The War on Science

Submitted by Peter on

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This book study begins February 18, 2018.

For the first time, this study is held in remembrance of one of our long time group members, June Moroney, who has contributed to our community for many years.

I don’t know how long this study will last. It depends on how fast we get through the 13 chapters, so it could be anywhere from 7 to 14 weeks. Don’t worry if you must miss a meeting or two. The subject matter is a departure from our normal religion based books, although religious issues are raised frequently.

From the Amazon website:

Winner of the MN Book Award for Nonfiction
"Wherever the people are well informed," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "they can be trusted with their own government." But what happens when they are not? In every issue of modern society - from climate change to vaccinations, transportation to technology, health care to defense - we are in the midst of an unprecedented expansion of scientific progress and a simultaneous expansion of danger. At the very time we need them most, scientists and the idea of objective knowledge are being bombarded by a vast, well-funded, three-part war on science: the identity politics war on science, the ideological war on science, and the industrial war on science.

The result is an unprecedented erosion of thought in Western democracies as voters, policymakers, and justices actively ignore the evidence from science, leaving major policy decisions to be based more on the demands of the most strident voices.

Shawn Lawrence Otto's provocative new book investigates the historical, social, philosophical, political, and emotional reasons for why and how evidence-based politics are in decline and authoritarian politics are once again on the rise, and offers a vision, an argument, and some compelling solutions to bring us to our collective senses, before it's too late.

You don’t have to be a scientist to understand how science works, that it is a process rather than a product, and that it can be done well or poorly. It is in the best interests of humanity to do it well.


Chapter 12
1 – Research a pro-science organization. 375
x – Note to self: divest from fossil fuels.
2 – Battle Plan 2: Which of the initiatives do you find most interesting? 383
3 – Can you find the creation stories in any of: Proverbs, Job, Corinthians or G. John? 393
y – This is, after all, a church based small group.
4 – Doesn’t science already have a code of ethics? 399
5 – Can you in good faith, sign the Science Pledge? 407

Chapter 13
6 - “Instead of arguing on the basis of data, we argue to win.” When do you do this, or NOT? 416
7 – Does Beauty matter most? If not, what does? 416
8 – Would you change the education (either formal or informal) you have received? If so, how? 422
9 – How do you see the future of the world? 426

Chapter 11
1 – Which of the three major “fronts” do you think (feel?) is the most important? Why? 342
2 – The rule of law seems just and reasonable, but who makes the laws? 347
3 – What does a no-growth economic system look like? 348
4 – Can you think of any (significant) economic exchange that has no tyranny? 351
5 – How do you think limitless growth would work? 355
6 – What natural disaster are you most concerned about? Is this related to climate change, and are you insured against the disaster? 360
7 – What is the author really saying in: “within the next decade economics will totally transform the climate-change debate.”? 361
8 - “Civilization is but a huge mutual insurance company against human selfishness.” Does this imply that the U. S. (Government?) is uncivilized? 362
9 – Do you know of anything that is happening within our national government now that is moving in the direction of more ethical treatment of our environmental commons? 366

Chapter 10B
1 – Explain how you think Bill Samman can rationalize his climate change denial? 311
2 – Bring a picture of the hockey-stick graph. 314
3 – Political polarization in this country is increasing greatly. What causes it and how can it be overcome? 317
4 – Does “the economy” actually replace God as the highest ideal for most Americans? 321
5 – What do you think of the idea that we should leave some fossil fuels available for those creatures who evolve after humanity has destroyed itself in, say, a million years? 325
6 – Discuss the papal encyclical on climate change and environmental degradation. How significant do you think it will be? 327
7 – Can you come up with a “best approach” for stopping the industrial war on science? 334
8 – Which of the Top Ten points has the worst response (in our book)? 335
9 – Do you see the USA following the USSR and China into decline as science looses credibility? 317

Chapter 10A
1 – How much do you feel you are being controlled without your knowing it? 259
2 – Science never seems to know quite enough. What should we do about that? 265
3 – Does (your) God have anything to do with “when , how, and if a woman might conceive a child”? 267
4 – How well informed are you about climate change? What are you doing about it? 274
5 – How would you describe the change in style in writing the climate change section of our book? 281
6 – Why do you think there is so little discussion of methane in our book? 287
7 – What problems do you see with science a a hoax? 306
8 – What’s the ethical difference between Rush Limbaugh and screaming “FIRE!” in a crowded theater? 308

