Friday, July 10, 2009

Science is Nuclear Power. QED.

The Blogger Who Blogs on Secular Right as David Hume (TBWBoSRaDH)* endeavors to establish that American liberals are just as hostile to science as American conservatives, so he rolls right past all the weaker arguments and unleashes the persuasive might of 16-year-old poll results combined with the disarmingly bold equation of science with nuclear energy. Hold fast the tatters of your commitments and feel the cogency:

The GSS has a few nuclear related questions asked in 1993-1994. Below the fold are attitudes toward nuclear energy (columns add to 100%) broken down by self-reported ideology. Additionally, I controlled for education & race by limiting a second sample to whites with college degrees or higher. The effect remains; liberals are (or were in 1993-1994) hostile to nuclear power than conservatives.
Truly TBWBoSRaDH has cranked this one up to 11 on the persuade-o-meter: I am flummoxed, unhorsed, stripped to the very last threads of my mental knickers!

That said, I believe I speak for all liberals when I say the following, because I think I speak for reality when I say the following: nuclear power and science are not the same thing. I would go beyond that and observe, with the caveat that I have not checked the wording of the 16-year-old poll that's carrying so much argumentative weight here, that nuclear power and nuclear waste are not the same thing.

For the sake of those recently fallen from the turnip truck, both of these distinctions matter. In the abstract, I adore nuclear power -- such massive power from such plentiful sources! In the non-abstract, where no one has developed any good answers for transporting or disposing of nuclear waste, and where no one has devised a human-frailty-free nuclear plant design, and where radiation maims and kills living things with extreme efficiency, and where these hazards are not matters of wild-eyed hypotheticals (with one noteworthy exception), I am very wary of nuclear power.

Which is to say, we liberals have reality-based, twaddle-free reasons to be wary of nuclear power. The same is not true of conservatism's rank denialism, whether loosely or tightly wound up with speculative metaphysical fancy, on such scientific matters as stem cell research, climate change, and evolution.

* Henceforth, until this person gives himself a less confusing screen name, one that does not step over the name of the still widely-read 18th century philosopher, or until my mood swings another way, I shall refer to him as TBWBoSRaDH.


Anonymous said...

Depositing the waste into deep sea subduction zones is a 100% scientific, completely safe method of disposal.

To deny the safety of deep sea subduction zones is to deny the theory of plate tectonics.

The only opposition is from a taboo against putting nuclear waste into the ocean. This opposition is 100%, completely, without any excuse, anti scientific.

Anonymous said...

And one more thing, molten salt reactors are immune to human error.

If you believe the laws of physics, that is. Physics deniers will have problems with the concept of inherent reactor safety.

Dale said...

Hey Anon., does the deep-sea subduction zone idea come with equally iron-clad assurances that it won't disrupt ocean life? Is that radiation going to avoid making its way through the food chain to, say, tuna? Crab? Shrimp? Etcetera? By what mechanism?

Does the idea come with hitherto undescribed methods of transportation from far-flung nuclear power plants to these subduction zone dump sites? Is doubting the safety and integrity of these transportation methods tantamount to doubting the science of plate techtonics?

These questions are asked in good faith. An energy-hungry world awaits your answers.

Razib said...

endeavors to establish that American liberals are just as hostile to science as American conservatives

no, i don't think they are "just" as hostile. just on different issues.

Anonymous said...

It could be melted into shielding before being loaded onto the ship.

Lost cargo could be retrieved by deep sea robots, such technology is completely available.

Its also unfathomably unreasonable to predicate every human action on not having the measurable probability of killing other life. The only practical way to do that is to kill yourself, as your going to end up killing something in the process of maintaining your vital functions.

Dale said...

Anon., that's a magnificent example of a straw man argument. Where did I insist on "not having the measurable probability of killing other life"? I would like to know. Where did liberalism insist on it? Is liberalism now jainism? When did this change happen, and why wasn't I told?

These "completely available" deep-sea nuclear-waste-fetching robots of which you speak so highly -- just how "completely available" are they? Do you get them through those Hammacher-Schlemmer catalogs, or what? Are they "completely available" to, say, pirates? Pirates who might want to pull up the stuff and use them for "dirty" bombs? By which I mean to illustrate that the futuristic "what if" techno babblings cut both ways.

I know, I know. Nuclear waste is as safe as mother's milk.

No, it isn't. You know it isn't. There are degrees of risk. The waste produced by, say, oil refining is nothing we'd want to stir into the lunchtime stew, but it's simply not on the same level of risk as nuclear waste.

As bad as the worst oil spills have been, they can't truly compare with Chernobyl, and Chernobyl was just a glimmer of what's possible.

I'm not saying "no nukes." I am saying there are real & substantial risks and that these risks require realistic, workable mitigation.