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Three Faces of Environmental Politics Science, Ideology, and Office-Holding I. Controversies in Environmental Politics Are Navy sonar tests worth the environmental costs? I. Controversies in Environmental Politics Are Navy sonar tests worth the environmental costs?

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Three faces of environmental politics l.jpg

Three Faces of Environmental Politics

Science, Ideology, and Office-Holding


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I. Controversies in Environmental Politics

  • Are Navy sonar tests worth the environmental costs?


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I. Controversies in Environmental Politics

  • Are Navy sonar tests worth the environmental costs?

  • Should SUVs be held to the same standards as cars?


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I. Controversies in Environmental Politics

  • Are Navy sonar tests worth the environmental costs?

  • Should SUVs be held to the same standards as cars?

  • Will more nuclear power help or harm the environment?


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I. Controversies in Environmental Politics

  • Are Navy sonar tests worth the environmental costs?

  • Should SUVs be held to the same standards as cars?

  • Will more nuclear power help or harm the environment?

  • Can humans prevent climate change?


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I. Controversies in Environmental Politics

  • Are Navy sonar tests worth the environmental costs?

  • Should SUVs be held to the same standards as cars?

  • Will more nuclear power help or harm the environment?

  • Can humans prevent climate change?

  • When should we punish people for harming animals?


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The Core Problem

  • Real environmental controversies have scientific, moral, and political elements

  • But we are…

    • Nonscientists who must learn to evaluate science

    • Humans who must find a way to assign value to nature

    • Citizens who must evaluate the policies of office-holders

  • How can we accomplish this?


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II. What is Science?

  • This question is not trivial: it is a major argument on many environmental issues

  • My approach: Recount the history and philosophy of science in order to discover “rules” for

    • Separating science from pseudo-science

    • Comparing two scientific theories or explanations


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A. Ancient Science

  • Plato – World of ideas vs. World of senses

    • World of Senses = Unreliable – Analogy of shadows on a wall; everything we see is imperfect and incomplete in some way.

    • World of Ideas = Truth. Only logic can reveal the true nature of the world. Idea of perfect “Forms” which are more real than anything we see.


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2. Aristotelian Science

  • Rejection of Platonic epistemology – Aristotle believes that nature is real and must be studied, using a deductive method

  • Rejection of experiment – goal is to understand what is “natural” and changing nature is not “natural”

  • Method = Look for categories in nature and deduce “essence” of things.


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Example 1: Aristotelian Biology

  • Aristotle observes that male sheep, goats and pigs have more teeth than females

  • Aristotle argues that men have more vitality than women (hotter “essence”)

  • Aristotle therefore concludes that men have more teeth than women, “by reason of the abundance of heat and blood which is more in men than in women”

  • Men and women have the same number of teeth (on average) – Aristotle never bothered to check


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Example 2: Aristotelian Gravity

  • Earth is the center of the universe

  • Objects made from the earth naturally attempt to return there (i.e. fall to the ground)

  • The heavier an object is, the more it desires to be in its natural state

  • Objects actually fall at the same rate, regardless of mass


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d. Ptolemy: Facts  models, not the other way around

Example: use math to estimate positions of the planets, not to describe their “real” motion. Justification = many models describe identical data (apparent motion of planets)


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B. The Enlightenment: Essentialism Rejected

  • Rediscovery of ancient texts – reveals ancients didn’t know all the answers (example: Ptolemy’s orbits aren’t accurate)

  • Belief in progress – As economic growth and technology advanced, people came to believe that we would know more in the future (vs. wisdom of the ancients)


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3. The Copernican Revolution

  • Heliocentrism: Copernicus argued that planets revolved around the sun – simpler system than Ptolemy, but not (initially) better at predicting planets’ positions


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b. Scientists compare models: Cumulative knowledge

  • Observations undermine idea of “heavenly spheres” – Tycho Brahe observes comet passing through planetary orbits

  • Galileo observes phases of Venus (predicted by Copernican model but not by Ptolemaic model) and moons of Jupiter (not everything revolves around Earth)

  • Kepler discovers that geometry (ellipse) describes planetary motion (theory: sun/God animates the universe)

  • Newton theorizes that simple mathematical laws of gravity might explain Kepler’s model of planetary motion


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C. Logical Positivism

  • Positivism: 19th-Century idea that scientific knowledge is the only authentic knowledge.