Chapter 9

1 – How has your feeling about “accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior” changed over time? 206
2 – Why do you think our author chose the particular definition of life he did on pg. 213? What do you think about a definition of life?
3 – Do you understand the antibiotics problem on pg. 214?
4 – What problems do you see when judges are “responsible to the constitution and the laws of the United States”? 226
5 – All the topics discussed (so far) in this chapter seem so black and white to me. Can you find any discusses subject on which you are at least a bit ambivalent? 231
6 – When did you last (want to) stand up and say, “You know, you’re and idiot!”? 242
7 – Do you have any experience of: You get what you celebrate? 247
8 – Who wins when the issue is stated as: The War on X? How should the issue be restated so the other side “wins”? 252
9 – Is the final sentence rhetorical or scientific? Is this a problem? 256

Chapter 8

1 – Is postmodernism inherently anti-science, or is it just used that way? 173
2 – How well do you think you understand the difference between a modern scientific viewpoint and a postmodern viewpoint? 179
3 – How do you think Newtonian physics is discredited? 182 (see Q. 9)
4 – What do you think “truth” means? 191
5 – Where do you think “model building” and in particular computer modeling fit into the scientific endeavor? 192
6 – Is there an objective world, or not? Can you defend your choice? (or, are you modern or postmodern and how much?) 199
7 – I want to bring up a discussion of tolerance in a reasonable fashion. When is it a good idea and when not? (no page number, just a reflection of the whole chapter)
8 – Postmodernism must have some value. What is it?
9 – I think size is a large part of the problem. Can you see how size is part of our issue here?

Chapter 6

1 – What is it about space programs that make them look more attractive than “down-to-earth” activities? 125
2 – Comments on the seven stages on pg. 130.
3 – What do you think is the cause of the Carl Sagan story on pg. 133? What do you see as a solution?
4 – Do you (now) understand the difference between pesticide use and Genetically Modified foods? Did it change on reading our author? 135
X – Replace the word “faster” with “higher” on pg. 137. Energy at the high end of the visual spectrum is indeed greater, but the speed of electromagnetic radiation is always about 300,000,000 meters / second (in a vacuum). High energy radiation does NOT go faster.
5 – Do you have any unvaccinated descendants? 149

Chapter 7

6 – Let’s take a vote: are you field-dependent or field-independent? (how much?) 152
7 – Drama, Sex, Violence, Comedy: Do you mainly choose one of these or something different? If so, what? 154
8 – How do YOU tell when to be “objective” and when to be “fair and balanced”? 161
9 – Is a postmodern worldview killing us? 165
10 – Why do think objectivity is diminishing among journalists? 167

Chapter 4
1 – Our government is based on the idea that all are “equal and free” in some sense. I know we are not all the same, or “equal”. In what sense are we equal and in what sense are we NOT? Should that make a difference in our government? 77
2 – If our government was based on merit, what dimension would you use as the (main) basis for the test? For example, I think levels of moral development would be an excellent basis. 78
3 – How would you go about balancing resources for basic vs. applied science? 83
4 – What’s the difference between “proved” and “demonstrated”? How important is this difference? 87
5 – Why do you think our author devotes so much space to astronomy? 90 – 96

Chapter 5
6 – Comments on atomic weapons? 102
7 – Do you have any ideas about how to promote the ethical / moral development we appear to require if we are to prosper in our advanced scientific / technological age? 103
8 – Do you feel that the cold war damaged your capacity to plan for the future? 108
9 – Compare the withdrawal of the theologists into their ivory towers with eh withdrawal of scientists into theirs. 115
10 – Where do you exist along the axis of science vs. the humanities? 116

Chapter 2
1 – What part of religion do you take seriously? 49
2 – When do you think life begins? Why? 49
3 – Where would you put yourself generally in the left / right, top / bottom box on pg. 52? Can you think of a case in which you would put yourself in a different box?

Chapter 3
4 – What problems do you see with “natural law”? 60
5 – What do you think about western science being shut down as Arabic science was before? 64
6 – Does the Descartes vs. Bacon section help last weeks discussion? 67
7 – Knowledge and Belief: How do YOU tell the difference? 72
8 – Do you feel fortunate to be American? How much? 76

Chapter 1

1 - “Can we manage the next phase of the scientific revolution...”? Pg 4
2 – What’s wrong with “We are 100% dependent on science and technology to find a solution”? Pg 5
3 – Comment on ONE question from pg 5 – 7.
4 – How well do you understand the difference between a scientific argument and a rhetorical argument? Pg 11
5 – Comment on ONE question from pg 15 – 17.
6 – Has your view of journalism changed during your lifetime, and how? Pg 23
7 – Reconcile the opening Thomas Paine quote (pg ix) with the paragraph about Tom DeLay on pg 26.
8 – How do you feel about legal decisions made by people who don’t understand the underlying science? 39