December 5, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Lean to the Left: Science Reporters Oblivious to Conservatism

Take any issue, and there will often be a liberal view and a conservative view.  Why is it, then, that science reporting is almost always liberal?  It’s not just that left-leaning slants on science issues predominate; the reporters and institutions often seem utterly oblivious to the idea that other positions, like conservative views, even exist.  Even when they are acknowledged, they are almost routinely disparaged.  Some recent examples illustrate the lopsided coverage. 

  1. WikiLeaks:  Most conservatives feel that WikiLeaks poses a real threat to national security, and that the perpetrator, Julian Assange, should be prosecuted.  Yet PhysOrg cast the story that as a freedom of speech issue – the leftist view.  “WikiLeaks fights to stay online amid attacks” was the headline of a story that gave prominent quotes to Assange claiming history is on his side, that he is just trying to make the world a better place.  Does this article even belong on a science-reporting website?  PhysOrg did post another A.P. story that at least quoted some conservatives, but it tended to air only the most inflammatory statements, like those of a Canadian advisor who said, “I think Assange should be assassinated, actually.”
        Live Science cast the story as a matter of old fashioned innocent gossip, no different than Facebook.  Ignoring entirely the issue that WikiLeaks plays into the hands of terrorists, the reporter even called on an evolutionist to tell us it’s just part of our ape ancestry: “Oxford anthropologist Robin Dunbar argues that gossip and language evolved as primate groups got too large to bond by grooming.”
  2. Rich vs poor:  Conservatives do not have a problem with wealth per se, provided the money has been earned honestly.  The rich, after all, pay the bulk of taxes, provide jobs, and are often benefactors.  Leftists are for redistribution of wealth.  PhysOrg reported that the rich in Canada are getting richer.  While the trend may be a matter of statistical analysis, the subtext of the article was that this is bad; letting rich keep their money involves an “inequality gap”.
  3. Minimum wage:  Conservatives argue that minimum wage laws hurt the people they are designed to help, by forcing businesses to close their doors to entry-level job applicants.  PhysOrg took the leftist position that “Minimum wage hikes don’t eliminate jobs.”  Either political party could certainly amass its own statistics and expertise to make its case, but the article did not even acknowledge that a conservative view exists.  It portrayed the liberal position as a scientific finding, leading to some heated comments by readers.
  4. DREAM Act:  Conservatives find the DREAM Act, now being debated in Congress, as an abomination, not only because it rewards people who broke the law, but will stimulate even more illegal immigration, and actually gives them something that U.S. citizens cannot have: lower rates on college tuition.  Yet again, PhysOrg gave the leftist arguments only, arguing on quasi-scientific grounds that the act would benefit the economy.
  5. Funding scrutiny:  Conservatives agree that taxpayers should be protected from careless funding of frivolous projects, scientific or otherwise – especially in a time of economic crisis when the national debt is at a historic high many fear is unsustainable.  When Live Science reported about Republican majority leader Eric Cantor’s reasonable request for scrutiny of NSF grants, however, the reporting staff focused on explaining why one apparently wasteful project (a $3/4 million grant to study soccer players) was not really wasteful, but had spinoffs that might help society more broadly.  Cantor was only asking for self-scrutiny at this point, but the undertone of the article is that Republicans pose a threat to science and must be monitored carefully.  Did that same moral imperative apply when liberals were driving the country to the brink of economic collapse with irresponsible spending?
  6. Climate:  Many conservatives are fearful, if not outraged, by U.N. proposals at international climate talks (currently at Cancun) that they feel can destroy economies, send society back to third world status, and hurt most of all the poor who need economic opportunity the most.  Many of them also feel “global warming” is based on dubious science (02/06/2010) and provides a cover for socialist plans to redistribute wealth.  When PhysOrg went to report on the talks, however, it focused on a specific case of dubious science: “Cancun’s eroding white sand beaches are providing a note of urgency to the climate talks being held just south of this seaside resort famed for its postcard-perfect vistas,” implying that political action on global warming (now euphemised as “climate change”) must be taken now – the left’s view.  But needless to say, it would be very difficult to prove that the beaches of Cancun are eroding because of man-made global warming, especially when the UK is currently suffering under a “Narnia-like winter” as seen in images from the TERRA satellite.
  7. Food bill:  Many conservatives were outraged at the lame duck Congress passing a food bill that gives enormous new powers to the Environmental Protection Agency, an unelected body possessing already near-dictatorial powers over business.  Yet PhysOrg presented the “bill to boost food safety” as a wonderful, progressive thing – all good, except for some compromises that had to be made to placate doubters who worried about the impacts on farmers and businesses in their home states.  Live Science went even further in its advocacy, calling the bill a “significant achievement,” announcing with its headline, “Senate Finally Passes Food Safety Bill.”  Totally ignored were any conservative arguments that private enterprise and a free market possess inherent powers of self-regulation without having to further erode the liberties of taxpayers.  Whether the conservatives or liberals are right is not the issue here.  The point is that the media, once again, rather than debating the bill with any pretense of balance, acted in advocacy of one political position on a “science” website.
  8. Ending racism:  Without doubt, concerns of racism loom large on liberal agendas, whereas many conservatives feel that government victimization by race actually does more harm than good.  In a nearly shameless reference to Obama’s political slogan, PhysOrg gave good press to academics at Georgia State and the Association for Psychological Science with the headline, “Motivation to end racism relies on ‘yes we can’ approach.”
        The merits of their arguments are, again, beside the point; certainly, empowering the disadvantaged in any culture with positive motivation is worthwhile, regardless of their race, and no respectable conservative has anything but contempt for racism.  But it is almost inconceivable that academics and science reporters would, for a minute, give positive press to the views of prominent black conservatives on the issue of how to deal with racism.  The list would include such luminaries as Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, J. C. Watts, Condi Rice, Walter Williams, Alan Keyes, Michael Steele, Bill Cosby, Ward Connerly, even Martin Luther King’s daughter, Dr. Alveda C. King, and others, whose views, though nuanced, informed, and varied, are routinely excluded from “science” articles.
  9. Health care:  Conservatives were outraged last year when a nationalized health care bill, in spite of a blockade by every Republican in congress, overcame near-certain defeat through political shenanigans, backroom deals, broken promises and outright lies, finally getting pushed over the goal line against the wishes of a majority of Americans, like a foul play of a cheating football team getting awarded a touchdown by a corrupt referee.
        Conservatives before and since that date have stood vociferously for private control of health care.  As could be expected, though, once again, PhysOrg gave favorable press to a Canadian Medical Association press release that promoted expanded use of publicly funded health care.  Only arguments in support of public funding were stated; nothing of the conservative arguments against it were even noted in this “science” article.
  10. Right to life:  Conservatives are more often than not the lone stalwarts for the right to life, opposing abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, human cloning and experimentation, and embryonic stem cell research.  This is an odd situation, since liberals traditionally portray themselves as voices for the disadvantaged and helpless – and what humans are more helpless, and need a voice more, than those in the womb, infants, and the elderly?  Yet Science Daily spoke about a new “Reliable Culture of Human Embryonic Stem Cells” positively in terms only of their potential (not actual) provision for medical breakthroughs, ignoring the deep ethical concerns of many about the use of human embryos for research or treatment, whether or not the treatments ever fulfill a decade of unkept promises (11/18/2010, 09/26/2010, 09/03/2010, 01/18/2010).

