GOP Solidifies Its Position As An Anti-Science Party

If you’re like me, when you hear that some American politician has said something denoting incredible ignorance or hostility toward science, you barely glance at the letter after their name. With few exceptions, it’s a fairly safe bet that it will be an “R.”

GOP congresspersons. OK, not really, but the essence is captured. (via TeachtheFacts.org)

It’s difficult to assert that the GOP isn’t anti-science, when their presidential candidates are quick to reassure the voters that they reject the cornerstone of modern biology and embrace Creationism. However, if you were feeling generous, you could argue that nominees say a lot of crazy stuff to win their primaries and the votes of their base. You could also say that, just because a few fringe members of a party say something, that does not mean the party itself embraces such ideas. Sure some Republicans say some pretty insane things, but it’s not like the GOP leadership has these guys on the House Science Committee, right?

You know exactly where this is going…

Talking Points Memo has put together a profile of some of the brilliant minds that make up the current and former membership of the GOP’s House Science Committee. Perhaps the most well known of the committee’s (now former) members is Todd Akin, who gave us the phrase “legitimate rape” and said that you can’t get pregnant from it. (I suppose if you’re pregnant, it’s only because you really wanted it, eh?)

Perhaps he was an anomaly?

Let’s hear what fellow Science Committee member Phil Gingrey (R-GA), had to say about Akin’s comments:

I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true. We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right wasn’t he?

For the record, no, he wasn’t. So, clearly, reproductive biology isn’t the strong suit of the committee. Perhaps more general biology will be better?

Say hello to current Science Committee member Paul Broun (R-GA):

“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

Rep. Broun has been selected to lead the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, which will look into climate change. Broun’s thoughts on climate change?

YouTube Preview Image

Rep Broun will be in good company on his subcommittee. His vice-chairman will be one Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) who has an ingenious solution to climate change: cut down the rainforests!

The country — and, in fact, the entire world — faces serious challenges. Science cannot fix them all, but it is an essential piece to achieving a future that is sustainable. Scientists the world over work tirelessly to improve our understanding of the universe and contribute to the betterment of our species. But that work cannot reach its full potential if countries have leaders who consider Science to be unimportant — or worse, an enemy of their religious beliefs or economic dogmas.

This will not change until voters start treating anti-science positions as what they really should be: deal-breakers.

About Claudia

I'm a lifelong atheist and a molecular biologist with a passion for science and a passionate opposition to its enemies.

  • Greg G.

    Shudder!

  • C Peterson

    Gingrey is clearly a idiot, or he wouldn’t be discussing what Akin said at all, or giving any appearance of defending him. But I fail to see anything scientifically wrong with his comments, and they are not rebutted by the AJOG paper. All Gingrey said was that stress can prevent ovulation, and I don’t think that is in serious question. Gingrey’s comment is selectively edited here. He went on to say that Akin was wrong in suggesting that the stress of rape would prevent fertilization.

    The guy is pretty clearly not one we’d like on any committees overseeing science (for many reasons), but his comments here don’t reflect on his understanding of science, but rather his political savvy.

    • AntieQ

      The implication that having a glass of wine just before sex will cause a woman to ovulate right then and there, sounds pretty ignorant to me.

      • C Peterson

        I don’t hear that implication in his comment. The fact is, when women are trying to get pregnant, doctors recommend relaxation techniques and things like wine to help regularize ovulation.

        As I said, the guy is an idiot for trying to defend anything Akin said, but there was no error of science in his comments. It doesn’t serve our cause to stretch the truth this way.

  • busterggi

    Seriously, how much farther down can the US slide into scientific ignorance before pointy sticks become cutting edge technology aggain?

    • http://twitter.com/ylaenna M. Elaine

      The “Smart Idiot” Effect: The tendency for conservatives who know more about an issue to be more factually wrong about it than if they know less.
      -Chris Mooney
      http://youtu.be/Jjzpm5mxQtE

      He starts talking about it at around 10:10 but the whole presentation is really interesting.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      It’s pretty deep. The bigger problem is that they don’t know that they’re anti-science. They think they’re very much for science, but think all those people with letters after their names are just doing it wrong. For every 100 scientists ‘doing it wrong’ the GOP have one doing it right, and that’s all that matters. “It’s a controversial issue, after all. Everyone has to make up their own minds feel the truth for themselves.”

