View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Friday, January 02, 2004

Dean the Scientist

I got my first taste of Howard Dean on Sunday on C-SPAN, and while the sample size was small, the idiocy-to-sense ratio was pretty high, including this whopper (not an exact quote):

As a scientist, I'm trained to think a certain way. You have facts (gestures right) and theory (gestures left). And when the facts conflict with the theory, you throw out the theory. This Administration, they throw out the facts. (Crowd laughs.) That's why we're in Iraq. (Applause.)

First of all, doctors aren't scientists, they're practitioners. Family practice doctors may come up with theories, but they're usually picking from a pre-selected, small set of theories, either diseases they're familiar with or fairly common ones. Mark Steyn has documented quite graphically how Canadian "scientists" pigeonholed all the SARS facts last year into a theory that quite needlessly allowed several thousand people to be exposed to, and several to be killed by, a deadly, communicable disease. Doctors don't create new theories. Doctors make use of the best science has to offer. But unless they're doing research, they're not scientists.

"That's why we're in Iraq?" Here Dean must be referring to the WMDs. As Hugh Hewitt points out, absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. It's still a big country, and the WMDs would be small. Maybe they don't exist, but there's not an intelligence service in the world outside of Baghdad that thought so 10 months ago.

Dean then went on to explain that the Administration's theory was the "global warming doesn't exist." Well, not exactly. The Administration's position is that there aren't enough facts to prove that we're causing global warming. That's a very different matter, leaving a specifc hypothesis unproved, rather than claiming to deny actual data. Michael Crichton has discussed how global warming theory appears to be arrived at by consensus, when science doesn't operate by consensus. But apparently this small subtlety was beneath the notice of trained scientist Howard Dean.

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