News sources like PhysOrg, Live Science, and Science Daily often simply republish the press releases of academic institutions, which are known to be predominantly leftist (12/02/2004).  But they do have teams of reporters who could, if they chose to, evaluate both sides of an issue fairly, critique the claims made, and present conservative counter-arguments.  As these examples show, they almost never do (see “Institutional Science as a Leftist Cabal,” 10/14/2010).
Update: Slate Magazine acknowledged that scientists who are Democrats vastly outnumber Republican scientists.  “That’s a problem,” Daniel Sarewitz explained; “A democratic society needs Republican scientists,” he said, for reasons such as to “cultivate more informed, creative, and challenging debates about the policy implications of scientific knowledge” and to “keep difficult problems like climate change from getting prematurely straitjacketed by ideology.”  See one Evolution News and Views take on this, where David Klinghoffer says, “Slate sees the light.”

Readers are challenged to submit exceptions to the rule to our Feedback line.  Show us a “science” article from a mainstream academic source that advocates a conservative position on any of the issues in the list above.  We predict readers will have trouble finding even examples that give a balanced treatment of both sides.  Unless the response is overwhelming, any exceptions found will prove the rule.  It has been our experience at Creation-Evolution Headlines that science reporting presents a perennial onslaught against conservative values.
    Science wasn’t supposed to be like this.  It was supposed to restrict itself to natural phenomena, to controlled experiments on observable, repeatable processes governed by natural laws, seeking to follow the evidence and be most critical of its own claims.  How did science journalism ever get so deeply embedded in politics, ethics, economics, and global advocacy?  The scientific data do not entail leftist politics; often, leftist political positions are maintained in spite of the data (02/27/2010).  Think about the now-discredited work by Margaret Mead, Sigmund Freud, and Alfred Kinsey, whose left-supporting “science” claims were made on the basis of flawed data samples and agenda-driven methods (many more shameful examples exposed in Ann Coulter’s book Godless: The Church of Liberalism, 08/15/2009). 
    The ideological left has co-opted science for its political agenda, which now threatens to become a global agenda.  Science does not even belong in many of these fields (08/25/2010, 05/13/2010).  While many individual scientists are honorable citizens, focused on their narrow fields, seeking understanding about this or that molecule or organism or star, the scientific societies (06/25/2010) who presume to speak for them, and the majority of mainstream science journalists who convey the mystique of science to the general public, have stolen science’s presumed authority to promote a secularist, leftist, materialistic, evolutionary world view, to the point where many in the public are oblivious to the ideology, so thick is the fogma in which it is enveloped.  (For definition of fogma, see the 05/14/2007 commentary.)
Exercise:  You can have a voice!  Many science sites allow comments.  If time permits, become a regular commentator on left-leaning science sites, and provide some balance to the reporting.  Be sure to be well-informed, winsome, and persuasive.  Often readers are attracted to the comments – and reporters may learn to fear the adverse publicity of one-sided reporting.  Rule #1: Don’t be a blowhard, or you will be blown off as a crank.  Let the blowhards be on the other side, exposing the weaknesses of their arguments – and resist the temptation to get dragged into the mud with them.  Command the respect of your readers, and you can make a difference.  This is the age of instant interactive media.  Let’s raise an army of skilled responders to biased science reporters.  They don’t have to get away with it like they did in the newspaper/magazine/radio era.  Play fair, but let them know, it’s a new ball game now.

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