    • Houndentenor

      The problem is that most Americans haven’t been exposed to science since the last science class they took in high school or college. Meanwhile they get a daily diet of anti-science from talk radio, Fox News or their local church. They get anti-science at least once a week and anti-science is presented without rebuttal so it is accepted as true. You can hear it from the callers on The Atheist Experience. They call in week after week with the same already debunked arguments. Only they’ve never heard any debunking. Even arguments that Apologists are urging Christians to abandoned are still repeated in all these formats. So for most of the country anti-science is accepted because it’s not really being challenged, at least not within their social circle and their media consumption.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504525766 Michael Harbour
    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504525766 Michael Harbour

      But, yeah, these folks don’t belong anywhere near the Science Committee.

    • C Peterson

      There is no doubt that the political left gets some science horribly wrong. But I would not call them “anti-science” in the same way that so much of the political right is, and I don’t think that most of our serious societal ills that stem from ignorance of science are from issues that are being misrepresented by the left (believing that organic food is more healthy has a different impact on society than believing that humans are not changing the climate).

      Another way of looking at this is that much of the scientific nonsense from the left comes from a fairly small fringe, while much of the scientific nonsense from the right is coming from its mainstream.

      • Houndentenor

        I’m in agreement with what everyone says on this topic but I would like to point out that the concentrations of anti-vaxxers in certain areas does potentially pose a very serious health threat to the public at large. One that I fear is inevitable unless we can fight back this ignorance and fear-mongering and expose it for the nonsense that it is.

        • C Peterson

          The anti-vaccination folks represent a social problem, as do the anti-GM people. And I agree that skeptics and other rational people should do everything possible to argue against them. Still, the consequences of denial in these areas pales in contrast to climate change denial or evolution denial.

          • Theseus

            I agree. From a political perspective the power and grip that these people have over the GOP is just proportionately far greater in scope than what the ant-vax and anti-GM people have over the Dems.

            To further prove the point; just ask yourself how many Democratic candidates made irrational left wing ant-science claims as part of their platform and how often did they pander and pay lip service to these ant-science folks. Not one serious political contender sticks out in my mind as having done this, at least to any appreciable degree.

            However on the Republican side?!!!! Please! It was on a daily basis. Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bauchman constantly made patronizing anti-evolution and anti global warming claims to their audiences and their base. How many candidates raised their hands when asked if they didn’t think evolution was true? C’mon!

            Anyone that argues equivalence from a proportional basis is in denial. These anti-science ideas were mainstream on the right.

            However I agree with Houndentenor that doesn’t diminish the potential threat that some of these folks on the left may pose, and that the problem needs to ( and will) be taken care of. Believe me a lot of mainstream Dems don’t buy into this shit.

  • Marco Conti

    Obviously these guys are opportunistic or complete ignoramus or both, but in reading the article something popped in my mind and I want to preface this by saying that personally I am more left of center than most, a registered Democrat and more progressive than the people I normally interact with, including my wife.

    That said, I don’t like to be called an hypocrite and something tells me there are plenty of Democrats in both the house and senate that hold unskeptical beliefs or have made irrational statements. Maybe not at the level these jokers have, but still pretty egregious.

    In other words, I think it is up to us to make sure that our own house is clean and if it’s not we should denounce those on our side with irrational, anti science beliefs just as much.

    • Baby_Raptor

      I’m getting really Fucking sick of this “both sides do it” fallacy. Someone brings it up every single time a Republican does something batshit.

      Are there some Lefties with crazy beliefs? Yes. The anti-vaxxers tend to lean Left, for whatever reason. It’s beyond me.

      Are the anti-vaxxers out there in Congress or other forms of government, passing laws forcing us all to live by their unscientific BS? No. They’re on the fringe, where they belong. Now consider the Republicans. Creationism and life at ejaculation are both *requirements.* They aren’t fringe beliefs. They’re common ground, and the people elected to governments are doing everything they can to make damn sure that everyone has to live by those beliefs. And then there’s “traditional marriage.” Because homosexuality is a choice, no matter what science says, and children need two opposite-gendered parents, Fuck what reality has to say.

      No. Both sides don’t do this shit. You’re insulting the Left when you claim we do. Put this tired trope to bed and realize that there’s a seriously Fucked up group of people trying to burn the country into the ground. Fairness and bipartisanship are just going to help them.

