The War on Science and Fact-based Reality

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 has decided to refight the Scopes Monkey Trial. 

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.

Gauchet says this of his study.

“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.




10 Comments on “The War on Science and Fact-based Reality”

  1. Allie says:

    I blame hate-talk radio – Neil Bortz and Limpballs. When I was a kid in the 50s/60s scientists were held in awe by everyone.

    What is telling to me is so many of these skeptics refuse to believe that global warming will kill everyone dead if nothing is done. There is no possibility of their siding with caution. Heck no – pollution is GOOD – carbon dioxide is great!

    And no amount of scorching weather, non-winters or monster tornados and storms will change that.

  2. RalphB says:

    Speaking of the lack of reality, what do the AP editors do when a candidate just blatantly lies right to their faces? These charges have been fact checked before and found to be wrong but he just keeps using them anyway. I’ve never seen a presidential candidate do this before. I would like to think he would be hit over the head for it but who knows?

    Romney Accuses Obama Of Taking ‘A Series Of Steps That End Medicare As We Know It’

    ROMNEY: I’d be willing to consider the President’s plan, but he doesn’t have one. That’s right: In over three years, he has failed to enact or even propose a serious plan to solve our entitlement crisis.

    Instead, he has taken a series of steps that end Medicare as we know it. He is the only President to ever cut $500 billion from Medicare. And, as a result, more than half of doctors say they will cut back on treating seniors. He is destroying the Medicare Advantage program, eliminating the coverage that millions of seniors depend on and reducing choice by two-thirds.

    To control Medicare cost, he has created an unelected, unaccountable panel with the power to prevent Medicare from providing certain treatments. The result will be fewer treatments and services available to patients in need, and nowhere else to turn.

  3. RalphB says:

    Arizona again takes the nutcase lead, maybe.

    Tea Party Introduces ‘Wacky’ And ‘Ludicrous’ Conspiracy Bill To Shut Down Arizona Energy Efficiency Programs

    Citing conspiracy theories about “a one-world order,” the Arizona Tea Party is attempting to slip a bill through the legislature that could strip programs designed to help residents in the state become more energy efficient.

    The bill’s sponsor, Arizona State Senator Judy Burges, says her goal is to wipe out any environmental program administered or funded by the government to prevent “social engineering … including where we live, what we eat.”

    Burges’ bill, Senate Bill 1507, is based upon an unfounded conspiracy theory about “Agenda 21,” a non-binding international plan for environmentally-sustainable development crafted by the United Nations. The plan was adopted in 1992 by 178 countries, including the United States under the George H.W. Bush administration.

  4. The ramifications of rejecting scientific knowledge, if it’s permitted to continue, will be enormous. There will be fewer American children going to college to become scientists and researchers. At the very least, with fewer students interested in these fields, departments will be downsized, breakthroughs in disease treatments & cures will be made in other countries, and foreign students will choose to continue their educations in other countries. Our colleges & universities will be damaged and America’s ranking in the world both economically and intellectually will drop dramatically. The up side? All those jobs moved to developing countries because of cheaper labor will come back home to take advantage of the undereducated Americans working for slave wages. The 1% will have succeeded in turning America into a “developing” country instead of a world leader. Another empire self-destructed.

    • dakinikat says:

      I find it very scary on all levels. My daughter the ob gyn could be arrested under some of these crazy laws for saving her patient’s life. She practices in nebraska right now but wants out. It is also alarming to think that we may not be able to reverse the climate changes which could kill so many living things.

  5. So I was in the car today with the spousal unit — I told him about the website Conservative-Wiki website and their efforts to deny or refute the theory of relatively etc etc. His response is a classic (I’ll rant, review news, world events with little or no comment from him) UNTIL he summaries what I’ve ranting about & adding his POV.

    He said — the creaters of that anti sciectific website are the same people who want to nuke other countries — if fact they probably have a wish list of countries to nuke. Don’t those people understand that their favorite weapon would be impossible without the theory of relativity or quantum physics?????

    Too many Neanderthals has won elections — and now they are endangering lives with their war on science & women.