Is RealClearScience Conservative or Liberal?

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

One of the questions we are often asked at RealClearScience is, “What sort of position do you take on scientific issues?” That’s a not-so-subtle way of asking, “Is RealClearScience conservative or liberal?” We are pleased to announce that we are neither.

Earlier this year, we published an article explaining our editorial position on various hot-button topics. Unlike politicians or most other journalists, however, we do not arrive at our conclusions first and find data to support them later. Instead, we are guided by one overarching principle: Data comes first, and personal ideology comes second (or, preferably, dead last). If the evidence changes, our worldview allows us the flexibility and honesty to change our opinion, as well.

Though the three members of our editorial team possess three distinct political worldviews (two of us voted for Obama in 2008, and two of us voted for Romney in 2012), we find ourselves in near unanimous agreement on what many consider to be “controversial” science topics. Why? Because when it comes to science, we put data first. Period.

Yet, despite our insistence on adhering to this guiding principle like a gecko’s toe on a freshly polished window, we are still regularly accused — in e-mails, comment sections, and on other websites — of being conservative or liberal. Here are some examples:

• In our most recent “controversial” piece, in which we reported on the results of a PNAS paper that concluded that marijuana may adversely affect brain structure, our readers accused us of having a conservative bias. This accusation was heaved at us despite the fact that all three of us support the legalization of marijuana, a decidedly center-left or libertarian position. (I even openly admitted to voting for legalization in the pages of USA Today.)

• In a piece on the American suicide epidemic, we suggested — based on what is known about suicide prevention strategies — that making guns harder to obtain would lower the suicide rate. Protecting the sanctity of human life is a decidedly conservative position, but for that opinion, we were accused of being liberal gun-grabbers.

• Last year, we criticized Portland for rejecting the fluoridation of its water supply, a policy that is overwhelmingly supported by scientific data and the public health community. For that, we were called “a national lab-rat news aggregator owned by Forbes.” We have no idea what that means, but considering the radical left-wing source of the ad hominem, it was probably meant to be an attack aimed at conservatives. (We were not offended, but we did take issue with the gratuitous potshot at lab rats.)

• For articles in which we have explained the science behind climate change, e.g., by busting the myth behind “global cooling,” we have been indicted on charges of pushing a left-wing agenda. When we explain further that climate change is not nearly as big of a concern as poverty and infectious disease, we are accused of being Republican cronies. When we add that we believe a carbon tax is a good policy, we are part of a UN conspiracy to enrich the global liberal elite. When we ask climate alarmists and deniers to calm down, we are accused of enabling the global warming hoax. Go figure.

• It also goes without saying that for articles in which we support the excellent science that comes out of industry in any way whatsoever — be it biotechnology or nuclear power — we are accused of being corporate shills and right-wing money-grubbers.

• And, of course, for supporting “three-parent embryo” technology, we are Nazis.

So, is RealClearScience conservative or liberal? If we are hearing our critics correctly, we are both, and something much worse: right-wing, liberty-hating, environment-killing, gun-grabbing, Earth-polluting, corporate-loving, science-pretending socialist totalitarian flunkies who have no business writing about science.

Fair enough.