Are Republicans Unfairly Pegged as Anti-Science? (Mostly No)

Republican Paul “Lies from the Pit of Hell” Broun, from the House Science Committee.

Are Republicans being unfairly maligned as the anti-science party? The easy answer to that is, “don’t be ridiculous, and what right-wing industry lobby is funding that question?” But to Mischa Fisher, a former House GOP science policy staffer who described himself as “a politically centrist atheist,” the answer is yes, and the stereotype is harming science generally.

In a piece in The Atlantic, Fisher argues that Democrats are, more or less, just as prone to anti-scientific thinking as Republicans, but on different subjects, and that Republicans aren’t nearly as backward on science acceptance as their more extreme clown-characters like Paul Broun and Michele Bachmann would make them seem to be.

At the outset, let me just say I agree with where Fisher is going with his argument, but its presentation is flawed.

First, the problems. He attempts to make a wash of Republicans’ and Democrats’ beliefs on creationism,

Yes, an embarrassing half of Republicans believe the earth is only 10,000 years old — but so do more than a third of Democrats. And a slightly higher percentage of Democrats believe God was the guiding factor in evolution than Republicans.

That’s fine, but the number of Republicans who believe this, not mentioned by Fisher, is 52% — a majority. That’s a lot more than one-third. And even if the numbers were closer to each other, the fact remains that the elected representatives that Republican voters put in power are far more likely to resist science than the folks the Democrats put in power, even if many of those Democrats think the Bible is a biology textbook.

But maybe this is also an unfair presupposition on my part? Okay, I’m willing to be wrong here. But look at his own proof of pro-science Republicanism. It’s anecdote.

Of the many Republican members of Congress I know personally, the vast majority do not reject the underlying science of global warming.

Now remember, Fisher was a science policy staffer for the House GOP, so of course he’s going to be exposed to a proportionally higher number of science-accepting Republicans, probably a higher percentage than actually exist among Republicans generally. So maybe he rubs elbows with reality-based GOPers, but the Republicans that are getting elected to positions of power are folks like Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and George W. Bush; just a sampling of chief executives who reject basic premises of science, or advocate policies that directly combat science in the name of theology. Don’t even get me started on the House Science Committee.

I’m also unconvinced by Fisher’s take on which party is better at funding scientific research, but rather than get into it here, I’ll just say that it seems to me that when Democrats are lackluster on this point, it has more to do with politics in the sense of “art of the possible,” seeking to fund that which has a chance of being funded, or directing it at things that have a known (or anticipated) payoff, such as clean energy.

Now, Fisher is right that the left has its own problems with science acceptance, on subjects such as nuclear power, GMOs, and vaccinations. But the crisis levels here are not equivalent. Might it be better if Democrats got on board with nuclear power? I don’t know, but at least they’re working to support wind and solar power, which are cleaner and infinitely renewable. Republicans resist them. Are some on the left wrong to dismiss GMOs entirely? Of course, but there’s no starvation crisis related to it, and there is real malfeasance in the corporate dominance of “gene patenting.” Vaccinations are a real problem, but the false skepticism around them is bipartisan. H.R. 1757, the Vaccine Safety Study Act, was introduced by Republican Bill Posey and Democrat Carolyn Maloney.

But here’s where I see value in Fisher’s piece. Thinking big-picture, perhaps we need to think about what happens to science when it gets pinned as exclusive to one party or another in our own discourse.

My point is not to help Republicans shed the “anti-science” label and simply apply it to the Democrats. It’s more important that we collectively recognize that reason and critical thought, the joy and excitement of discovery, the connection between research and economic growth, and the beauty and awe of science are accessible to people of all religious and political stripes — just as people of all stripes are capable of rejecting them.

Supporters of federal science funding, a group of which I am a card-carrying member, can ill afford to lose Republican support for science. But if it is perceived as a partisan litmus test, it will not continue to exist in its current state as the government’s other financial obligations continue to grow.

It’s a powerful point. It’s possible that by shouting from the hilltops that Republicans hate science and they Democrats love it (or, more specifically, that secular humanist atheist liberal poindexter college professor elitists love science), it becomes more and more toxic for Republican leaders to embrace, lest they look like the aforementioned pinkos to their base.

Is there a better way to talk about these things, and avoid painting with broad brushes? It’s difficult, given the self-evident onslaught against science that is championed nearly exclusively by Republicans in terms of climate change and evolution. If there are as many pro-science Republicans as Fisher says there are, they need to suit up for a fight with their own party, and stand up for reality. Then we can talk.

