Our Superstitious President

President Obama talks a lot about the scientific method. On climate change, he has often invoked the idea of a great divide between those on the progressive left, such as himself, who believe in “settled science” and thus a looming man-caused climatological disaster, and those, presumably on the Neanderthal Right, who are slaves to superstition, ideology, prejudice, and self-interest—and thus deny that the planet is rapidly warming due to inordinate human-induced releases of excessive carbon.

Obama’s view of science is reductionist. It relies on count-em-up numbers: if more university professors (not known to be an especially independent or courageous cohort) believe in dangerous man-caused climate change than doubt it or its seriousness, and if climate change fits a larger progressive agenda, then it becomes factual.

Would we assume thereby that Newton, Galileo, and Darwin were all exemplars of groupthink, and worked through consensus and collegiality, especially with the support of status-quo institutions and universities, in advancing majority-held theories?

When Obama signed legislation in his first weeks in office enabling human stem cell research, he pontificated that his act was about ensuring “that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda and that we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology.” Aside from the fact that there were and are methodologies of harvesting stem cells without resort to embryonic protocols, the president’s entire approach to science, data, and the inductive method is to privilege ideology and subordinate facts.

In short, Obama is the most anti-science, anti-factual president in modern memory.

The president has warned the nation, usually on the most inappropriate and untimely occasions, of the American tendency to succumb to Islamophobia. But to support such an assumed pathology, the president adduced no evidence that Americans are more likely to target Muslims than other groups.

If we were to rely on “scientific” research, there is statistical evidence that in general hate crimes in the U.S. are rare, and that in particular they tend to focus on Jews. The most recent survey (2014) of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program shows 58% of hate crimes were directed at Jews, while just 16% were against Muslims. Thus, if the president felt that there was a real danger of American citizens or residents harming others due to their religions, then obviously he would warn us not to attack Jews, who suffer more hate crimes than all other religious groups combined.

As a student of science, Obama should incorporate such findings in his pop editorializing and not, for example, sloppily characterize the deliberate sorting and murdering of four Jews in a Paris delicatessen as if it were a random attack on “a bunch of folks” (e.g., “violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris”).

If Obama really wished to address hate crimes in more precise scientific fashion, he would ask for data concerning not just the most likely group to suffer such attacks, but the most likely group statistically to commit them. But then again there is an anti-scientific resistance to investigating the matter further, given the likely results that would suggest an unwelcome reality.