  • Logical positivism (early 20th century): Only statements proven true through logic (deduction) or observation (induction) are to be accepted. Fact vs. value distinction.

  • Process:

    • Induction: Prove statements true through observation, then…

    • Deduction: combine these statements to make new predictions


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4. Problems of Logical Positivism

  • The Inductive Fallacy – How many observations does it take to “confirm” a theory?


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Inductive Fallacy

Will always get fed at 9 AM

Christmas at 9 AM

Fed at 9 AM everyday

for the past few months


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Inductive Fallacy (continued)

  • How many functions (explanations) will perfectly explain the data?

  • An infinite number, making dramatically different predictions


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4. Problems of Logical Positivism

  • The Inductive Fallacy – How many observations does it take to “confirm” a theory?

  • The Demarcation Problem – Empirical observation and attempts at confirmation don’t separate science and pseudo-science


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Who uses empirical methods?

  • Astrologers: Mass of horoscopes, biographies, star charts


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Who uses empirical methods?

  • Astrologers: Mass of horoscopes, biographies, star charts

  • Phrenologists: Thousands of skull measurements


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Who uses empirical methods?

  • Astrologers: Mass of horoscopes, biographies, star charts

  • Phrenologists: Thousands of skull measurements

  • “Scientific” racists: One recent author tabulates 620 separate studies of average IQ from 100 different countries with a total sample size of 813,778 to confirm hypotheses of racial differences


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C. Falsificationism

  • Karl Popper: Stop trying to confirm theories and try falsifying them instead

  • Method: Make novel predictions with theory that prove the theory false if they fail to occur (critical experiments)

  • Result: Scientific theories are never proven true. Science consists of conjectures (theories which haven’t failed yet) and refutations (those which have failed)


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4. The Demarcation Problem

  • Allows us to reject astrology, etc as pseudo-science: Astrologers rarely make testable predictions, and don’t give up astrology when they fail

  • Popper argues that Marxism and Freudianism are both pseudo-science (example of “false consciousness” in Marxism) – enough ifs, ands, and buts allow them to “explain” anything after the fact, but predict nothing novel


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5. Problems of Falsificationism

  • The ceteris paribus Clause – Theories are tested “all else being equal” but it never is.

  • Virtually all useful scientific theories had “anomalies” when first stated (Copernicus, plate tectonics, etc) – strict falsificationism is a recipe for ignorance

  • Popper’s solution: require a replacement theory that explains everything the old one did, plus something else, before abandoning old theory (may mean we retain pseudoscience…)


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D. Social Models of Science

  • Kuhn’s “Paradigm Shifts”

    • Idea: Science is a social activity that proceeds under a “paradigm” of unquestioned assumptions about the world and a set of problems considered to be critical (value decision)

    • Every interesting theory has anomalies – things that seem inconsistent with the theory.

    • “Normal science” is puzzle-solving; unexplained anomalies are simply assumed to be unsolved puzzles – scientists usually suppress novel explanations if they can retain their paradigms (Tycho Brahe believed in an earth-centered universe, plate tectonics was rejected for decades, etc)


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d. Scientific Revolutions

  • When enough anomalies start piling up (especially ones that get in the way of practical uses of science), new explanations begin to receive a hearing

  • At some point, the new explanation becomes the “expected” explanation – a new paradigm

  • Note that this is a social process – we cannot be sure the new paradigm is any “better” or more accurate than the old one. It’s just…different.


