Why don’t Science and Reason prevail over Superstitions and Ideological Wishful Thinking?

Paul Krugman asks one more time why over 80 years of economic study, data, and theory have been thrown to the wind for failed ideological hypotheses. He asks why conventional wisdom denies everything that thousands of economists have studied, researched, and debated that now has become accepted theory?  Our current experience shows that what we’ve learned over the years is correct. Why are failed hypotheses based on ideological wishful thinking running policy these days?  I ask this about my own discipline, but we could just as well ask about why we have to fight to keep iron age myths out of biology classes and fight to keep basic scientific theory like evolution and climate science in?  Why do people keep relying on disproved hypotheses, conspiracy theories, and absolutely outdated religious stories?

Here’s the narrative that applies to my discipline from Krugman.

Unfortunately, in late 2010 and early 2011, politicians and policy makers in much of the Western world believed that they knew better, that we should focus on deficits, not jobs, even though our economies had barely begun to recover from the slump that followed the financial crisis. And by acting on that anti-Keynesian belief, they ended up proving Keynes right all over again.

In declaring Keynesian economics vindicated I am, of course, at odds with conventional wisdom. In Washington, in particular, the failure of the Obama stimulus package to produce an employment boom is generally seen as having proved that government spending can’t create jobs. But those of us who did the math realized, right from the beginning, that the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (more than a third of which, by the way, took the relatively ineffective form of tax cuts) was much too small given the depth of the slump. And we also predicted the resulting political backlash.

So the real test of Keynesian economics hasn’t come from the half-hearted efforts of the U.S. federal government to boost the economy, which were largely offset by cuts at the state and local levels. It has, instead, come from European nations like Greece and Ireland that had to impose savage fiscal austerity as a condition for receiving emergency loans — and have suffered Depression-level economic slumps, with real G.D.P. in both countries down by double digits.

The stupidity is killing our economy.  The stupidity is also forcing medical research back to the dark ages too.  Taliban-like forces in the US have made up research that says that fetuses with no developed central nervous systems ‘feel pain’.  They have invented bogus ‘partial birth abortion’ procedures out of thin air.  They’ve even based laws on these falsehoods.  We have crazies defining zygotes as fully functional human beings with some narrative that a fertilized egg is just some little microscopic person encased in a membrane.

We have tons of Taliban-like idiots trying to convince every one that the data on global warming is just some made up agenda.  Yet, tons of biologists have studied and published research articles on the radical changes in habitat and migration patterns.  Meteorologists have reams of data showing the extremes in weather and temperatures that have shifted significantly in statistical terms.  It is so pervasive and significant  that no scientist that’s not associated with some whacky religion denies global warming. Geologists have documented the changes in water levels and ice formations.  Yet, I can still read some one that notes one cold day in summer and on the basis of that anecdote declares global warming to be a hoax.  They obviously don’t understand that extreme cold in one area of the globe means extreme heat someplace else. However, some one without one college science course can get on TV and proclaim an entire discipline to be deluded.

One possible  answer to my question is there is an evil partnership of corporations and the rich who profit from ignorance and those who follow strict religious ideology who thrive on ignorance period.  These folks have overwhelming political power and access to media.  The media these days refuses to call out lies and fact check  blowhards.  They bring on a politician or a media pundit but NEVER an actual scientist with years of learning and research in the area.  The media even goes along by repeating the change in word meanings that have plagued us recently.  Radical ideas are being put forth as “conservative”.  Conspiracy theories are being held up as just another point of view.  Ever since media has been driven by profits, we have media more interested in ratings and not getting boycotted than actually putting out some useful information.  It is no wonder that we are seeing a systematic destruction of public schools and universities.  The only way this march of ignorance can continue is with a systematic destruction of institutions that actually teach science to people.  There has never been a time when this quote by Jonathan Swift is more relevant since the Dark Ages which were brought on by the same group of religious nuts that tanked scientific thought hundreds of years ago.

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

The same thing can be said about true and genius theories.  The confederacy of dunces will thump their books full of myths and conspiracies and deny people access to science, reason, and truth.

Here’s a pretty good list of how insane the Republican Party has become in terms of irrational, unscientific, and unreasonable positions per the UK’s The Economist.  Notice the use of the term “fatwahs” which implies they’re waging a religious war. Also please remember that this magazine is not exactly a bastion of socialist thought.

Nowadays, a candidate must believe not just some but all of the following things: that abortion should be illegal in all cases; that gay marriage must be banned even in states that want it; that the 12m illegal immigrants, even those who have lived in America for decades, must all be sent home; that the 46m people who lack health insurance have only themselves to blame; that global warming is a conspiracy; that any form of gun control is unconstitutional; that any form of tax increase must be vetoed, even if the increase is only the cancelling of an expensive and market-distorting perk; that Israel can do no wrong and the “so-called Palestinians”, to use Mr Gingrich’s term, can do no right; that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education and others whose names you do not have to remember should be abolished.