      • Marco Conti

        Nope, mine is not even close to a “both sides do it” fallacy. At least not in my intention. I am not looking for false equivalency and in fact it offends me just as much.

        I am thinking of deep south politicians, blue dog democrats and others that have to pander to lobbyists and voters in order to beat their republican opponents or just simply hold unskeptical beliefs.
        I am specifically talking about politicians, and specifically those currently holding office. If there are none of them, that would make me happy, but we both know that they are there and I don’t want to give the other side any ammunition in that regard.

        Plus, if there is a Democrat holding irrational beliefs I don’t want to find out from some tea party rag. I’d rather we had the courage to look at ourselves and understand who we are as a progressive movement rather than assume no one on our side is guilty of spreading misinformation or holding irrational beliefs.

        I am also not arguing that such introspection should take place in an article such as this one. That would, in fact, create a false equivalency. If we do decide to look in our ranks, the least we can do is to do it in a non comparative environment.

        I do realize I posted this in this article and it could be construed as if I wanted to compare the two, but in the beginning of my post I stated that this article made me think about it. Made me think “who on the progressive side may be guilty of irrational or unscientific opinions?”.

        I do agree with you in pretty much everything else you state in your post. These people do not deserve to sit at the same table with science and common sense.

        • Houndentenor

          Does anyone actually believe that most politicians are as religious as they claim to be? I certainly don’t. Some are, both right and left. But most remind me of the people who attend the largest local church for the business and social connections offered by belonging to such an organization. But I think this brings up a more serious point. We now find many falling into the trap of judging people based on what they say rather than what they do. I don’t really care what someone claims to believe so long as I can trust that what they DO is in the best interest of the population at large.

      • Houndentenor

        The problem with “both sides do it” is that in cases where that is true, both sides are then wrong. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior. My parents didn’t buy “all the other kids are doing it” as an excuse, and there’s no reason we should accept such childish excuses for adults.

        I think most people reading with this will share my disgust for Truthers as well as Birthers, for anti-vaxxers as well as creationists. Baby_Raptor is right. Anti-vaxxers are not insisting that their nonsense be placed in school textbooks (at least not yet) and if they did they’d be unlikely to get that goal accomplished. Creationists on the other hand are often successful at getting their fairy tales inserted into science textbooks. The equivalence is only useful up to a point.

    • RobMcCune

      It’s a matter of how prominent in the party’s respective platform and policies their anti-science positions are. It’s the same thing for secularism neither party does a good job representing atheists, but the GOP is far worse on the issues than Democrats.

      • Theseus

        Yep. prominence is the key. The right is fond of pointing out “loony” left stuff. I do agree there a lot of left leaning people with real irrational goofy ideas out there,but most of them have nowhere near the prominence or influence in the Dems party platform compared to the Republicans. I mean where the f*** are you gonna see true communists and anarchists? They’re sitting in book stores and hanging around college campuses. Same thing with the equal rights for animals nut jobs.

        • Theseus

          And specifically on the issue of of anti-science policies, the GOP is king; and it is mainstream, precisely because they pander to an anti-science base like the folks in the picture above.

          • RobMcCune

            The GOP has other traits that contribute to the strength of it’s anti-science beliefs. Black and white thinking, anti-intellectualism, a doctrinaire attitude and hostility to those who don’t share it are big factors.

    • rx7ward

      “we should denounce those on our side with irrational, anti science beliefs”

      We do this all of the time. Why would you think otherwise?

      • Theseus

        Yes, left leaning skeptics do all the time.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      Marco Conti: In other words, I think it is up to us to make sure that our own house
      is clean and if it’s not we should denounce those on our side with
      irrational, anti science beliefs just as much.

      (roll-eyes) Not the “both sides do it” schtick again.

      Unlike you, I am not, and have never been, a registered member of the Democratic Party. I say we should call out idiocy when we see it, no matter which “side” the idiot is on. Claudia is right here, when it comes to anti-science positions, the GOP has taken a strong position of leadership. Baby_Raptor is actually wrong about anti-vax; that has a slight rightward lean. The most obvious examples I could think of would include Senator Tom Harkin(D) supporting ‘alternative’ medicine.

  • Highschool-Atheist

    Religion should be totally seperate from politics and economics. Todd Akin isnt he he one that said rape babies are a gift from God? If so thats a really shitty gift.