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2. Lakatos: Research Programs

  • Goal: Retain idea of falsification while acknowledging that scientists do not actually reject theories when anomalies are found

  • Objections to Kuhn:

    • Kuhn offers no way of comparing paradigms – but science often looks like it has “progressed” over the past centuries

    • Most fields have multiple “paradigms” at the same time


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c. The Methodology of Scientific Research Programs

  • Research programs rely on multiple theories to identify problems and solve puzzles

  • Each scientific research program has a “hard core” of unquestioned assumptions and a “protective belt” of auxiliary hypotheses (i.e. attempts to “save” the program from falsification)

  • Evaluation: Look for “progressive” research programs (making new predictions and discoveries) and reject “degenerative” ones (simply adding to the protective belt without offering new knowledge)


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Example: Neptune

  • Astronomers discovered that the orbit of Uranus didn’t match Newton’s predictions

  • They did NOT give up Newtonian physics

  • They DID add a new item to the protective belt: something else must be “perturbing” the orbit of Uranus

  • This turned out to be Neptune: Progressive change to research program

  • What if…no Neptune? Could hypothesize that some unobservable force acts only on Uranus  no new predictions = degenerative shift


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d. The Demarcation Problem

  • This was the assigned reading by Lakatos

  • How do we know pseudoscience?

    • It critiques science without offering an alternative set of predictions

    • It continually invents new hypotheses that explain its previous failures but do NOT make new, falsifiable predictions


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E. Conclusion: Standards for Evaluating Science

  • Every model must be tested against another model

    • Simplest model = random chance (systematic studies of astrology usually show it fails this test)

    • It takes a model to beat a model – Where an existing theory outperforms chance, critics are obligated to suggest a better explanation for the facts


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2. What makes one explanation better than another?

  • Progressive vs. degenerative research programs – A theory or set of theories that keeps making novel, falsifiable predictions beats one that keeps adding new assumptions just to explain what we already know or generates untestable hypotheses

  • Utility – Since we cannot be sure theories are True or False (ceteris paribus problem) they need to be useful. Preference for parsimonious theories using observable variables.


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III. Ideology

  • Ideology defined: A connected set of beliefs about what the world should look like

    • Preferences between states of the world

    • Rationality: Connected and transitive preferences


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B. Science vs. Ideology?

  • Science cannot “disprove” ideology – because they address different questions!

  • Prediction vs. Prescription – “Taxes stifle growth” vs. “Taxes should be cut.”

    • Ideology adds the “should”

    • Ideology may cause people to make empirical statements (i.e. taxes and growth) but the statement is not a necessary part of the ideology


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3. Styles of argument

  • Science: Hypothesis-testing and theory-comparison using data

  • Ideology: The “lawyer” style – Starting with a conclusion and building a case from confirming evidence

  • Implication: Scientists can also be ideologues – “CO2 increases average temperatures” vs. “Global warming must be stopped”


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C. Activism: How ideologues work

  • What do Americans think about the environment?

    a. The importance of salience: relative weight of different issues


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C. Activism: How ideologues work

  • What do Americans think about the environment?

    • The importance of salience: relative weight of different issues

    • General sympathy for environmental movement (activists)


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C. Activism: How ideologues work

  • What do Americans think about the environment?

    • The importance of salience: relative weight of different issues

    • General sympathy for environmental movement (activists)

    • Perception of environment as distant problem


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2. Tactics of environmental activists

  • Raising the salience of the environment

    • Time pressure: Argue a “brink” in the near future

    • Irrevocable damage: Argue that environmental damage is different from economic damage, i.e. cannot be repaired

    • Magnify impacts: Argue that environmental damage is worse than other problems, i.e. risks human extinction or other catastrophe


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b. Framing the issues

  • “Anti-Environmentalism” – Since public supports environmentalism, activists portray opponents as anti-environment

  • The political use of science – Portray opponents as ignorant of environmental science


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3. Is there an anti-environment ideology?

  • Who hates Earth? Not a serious interest group

  • Key = some people have objectives they value MORE than environmental protection

  • What are those objectives? Not a unified ideology: National security, economic growth, profits, property rights, etc.