These fatwas explain the rum list of candidates: you either have to be an unelectable extremist who genuinely believes all this, or a dissembler prepared to tie yourself in ever more elaborate knots (the flexible Mr Romney). Several promisingly pragmatic governors, including Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, never even sought the nomination. Jon Huntsman, the closest thing to a moderate in the race (who supports gay marriage and action to combat climate change), is polling in low single figures.

More depressingly, the fatwas have stifled ideas, making the Republican Party the enemy of creative positions it once pioneered. The idea of requiring every American to carry health insurance (thus broadening the insurance pool and reducing costs) originated in the conservative Heritage Foundation as a response to Clinton-care, and was put into practice by then-Governor Romney in Massachusetts. All this Mr Romney has had to disavow, just as Mr Gingrich has had to recant his ideas on climate change, while Rick Perry is still explaining his appalling laxity as governor of Texas in allowing the children of illegal immigrants to receive subsidised college education.

WTF is wrong with our country?  Our religious freedom was enshrined in the first amendment.  Our scientific advances led to men on the moon, the elimination of some of the world’s worst plagues, and the lap top computer.  Our melting pot of people fleeing class systems and oppression all over the place evolved into a great democracy that provided public education for all and opportunity for any one that wanted it.  Why has it  come down to this?

21 Comments on “Why don’t Science and Reason prevail over Superstitions and Ideological Wishful Thinking?”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Can this Gallup poll be correct?
    According to the latest Gallup poll, most Americans view Barack Obama as an extremist.

    The poll says that most Americans view John Huntsman, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul (!) as closest to their own ideology. Obama is the most distant. (And make no mistake: They view Obama as a liberal. An extreme liberal.) Even Michelle Bachmann is perceived as a less radical figure.

    Another example of our misinformed electorate.

    • Woman Voter says:

      I saw that (group putting in paperwork for Third Party candidate), been hearing about ‘American Elect’, but didn’t make the connection with Lynn Rothchild (sp) or her being a big supporter of John Huntsman. I thought Huntsman was aiming for VP spot on the GOP ticket.

    • Woman Voter says:

      As for memory lane, as Joseph Cannon was doing, there were three people, one from Florida, our D.C., friend and Lynn (if you all remember the website). Any hoo, I started work at 5am and I am dead tired…too foggy for accurate details. G’nite.

  2. dakinikat says:

    MSNBC is finally talking about how Romney and Gingrich are having to talk themselves into pretzels over “obamacare’ and the individual mandate because “obamacare’ is essentially the Republican, American Heritage Institute plan from the 1990s. They all have to lie to try to portray this as something other than the Republican response to “hillarycare”.

    I’ve been screaming about this for two years now. It FINALLY gets out to one of the media outlets.

  3. madamab says:

    Sadly, reason and logic aren’t “sexy” on Teevee. Quippy politicians and people yelling at each other are much more interesting – so say the three charter members of the MIC that own all the media outlets in Americaa. And these guys would have no reason to discount global warming, would they? Just because they’re all companies that desperately need fossil fuels in order to survive – I’m sure that’s merely a coincidence.

    Even more sadly, people of “faith” are very easily misled. All you have to do is tie whatever it is you’re selling into whatever it is they believe, and they’ll easily stretch their “faith” to cover whatever it is you’re selling. As an added bonus, “faith” turns off critical thinking, endlessly making excuses for obvious flaws in your product.

    This is how Obama was elected – people believed that the Democratic Party represented them, and thus, so must he. This is also how the wingnuts became the base of the Republican Party – somehow they convinced the extremists that Jesus would have voted Republican and that believing in global warming was anti-Christian, and voila! Millions of Americans became Republican die-hards.

    • dakinikat says:

      Some people sure seem vulnerable to the nuttiest of conspiracy theories, don’t they? I just read that Matt Romney brought up the Obama birth certificate thing again. What is wrong with people?

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Terrific post! Dak, you’re on fire lately.

  5. foxyladi14 says:

    great post Dak,, 🙂 🙂

    • dakinikat says:

      Thanks BB and Foxy … I just read what the world’s great scientists and thinkers write and wonder what happened to our country that we now accept the words of power hungry pols and the tv elmer gantries instead? Maybe it’s just because every one is covering mossback Iowans at the moment.

      • northwestrain says:

        The US method of selecting Prez candidates really stinks.