About Paul Fidalgo

Paul is communications director for the Center for Inquiry, as well as an actor and musician. His blog is iMortal, and he tweets as @paulfidalgo, and the blog tweets as @iMortal_blog.
The opinions expressed on this blog are personal to Paul and do not necessarily represent the views of the Center for Inquiry.

  • invivoMark

    She’s half right. The truth is that both parties are anti-science, because science has no lobby. Only those politicians running in areas where science is a driving force of the economy (California, Washington, Massachusetts, areas of North Carolina and Wisconsin, etc.) have any incentive to support science for science’s sake. Everyone else gets to safely ignore it except where corporate interests (pharmaceuticals, biotech, energy) are concerned. To them, science is just a money pit whose benefits will only ever be seen after their next election cycle.

    And that’s a big problem with science. It’s the best investment there is, because the payout is guaranteed if we continue to invest enough. But it’s a long-term investment, and by the time it pays off, we’ll have long forgotten who voted to invest. And so, when adjusted for inflation, the budget of the NIH, the largest funding source for biological sciences in the US, has been steadily decreasing since 2003. (Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/business/sequestration-hurts-key-medical-research-6C10088207)

    Republicans have created for themselves the image of being the Stupid Party. They deserve that title, and it ought to encourage some Republicans to rebel against that stereotype and vote in favor of science funding. But we oughtn’t assume that Democrats are pro-science. They’ve had the votes of scientists in their pockets for a long time, because scientists are overwhelmingly a liberal demographic. But we have to pressure the Democrats to stop assuming they’ve got that vote. We should start naming and shaming Democrats as well as Republicans for ignoring science and for voting against funding it.

    I’m glad to see things like I Fucking Love Science become popular. But if people really Fucking Love Science, they need to do more than ‘like’ a Facebook page that posts pretty pictures. Science funding in the US is in dire straits, and it needs public support.

    This article gives a great picture of how much we need that support: http://mashable.com/2013/09/20/why-you-dont-love-science/

    • aoscott

      Absolutely spot on. Republicans are definitely more vocal and organized when it comes to pushing against the sciences, but there is no real advocacy for them coming from the Democrats.

      I recall the President campaigning on putting science above politics. And I remember the government doctoring their numbers over the BP oil spill, locking out the experts in the field when their numbers showed something much worse.

    • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      There is, however, a difference between being “anti-science” in the sense of not providing adequate support for publicly funded research, and being “anti-science” in the sense of actively promoting scientific falsehoods to the public or via legislation. While many members of both parties are guilty of the first, the second seems very much associated with Republicans.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      That’s a good point. It would be beneficial if a group of science-loving billionaires (They’re out there) would donate the money so that there would be lobbyists who would work on behalf of science and science education. There already should be, but this is doable, especially in an era in which the new billionaires are often sciency types.

  • Deus Otiosus

    OK, I’ve just about had enough of this. Are republicans (and the religious right that supports them) anti-science? Maybe. Probably. Well alright, clearly. But are they really a threat to the environment because of their stance on global warming? Absolutely NOT! They have more than offset their carbon footprint. These people have been holding their breath waiting for Jesus to return for over 2,000 years. If they suddenly embraced science, lost their faith, and exhaled? Global CO2 levels would rise exponentially. We’d have 100 degree winters, catastrophic precipitation levels in summer. Say goodbye to the icecaps. It would be disastrous. Support your local churches people. For the children of tomorrow.

    • allein

      lol…you had me going there for a second..

      • invivoMark

        Apparently, he still has 3 people going!

    • DavidMHart

      Good spiel, but I have to call out the misuse of ‘exponentially’ there. An exponential rise is not just (or even necessarily) a very big one; it’s (roughly) a rise whose rate of increase also rises as time goes on. I can see the sudden exhalation of millions of people contributing a large chunk to the total atmospheric carbon dioxide, but I can’t see how that would constitute a situation where the increase in CO2 is a function of the amount already present :-)

      /pedantry

      • Taneli Huuskonen

        Thanks. I’ve essentially given up about that, just cursing under my breath.

        • http://about.me/fiz Steve

          Don’t lose all hope- I used to use ‘exponentially’ incorrectly for a few years until someone calmly corrected me. Now, I try to do the same.
          cheers!

      • Browser

        ….man, smart people can suck the fun out of anything….