  • Theseus

    Gee and I wonder why our students happen to be behind in all the sciences as opposed to other western countries. Could this have anything to do with it? Hmmmm.

    These people are so duplicitous and hypocritical. All this “expose students to other theories of evolution so they can make up their own minds about it”, “teach the controversy”, and “allowing discourse in the classroom”. is all code for: ” let’s teach students creationism ( or ID)” ONLY.

    Of course, much like the “freedom of religion” sound byte, it’s very easy to expose their bullshit. The next time some Christian right fundie brings up these talking points to you….. just nod your head, and bring up the fact that there are a lot of intelligent people out there that believe that technologically advanced extraterrestrials visited the earth in the ancient past and tinkered with the DNA of ape like hominids, thereby bringing about the rise of Homo Sapiens; these aliens also built the pyramids in Egypt and Central America, and the stone monoliths at Easter Island and Stone henge (among other things) greatly influencing the course of ancient civilization as well. These “Chariot of the Gods” folks believe there is abundant evidence for all of this, and say that they can prove it. So I guess we should teach this in public classrooms right? I mean, a lot of people believe this stuff and say that there is sufficient proof. After all it’s a “theory” right? And of course we should be exposing our students to other theories so they can properly make up their minds….right?

  • CultOfReason

    Can’t we have a panelist of scientists screening who gets to be on the Science committees? This is a disgrace and disservice to all Americans.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Coincidentally, Michael Shermer has a column in Scientific American in which he is detailing The Left’s War on ScienceScientific American (February 2013), 308, 76It’s pretty weak tea.

    Surveys show that moderate liberals and conservatives embrace science roughly equally (varying across domains)…

    He doesn’t mention what percentage of each party would qualify as “moderate” though.

    • Theseus

      With all the negative experiences he’s had from the religious right and their anti-science views, Shermer is pretty tough on them. I don’t think he would hesitate to acknowledge the grip that that these folks have on the republican party itself.

    • Houndentenor

      There’s also a problem with having people self-identify as liberal, moderate or conservative. Those are just labels and often have little in common with any kind of objective definition of one’s actual political goals. The same goes for “independent”.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Another misguided attempt to treat both “sides” equally:
    Science must be seen to bridge the political divideDaniel Sarewitz, Nature
    Nature 493, 7 (03 January 2013) doi:10.1038/493007aNature is one of the most prominent science journals on the planet, which makes this total fuck-up inexcusable.

    To prevent science from continuing its worrying slide towards
    politicization, here’s a New Year’s resolution for scientists,
    especially in the United States: gain the confidence of people and
    politicians across the political spectrum by demonstrating that science
    is bipartisan.

    What a total fecking idiot. Science should not be bipartisan, it should be nonpartisan. A scientist should strive for objective truth, not the middle. As Richard Dawkins once said, “One side can be wrong.” He gets it in the comments, and you can probably find a decent rebuttal at your favourite science blog.

    • Houndentenor

      That’s a lovely feel good quote. “Demonstrate that science is bipartisan.” The problem is that science isn’t partisan at all. If some politicians decide to accept evidence and reason as the best way to understand the universe in which we all exist, that certainly affects their politics, but it doesn’t alter science in the least. It’s politicians and business interests who politicized science, not scientists.

  • J-Rex

    More likely to conceive if relaxed =/= impossible to conceive if stressed

  • Tobias27

    Wait ! He doesn’t believe in science and then he quotes MIT scientists as to how much energy bills will go up ! Cafeteria christians are now going cafeteria science. Beautiful.

    • RobMcCune

      He sees science as part reality’s liberal bias and the subversive campaign by facts to undermine authority. If they can be used towards the end he wants, then and only then are scientists right.

  • coyotenose

    Well, it’s a good thing that women are all psychics who know hours to days ahead of time that they’ll be raped so their bodies can make sure they don’t ovulate. Otherwise Phil Gingrey would look like a complete fucking ignoramus who got a medical degree but lacks eighth-grade health class knowledge.

  • cipher

    “I DON’T ACCEPT FUNDAMENTAL TENETS OF SCIENCE AND I VOTE”

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason this country is irremediably screwed.

    (At least she didn’t say “tenants”.)

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    It would be spiffy if someone could draw up a list of the stupidest and most unscientific things that the Democratic members of the committee have said; however, the minority membership does not yet appear to have been officially announced. It’s also likely to be anything much more spectacular than “have a nice day”.


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