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August 10, 2005

Lobbyist Central Station

Julian Sanchez writes:

Notes from the Lounge: Et tu, TCS?: Y'know, I frequently disagree with pieces TechCentralStation runs--I expect to--but I don't usually expect to feel embarassed for them. On Monday they ran this ridiculous defense of Intelligent Design, and I'm embarassed for them.... I say this not by way of rebuttal--that would treat the article with a seriousness it scarcely merits--but just to express a modicum of dismay that a site that runs a fair amount of science reporting that, whether or not it happens to be correct on other points, is at any rate serious and interesting, would commit this kind of credibility seppuku...

Isn't that a little naive, Julian? Look at what's on the front page of TCS right now. Including the Spencer article http://techcentralstation.com/080805I.html that (rightly) makes you blush, I count six things that make me embarrassed:

I am embarrassed for them by James Glassman's mendacious defense of his Dow 36000 book: TCS: Tech Central Station - My Stalker: "By the way, none of the tumultuous events of the past six years has changed our minds about our thesis. In fact, despite terrorist attacks and a recession, price-to-earnings ratios have remained high, in historic terms, just as we predicted..." We all know that Dow 36000 predicted not that price-earnings ratios would remain at their ca. 1999 levels, but would triple over the next three to five years--i.e., by 2002-2004.

I am embarrassed for them by John Tabin's inability to grasp the point that there is good reason to fear that the private sector won't do enough basic R&D because that kind of intellectual property is hard to appropriate: TCS: Tech Central Station - Big Government Libertarianism: "It's true enough that NIH has long loomed large in funding this sort of research. But must it be so? Consider the larger research and development picture. About two-thirds of American R&D is now funded by the private sector, with taxpayers picking up the tab on the remaining third. As recently as 1970, the figures were reversed: Two-thirds of R&D funding came from Washington. Meanwhile, total R&D funding has in recent decades grown sharply. It should be no surprise that when government support stays relatively flat, the private sector more than picks up the slack. Is there any reason to think that research on embryos should be different?..."

I am embarrassed for them by Douglas Kern's strange take of U.S. history coupled with denunciations of the "apathy and indolence" of the Basrans: TCS: Tech Central Station - Hope Springs Infernal: "Consider the civil rights movement in the United States. The hagiographers of the baby boomer generation would have you believe that the enlightened preciousness of students and liberals made the civil rights revolution possible. But the true spark that lighted the fire of justice was the huge economic improvement that blacks enjoyed after World War II.... This taste of comfort provided an irresistible impetus for a growing, motivated black middle class to stand up against injustices that stood between them and the lives they had almost achieved.... [T]he average Iraqi now enjoys prospects and possibilities that were unimaginable three years ago.... The freedom to succeed and prosper is also the freedom to fall... in an underdeveloped country, failure means disease and empty bellies.... [A] thimbleful of prosperity creates a hunger for an affluence that may exceed the abilities of the current generation. Through television, through the internet cafés, and through conversation with Americans, the average Iraqi is aware of a world of colossal wealth, spectacular science, and undreamt-of desires, all seemingly within reach.... [Y]et his ability to thrive in a democratic, capitalist country grows slowly and unevenly. The ensuing envy, shame, and frustration are ripe for revolutionaries and utopians to exploit. So behold Basra: a city whose thriving middle-class citizens demand a first-world infrastructure even as they maintain third-world habits of apathy and indolence."

I am embarrassed for them by Ryan Sager's belief that we shouldn't try to set up better governmental institutions because "politicians are politicians," coupled with the declaration that Senator McCain and his Republican followers are a "front group funded by eight liberal foundations": TCS: Tech Central Station - Where Angels Fear to Tread: The FEC: "What this means, however, is that what's often called the "reform community" -- actually, it's a collection of front groups funded by eight liberal foundations -- is constantly left clucking its tongue at the "corrupt" FEC.... [T]he speech police have absolutely no standing to whine and moan when their proposed picks -- a list of uber-reformers being floated by Sen. McCain's office -- are dismissed out of hand. Politicians are politicians all of the time.... There aren't any in Congress or at the White House. And the sooner arrogant reformers like Sen. McCain and Fred Wertheimer realize that they're no angels either, the better for all of us -- and for the Constitution."

Last, I am embarrassed for them by Frederick Turner's misrepresentation of the debate over whether "Intelligent Design" should be taught in science classes as one in which both those you say "yes" and those who say "no" are equally wrong: TCS: Tech Central Station - Divine Evolution: "Religious views -- whether theistic or atheistic -- are, alas, the same: for our view to be right, all the others must be wrong. But as the evolution/design debate develops, more serious and thoughtful voices have joined in -- people whose thinking does not seem to be limited by partisan or ideological preconceptions, and who are not making the issue, as others have, a proxy for a fight about theology or atheism. Such voices include TCS's Lee Harris, James Pinkerton, and Nick Schulz, and the participants in the interesting dialogue at Natural History magazine.... A common vocabulary is emerging. The ground may now be prepared for a transformation of the debate from a partisan wrangle into a true conversation, a fruitful inquiry that includes good biological science but does not exclude the insights of other disciplines..."

Given its place in the DCI Group (see http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2003/0312.confessore.html), TCS must fail to have proper intellectual controls. It must, sooner or later, commit the "gross lapse[s] in editorial judgement... [that] leave the intellectually serious casual reader fully justified in dismissing anything that appears there in the future."

Posted by DeLong at August 10, 2005 05:35 PM