Salon: Experts Like Piketty and Tyson Prove That Science Has a Liberal Bias

June 11th, 2014 10:19 AM

According to an article last Sunday in the online magazine Salon, there's a new intellectual dynamic duo in town: French economist Thomas Piketty and American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who've become media superstars almost simultaneously over the past few months thanks to Piketty's book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" and Tyson's TV series "Cosmos."

Writer Paul Rosenberg places Piketty and Tyson at the forefront of an evidence-driven pushback against faith-based right-wing doctrine. He lauds each for offering "a big-picture story that helps us collectively make sense of our lives. In Piketty's case, this comes from his insight that capitalism does not just naturally evolve to a state of broader general prosperity." For Tyson, it's his "almost quasi-religious" quest for knowledge about the universe - a quest which evokes "terror" in devoutly anti-science conservatives.

From Rosenberg's piece (emphasis added):

[O]pen-mindedness lies at the heart of what both Piketty and Tyson are up to…

This reflects back onto one of the broadest findings in political psychology, as discussed by Chris Mooney in “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—And Reality.” Namely: Liberalism is correlated with the “big five” personality trait of openness to experience. The exploration of novelty is a recurrent theme linking liberalism and science to one another, just as the veneration of tradition is a recurrent theme linking conservatism and religion

Ironically, economics is the one realm in which conservatives like to think of themselves as having the science on their side. And yet, they’re quite mistaken. The idea that raising the minimum wage will cause mass unemployment, for example, has been refuted by numerous studies. (In the extreme, it’s valid, of course. But nobody’s talking about a $100/hour minimum wage.)

The dogma of trickle-down economics is another example. Cutting taxes for the wealthy was supposed to produce an economic boom…producing so much more wealth that the tax cuts would actually pay for themselves...But Reagan’s tax cuts produced the largest peacetime deficits America had ever seen. The theory was a bust from day one…

Piketty’s work obviously goes against trickle-down, but it goes much further than that…

We can imagine the broadly shared prosperity of the 1950s and ’60s, not just as a distant memory, but as a possible future — this time, shared by all, not just the white mainstream

This is the possibility that Piketty’s work helps open up to us. And it is powerfully reinforced by Tyson’s even broader sense of human possibility and our place in the cosmos.