The War on Science and Fact-based RealityPosted: April 4, 2012
What does it say about a country where a large segment of the population works to enact laws and policies that are openly hostile to scientific thought and findings? Hand-in-hand with the war against public education and civil rights has come a war on science. It relies on billionaire-funded ideological think tanks, ignorant and hateful media blovaiators, and fundamentalist religions. What is so scary about modernity and scientific findings that a large number of states want to make it illegal?
Evolution is as an accepted theory among biologists as global warming is among scientists who study climate. The idea that a fetus is viable before the third trimester or can feel pain early in development is a view only held outside the medical community. Why is it that scientists and their life long research are held in less esteem than ideological and theological wishful thinking?
Here’s some great examples of how one major political party is the party of the Age of Unreason.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) announced yesterday that he will “probably” sign a bill that attacks the teaching of “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning” by giving broad new legal immunities to teachers who question evolution and other widely accepted scientific theories. Under the bill, which passed the state legislature last month:
Neither the state board of education, nor any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or any public elementary or secondary school principal or administrator shall prohibit any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
Although the bill is written to seem benign, as it neither specifically authorizes the teaching of creationism nor permits teachers to do more than criticize scientific theories “in an objective matter,” the practical impact of this bill will be to intimidate all but the heartiest of school administrators against disciplining teachers who preach the most outlandish junk science in their classrooms. Because the bill provides little guidance as to what constitutes an “objective” criticism of a scientific theory, any principal who reigns in teachers who force creationism or Pastafarianism upon their students risks finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
In reality, of course, there are few, if any, “objectively” valid objections to the theory of evolution (or, for that matter, to global warming). Rather, as Travis Waldron explained when this bill passed a legislative committee nearly a year ago, “Scientists have reached a consensus that evolution is ‘one of the most robust and widely accepted principles of modern science,’ and as such, it is ‘a core element in science education.’”
This is seriously ridiculous given that molecular biology and the associated field of genetics as well as the fossil record have provided more and not less evidence on the Theory of Evolution. What’s next? Denying gravity?
Nebraska and other states have banned abortions after 20 weeks under all circumstances. That even includes situations where the pregnancy will never result in a live baby or healthy mother. So much for the lie of small, unobtrusive government.
Danielle Deaver was 22 weeks pregnant when her water broke and doctors gave her a devastating prognosis: With undeveloped lungs, the baby likely would never survive outside the womb, and because all the amniotic fluid had drained, the tiny growing fetus slowly would be crushed by the uterus walls.
“What we learned from the perinatologist was that because there was no cushion, she couldn’t move her arms and legs because of contractures,” said Deaver, a 34-year-old nurse from Grand Isle, Neb. “And her face and head would be deformed because the uterus pushed down so hard.”
After having had three miscarriages, Deaver and her husband, Robb Deaver, looked for every medical way possible to save the baby. Deaver’s prior pregnancy ended the same way at 15 weeks, and doctors induced her to spare the pain.
But this time, when the couple sought the same procedure, doctors could not legally help them.
Just one month earlier, Nebraska had enacted the nation’s first fetal pain legislation, banning abortions after 20 weeks gestation. So the Deavers had to wait more than a week to deliver baby Elizabeth, who died after just 15 minutes.
Of course, the ultimate lunacy is the denial of global warming. Again, many people embrace the preachings of phony, industry-sponsored propaganda businesses instead of the scientific findings of the research community. What causes this?
They don’t like evolution, they don’t like global warming—none of that stuff. Now a sociologist set out to figure out if that thesis really is true, and concluded that the right in the US is indeed growing increasingly distrustful of science.
Gordon Gauchat of the University of North Carolina published these findings in the forthcoming issue of the American Sociological Review. He looked back at data from 1974 through 2010, and found that trust in science was relatively stable over that 36-year period, except among self-identified conservatives. While conservatives started in 1974 as the group that trusted science most (compared to self-identified liberals and moderates), they have now dropped to the bottom of the ranking.
Chris Mooney–author of The Republican War on Science–has seen this trend as early as the 1970s.
The reason for this, according to Mooney and others, is that the “political neutrality of science began to unravel in the 1970s with the emergence of the new right”—a growing body of conservatives who were distrustful of science and the intellectual establishment, who were often religious and concerned about defending “traditional values” in the face of a modernizing world, and who favored limited government. This has prompted backlash against subjects for which there is broad scientific consensus, like global warming and evolution—backlash that has been apparent in survey data over the past three decades.
“You can see this distrust in science among conservatives reflected in the current Republican primary campaign,” Gordon Gauchat, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Sheps Center for Health Services Research, said in a news release from the American Sociological Association. “When people want to define themselves as conservatives relative to moderates and liberals, you often hear them raising questions about the validity of global warming and evolution, and talking about how ‘intellectual elites’ and scientists don’t necessarily have the whole truth.”
“Over the last several decades, there’s been an effort among those who define themselves as conservatives to clearly identify what it means to be a conservative,” he said. “For whatever reason, this appears to involve opposing science and universities, and what is perceived as the ‘liberal culture.’ So, self-identified conservatives seem to lump these groups together and rally around the notion that what makes ‘us’ conservatives is that we don’t agree with ‘them.’”
Meanwhile, the perception of science’s role in society has shifted as well.
“In the past, the scientific community was viewed as concerned primarily with macro structural matters such as winning the space race,” Gauchat said. “Today, conservatives perceive the scientific community as more focused on regulatory matters such as stopping industry from producing too much carbon dioxide.”
As we continue to see laws passed that reflect hostility to education, science, and reality-based research we will undoubtedly see other countries pull ahead of us in a number of areas. This has a number of ramifications for our economy, our ability to impact international conversations, and our future. Now is the time to get rid of the politicians, the supreme court justices, and the media figures who prefer the 19th century to the 21st.