or wasn’t that a bit?


Who are “we”?

I would suggest that “we” are the citizens of this planet – a planet increasingly threatened by encroaching authoritarian, ethno-nationalist or religious-ethno-nationalist, political movements, whether MAGA/Christian-Nationalist in the US, the Chinese Communist Party, Putin in Russia, BJP in India, the Law and Justice Party in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary, the Justice And Development Party in Turkey, the Social Liberal Party of Brazil, or other examples that have slipped my mind. This would appear to be an international problem, and one that “we”, collectively, should be working hard to resolve.

As the US has the world’s largest military, and the world’s second largest nuclear arsenal, as well as having a self-avowed MAGA/Christian-Nationalist second in line from the top job, I would suggest that it is a particularly prominent cause for concern.

Is there anything illegal or unethical about “working” together, e.g. by sharing ideas or playbooks, to defeat this threat to global humanity? I would argue emphatically, that no there is not!


While I mostly agree, I’d like to point out…

… that if choosing which breakfast cereal to buy can be considered a political decision, then babies learning how the world works can be considered doing science.