  • Most common adversary of environmental movement = businesses


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4. Tactics of business interests

  • General strategies

    • Key = be seen as pro-environment

    • Emphasize issues of higher salience (gas prices, jobs)

  • “Greenwashing”

    • Diversionary greenwashing – advertise small-scale support for environment while inflicting large-scale damage


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This GE ad targets environmental sympathies.

What is the message of the ad?


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Ford

  • Not mentioned in the ad: is they only produce 20,000 of these cars a year, while continuing to produce almost 80,000 F-series trucks per month!


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Mobil Oil

  • “Helping the Earth Breathe Easier” campaign

  • Focuses on financial support for environmental groups


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ii. Obfuscatory Greenwashing

  • Goal = sell environmentally-destructive activity as environmentally-friendly

  • Example: “They call it pollution. We call it life.”


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iii. Defensive Greenwashing

  • Attempts to shift responsibility from activities of business to other businesses or consumers

  • Example: Ad by Clean Sky Coalition (group of natural gas companies) 

  • Another example: Keep America Beautiful was founded by corporations threatened by mandatory recycling / waste reduction proposals. Their most famous ad: Crying Indian


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c. Astroturfing: Front groups

  • Problem: People don’t believe it when corporations defend their business models as good for everyone (suspicion of self-interest)

  • Solution: Create groups that appear to be composed of scientists, environmentalists, economists, workers, etc. Use them as mouthpieces for the same arguments.

  • Distinct from ordinary funding: Involves complete control over group’s message


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Examples

  • Corporate-owned

    • Clean Skies Coalition (pro-gas): Entirely composed of natural gas companies

    • Air Quality Standards Coalition (against mandatory emissions controls): Chaired by National Association of Manufacturers

    • Sea Lion Defense Fund (against fishing quotas): Association of Alaskan fishing companies

  • Extensions of PR/Lobbying Firms

    • Alliance for Better Foods (pro-GMO foods/anti-labeling): Run by BSMG Worldwide on behalf of clients such as Monsanto

    • National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (seeks to weaken ESA): Shares a fax number with lobbying firm Van Ness Feldman


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IV. Office-Holding and Politics

  • Politics Defined: Who Gets What? – or “The authoritativeallocation of resources and values.”

    • Implication: Politics creates winners and losers

    • Key Terms:

      • Authority: Government has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, so it is the only one with the authority to allocate.

      • Resource Allocation: Money, labor, and even commodities

      • Allocation of Values: Deciding between incompatible moral or ethical principles



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C. Agenda-Setting allocated?

  • Proposing alternatives to the status quo

    • Status Quo: The way things are (the current system)

  • How do office-holders view demands made by citizens? Assume their perspective for a moment…


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1. Individuals allocated?


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1. Individuals allocated?







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4. Benefits of Organization response

a. Credible Commitment -- Conditional support

b. Outreach -- Publicity, Money, Media Access

c. Persuasion -- Information to representatives


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5. How to Initiate Change in the US response

  • Representatives: The Elected

    • Use Money, Votes, Publicity

      • Math for politicians:

      • Anything + Money = Anything Else




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5. How to Initiate Change in the US response

  • Representatives: The Elected

    • Use Money, Votes, Publicity

      • Math for politicians:

      • Anything + Money = Anything Else

  • b. Bureaucrats: Experts and Career Officials

    • Use Information

  • c. Appointees: Judges, Cabinet, etc.

    • Indirect: Target Appointers

    • Direct: Information, Lobbying, or Lawsuits

  • d. ALL: Illegal bribes, Influence Peddling (e.g. revolving-door lobbying), etc.


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B. Government Action response1. Legislation

a. Logrolling: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours

From the early American practice of neighbors gathering to help clear land by rolling off and burning felled timber.


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Example of Logrolling response

  • Republicans add ethanol subsidies to 2002 Energy bill to attract votes of Democrats from Iowa and the Dakotas

  • Several Democratic Senators (including majority leader Daschle-SD) vote for the bill, enabling its passage


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a. Logrolling: You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours response

b. Partisanship

From the early American practice of neighbors gathering to help clear land by rolling off and burning felled timber.