        In Iowa the ones going to the caucuses are the hard core true believers — anti women’s rights/human rights, hate the gays — those gays are to blame for every single bit of evil in the world, humans have absolutely no effect on the climate — hell no, guns — should be a law that everyone carries a gun or rifle or bazooka, their particular religion should be the state religion — the US is supposed to be a theocracy. (But these same radical ringers have no idea what a real theocracy type country would be like.)

        Oh and dragons are real, the earth is a few thousand years old — we are in the end times — this is why there are troubles and violence all over — just believe in that dead guy who is now alive living in the clouds — he is coming to take all the believers home with him. (why the heck hasn’t he come and gotten ride of all the above jerks?)


        When I walked away from my mother’s fundamentalist religion — first I felt free, liberated and then I looked at the men of that church — all the men drove the newest model cars and used the latest gadgets — and they still do. Meanwhile they reject science — and the fundamental laws of science. As DAK mentioned above — the worst of the wing nuts use technology based on the science they hate.

  6. peggysue22 says:

    Good to be back and good to read a solid, reasonable post, something in scarce supply these days.

    I think the reason the Republicans are retrenching to these narrow, don’t let the sunlight in places is because to do otherwise is to admit failure, responsibility for the crushing financial debacle we’ve witnessed and see crumble around our ears. Supply side, trickle down economics is and was what Poppy Bush called it originally: voodoo economics. Mitch McConnell said early on that he wanted to make sure that the GOP was not blamed for the meltdown.

    WTF! George Bush, Jr put the final touches on a failed financial system–two unfunded wars, an expensive drug plan and tax cuts for the rich and famous. What did Bush instruct the population to do? Go shopping! But what do we hear? It was all Fannie and Freddie and those social engineering liberals, forcing the innocent banks to give liar loans. The deception is endless.

    The Religious Right and their puritanical dictates appeal to a population segment that couches itself in fear and ignorance. For most of the leaders of the movement, it’s all about power [Michelle Bachmann is an exception; I think she honestly believes the nonsense]. What better way to control people than to preach purity for the God struck and Hellfire for everyone else. Trash radio and Fox nonNews spins this garbage [the recent and repetitious War on Christmas/Christians is a case in point]. And for some people, change of any kind is a terrible thing.

    But I have to say the ‘Obama is a radical’ beats them all. It’s about as good as Obama attempting to paint himself as the new Teddy Roosevelt. But let’s face it–if you can convince people that Obama is a socialist/Marxist, a dangerous radical, you can convince them of just about anything.

    Don’t trust your lying eyes. It’s been working for forty years. But when we hit the wall, which becomes more and more likely with the government’s inability to take any action, then it won’t.

    Solution? Time for a new fairytale.


    Good read, Dak!

    • dakinikat says:

      The weird thing is that Fannie and Freddie played a part in the financial meltdown but it was the stupid executive compensation set up that melted them down but instead they blame poor people with house loans given to them under false pretenses. That pay scheme was really a product of the dubya stuff. The execs got paid for just churning out loans. Quality be damned. It wasn’t about giving poor people loans. It was about paying political cronies.

    • ralphb says:

      “Go shopping” was the smartest thing Bush ever said. It provided needed stimulus.

    • ralphb says:

      Gallup polls have been absolute garbage for the past 15 years. I think they sell results to the highest bidder now.

    • ralphb says:

      That was incredibly right on.

      Personally I think a lot of our current problems can be tied to the ethics (or lack thereof) of the modern legal profession. Lawyers are trained to be nothing more than the zealous purveyors of whatever crap the client is paying for at the time. Since most media people and politicians are lawyers, they just see their donors/owners as the client. That ethos perverts everything.

      “First, kill all the lawyers” may have been a very good idea.

    • peggysue22 says:

      I agree with, Ralph. The present crop of arch-conservatives seem to relish the idea that there’s something virtuous in self-interest and greed. Ayn Rand’s nonsense gives them cover, an excuse for outrageous positions. Yet, I understand Rand herself sought social services at the end of her life. Sightly hypocritical. Guess when you’re old and sick ‘liberty’ takes on a different meaning.

      Things are just so out of balance anymore. Makes my head swim. But then, we have these radio jockeys spewing this garbage 24/7. The unemployed are blamed for their own unemployment, the poor are poor because of bad choices and I suppose the sick and old haven’t prayed to the right god.

      And hungry kids. Where do they fit in?

      None of it makes sense but the results are truly destructive, unravelling the seams of anything approaching a civil society. Pushed to the extreme, everything will fall apart, even the gates on those gated communities.

      • Fredster says:

        Yes she did. When she was dying of cancer she signed up for both Social Security and Medicare. A deathbed conversion perhaps?

    • northwestrain says:

      Empathy isn’t found in this bunch of “conservatives”.

  7. ralphb says:

    This fits in pretty well. A most righteous rant by Charles Pierce.

    America Will Only Get Better When It Is Ours Again