Support for the current Republican administration is waning.
support that remains is persisting primarily because of the
misperception that the Republican Party is more likely to keep us safe.
However, one could make a case that the current policies are
making us substantially less
Perhaps the most popular argument used to make this case, is an
argument that I do not like. Some say that the war in Iraq
turned Iraq into a breeding ground for anti-American terrorists.
That is probably true, but I don't like that argument because
there is no way of knowing whether any of those terrorists-in-training
really present a threat.
But what about the war on science? How does that make us less
safe. The central tactic used in the war on science is like
used by Microsoft: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. People are
sure what software to buy, so they go with the name that they recognize
the most. Once FUD rears its head, logic goes out the window.
When buying software, it is most appropriate to do careful testing to
see which product does the job the best. But when faced with
clever FUD attack, it is difficult to trust the results of the test.
Empiricism is replaced by creeping doubt. The
decision-maker no longer focuses on what is most likely to happen;
rather, the focus is on trying to prevent some lurking catastrophe,
that, while possible, is highly unlikely to happen.
This tactic is most likely to be successful when the probability of the
lurking threat cannot be quantified. In such cases, people
to estimate the probability
of the catastrophe in
proportion to the intensity of their emotional reaction
to the thought of the catastrophe.
Look at the tactics used by the Administration in the battles over
climate change policy. They repeat the mantra that experts do
agree, we can't be sure of the science, the jury is still out,
whatever: all variations on the FUD theme. Likewise, when it
comes to security policy, they trumpet claims
such as "Iran poses a grave
," or the most
"America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear
evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking
gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud
Although there never was any reliable evidence that Iraq had a nuclear
weapon, nobody could prove
that there were no weapons. The probability could not be
quantified. So a lot of people substituted the magnitude of
fear (which could not be quantified, but which was known to be large)
for the numerical probability (which could not be quantified, but which
which was in fact very small).
This is analogous to the argument used against global warming.
With global warming, there is a lot of evidence to show that
climate is changing, and a lot of evidence that human industrial
activity is accelerating those changes. Before the invasion of Iraq,
there was a lot of evidence that Iraq had disbanded their pursuit of
nuclear weapons, and that there were no weapons to be found.
With climate change policy, it is argued that all kinds of terrible
things will happen if we follow the Kyoto protocol. Before
invasion of Iraq, it was argued that all kinds of terrible things would
happen if we did not go to war.
In both cases, the Administration argued against the logical
conclusion. In both cases, the logical conclusion was that we
should expect the most likely outcome: the one with the greatest amount
of evidence to support it. But by using the FUD tactic, logic
bypassed, and illogical actions were undertaken.
The analogy is not exact. In the case of climate change, the
fearsome outcome was downplayed; in the case of Iraq, the fear was
exaggerated. The fear that was played up was the fear of
a lot of money needlessly, perhaps ruining the economy and costing
people their jobs.
But in both cases, the "junk logic" of FUD was used to invalidate
objective analyses of the situations. The war on science
to a systematic
invalidation of empiricism, with
FUD to replace it.
Some people think that the point of the war on science is to supplant
science with religion. That is not the case.
nothing to do with it. The point of the war on science is to
replace objective analysis with executive fiat. But
abandoning logic, we are damaging our own security.
If security really is the main objective, then it would make sense to
take an inventory of all the things that make us less safe.
the moment, the things leading that list would be things like alcohol
and nicotine addiction, lack of exercise, uncontrolled firearms, unsafe
driving, pandemic viruses, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the exploding
federal deficit, unemployment, pollution, poorly-planned communities,
lack of access to health care, and domestic violence. Once
inventory is completed, we would look at the various interventions
available, and the cost of implementing those interventions.
Then, we would decide how to put our resources to their best
to make us all safer.
Following this kind of analysis, we would not be building more F-22
fighter jets, we would not be giving cost-plus no-bid contracts to
Halliburton, we would not be drawing up plans to invade Iran, and we
would not be rebuilding New Orleans. We would be implementing
universal health system, we would be building resilient, sustainable,
rebuildable communities, we would be enforcing tough fuel economy
standards, and we would be tweaking the economy to maintain a strong
middle class. We would be developing decentralized power
production, with a diverse portfolio of energy sources. We
be encouraging greater use of locally-grown foods, and charging a
premium for foods that have to be transported long distances.
There are many of things we would be doing, and we all would
better off because of it. After all, the point of national
security is to make people safer, and to make social structures more
resilient. The war on science is undermining those goals.