B. Government Action1. Legislation


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2. Bureaucratic Change response

  • Regulation: Power delegated to Executive agencies by Congress

  • Enforcement of laws

    • 1981: Anne Gorsuch appointed to head Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). First act = close enforcement office (to avoid the embarassment of overturning popular environmental standards)


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3. Judicial Change response

a. Judicial Review: Power of courts to review laws

b. Interpretation: Court must interpret words like “navigable waters” and “pollutant”

c. Limit: Chevron deference (if law is unclear, then defer to Executive)


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C. Citizen Response response

  • The Media

    • Ideology: Generally economically “conservative” – both owners and reporters critical of deficits, taxes, wasteful spending, limits on trade and immigration, etc. – but socially liberal (and quite pro-environment)

    • Bias

      • Spin Bias: General tendency to sensationalize stories for immediate impact. Favors catastrophic environmental scenarios over stories about incremental damage.

      • Citation Bias: Fox (Right), Other Broadcast Networks (Left)


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C. Citizen Response response

  • The Media

    • Ideology: Generally economically “conservative” – both owners and reporters critical of deficits, taxes, wasteful spending, limits on trade and immigration, etc. – but socially liberal (and quite pro-environment)

    • Bias

      • Spin Bias: General tendency to sensationalize stories for immediate impact. Favors catastrophic environmental scenarios over stories about incremental damage.

      • Citation Bias: Fox (Right), Other Broadcast Networks (Left)

      • Effect of Bias: Remarkably small, due to self-selection by voters


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c. How the media covers science stories response

  • Science reporters know little about science – they are journalists

  • “Both sides of the story” – Reports on candy and tooth decay must include sugar spokesperson… Does this create false equivalence, or is it necessary for fairness?

  • No follow-up – Media loves new “discoveries” but seldom reports on whether they hold up to replication


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2. How Politicians Manipulate Activists response

  • “Lesser of two evils” – Convince issue group to put party ID ahead of issue stance in individual races

  • Janus-Face – Politicians say what activists want to hear

  • The Takeover – Political activists try to gain control of established organizations (Sierra Club immigration battle, NRA shifts from sporting to gun rights)

  • Front Groups – Can convince activists to oppose one’s opponent


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3. Elections: The Environmentalist Office-Holder’s Dilemma response

  • Environmentalism is popular – but seldom affects vote choice, despite public support for Democratic policies on the issue. Why?

    • Low salience

    • Small perceived differences between candidates on matters of environmental policy – Probably due to low information

    • Environmentalism is weaker than partisan feeling – Republicans seldom switch votes due to the issue, and independents see liitle difference between parties.

  • Economic performance DOES affect vote choice


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Bush 2004 response

Gore 2000

  • Economy:


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4. Behavior response

  • Protest: “Battle of Seattle,” Eco-Terrorism (ELF)

  • Non-compliance: 55 MPH Limit


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V. Evaluating Environmental Controversies response

  • Separate the questions

    • Claims about observable variables

      • Descriptive claims – Arguments about the true value of a measurable variable, or about its direction or rate of change

      • Causal statements – Arguments that increases in an independent variable will increase or decrease a dependent variable.

    • Claims about unobservable variables (i.e. the distant future or what might have been)

    • Claims about values (should/ought statements)


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B. The right methods for the right questions response

  • Descriptive or causal statements – use scientific reasoning (compare theories, choosing for progressive research programs over degenerative ones)

    • Physical science – Use physical scientific theories

    • Social science – Use models of politics and/or economics

  • Unobservable variables – Use the best available theory on observable variables to predict the unobservable ones


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3. Philosophy and Religion response

  • Value claims require moral reasoning

  • Goals of moral philosophy (scholars disagree about which ones are important)

    • Consistency – Treat morally similar situations similarly (the same rules apply to all)

    • Comfort – Willingness to accept/follow the overall philosophy

    • Utility – The system should be usable to quickly render moral judgments using available data

  • Value claims have political implications – about who should get what


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