        :-/

        • DavidMHart

          Hey – sucking the fun out of everything is just one of the many pedantic services I offer :-)

  • Katarn

    Lets not just dismiss GMO fear among the left. We may not have a starvation problem in the US but if misguided policies here affect countries where they do have starving people that is a serious problem.

    And yes there are people starving here but not for lack of food production capacity.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      You have the wrong end of the donkey on that one. Irrational fear of GMOs is contributing to world hunger and malnutrition, through resistance to crops such as “golden rice,” which is genetically modified to improve its vitamin A content.

      • Katarn

        Who was arguing against that? That’s exactly my point, GMO can be an amazing tool to continue feeding the growing population of the planet. American policy can have far reaching effects all over the world where GMOs could really be life saving.

        • GubbaBumpkin

          Sorry, I misread your intent.

      • dandaman

        The WHO strongly supports a varied diet with abundant fruits and vegetables. Relying on a magic monoculture is not the way to go, both for the body or for the environment.

        • Itarion

          Of course, relying on a monoculture is much better that not relying on having food at all.

          • dandaman

            True, but who says a monoculture is more efficient than a diverse crop? (aside from the GMO sellers). Education and family planning are the way to go.

            • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

              In a society that practices rational public policy and isn’t afraid of science, GM represents a very effective way to achieve a high level of genetic diversity in our food sources.

    • Jacqui H

      Exactly! The problem with GMOs isn’t the GMOs themselves, it’s horrifying business practices on that some companies practice and the piles and piles of misinformation about them!

      On a somewhat similar note: I hate when people say they won’t eat things because it has “ingredients they can’t pronounce” -_-

      • dandaman

        I hate when I eat things that give no indication what has been done to them, even when something has been done to them.

        • tsig

          Probably don’t want to eat corn then.

      • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        And don’t forget those who won’t eat anything that contains “chemicals”.

      • Anat

        As if they can pronounce the proper names of all naturally-occurring vitamins, fatty acids, proteins etc.

    • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

      It is rational to be concerned about GMO foods because of the control that corporations exert over them, or the ethical problems many people see with patenting life forms. It is rational to be concerned about all food crops being substantially reduced to just one or two genetic clones.

      There are very few rational reasons to be opposed to GMOs on scientific grounds. There is no indication they pose any significant environmental hazards, and no indication at all they pose any health risks. Strong opposition to GMOs for any of these reasons is a pretty good indicator you are dealing with somebody who is poorly informed, and has dogma-based beliefs.

      • Katarn

        Agreed.

      • dandaman

        “There are very few rational reasons to be opposed to GMOs on scientific grounds.” WTF!? I strongly suggest you watch a video called the “Future of Food”, it outlines the problem very clearly. The fact that GMOs are in the environment, uncontrolled, pollinating all over creation, evolving together with the local flora and fauna, etc are scientific reasons to be concerned with GMOs. Don’t get me started on the labeling thing…and I’m not a reactionary, I’ve degrees in Geology and Biology and have taught Biology for over 20 years, and I am pro-science as you get, just not careless science driven by profit at the expense of the environment.

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          Irrational dogma. It ain’t just the wingnut right.

        • invivoMark

          Oh my glob! Really? Do you think that the Bt toxin, which is genetically engineered into many crops, might exist out in the wild!? Like, even in soil, perhaps? Gasp!

          (For those who don’t get my snark, the Bt toxin is produced by a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis. It exists in the wild. Everywhere. Look! You’re standing on some Bt toxin right now!)

          • dandaman

            Wasn’t referring just to Bt toxin, which previously was found primarily in soil, and not the biomass consumed by many animals, and perhaps not at that level. Hell, E. coli is rampant in my digestive system, but I don’t want it where it doesn’t belong. It is more the “don’t worry what we are doing” attitude of Monsanto and friends, “just trust us” while we lobby for legislation exempting us from future lawsuits that may and will arise from the unintended consequences of their experiment on us. Remember, GE has never been voted on. Not irrational, just erring on the side of caution, because once it’s out, it’s out, and there ain’t no bringing it back.

            • invivoMark

              Then I guess I don’t see how your opinion differs from that of C Peterson.

            • Anat

              Bt toxin is also used in sprays in organic agriculture. Eating the GMOs will get you a lower dose.

              • baal

                BT toxin is not a ‘toxin’. It is a protein with 3 sections to it. Section 1 makes holes in animal cell walls. That, however, can’t happen unless the section 2 binds to the cell wall. That binding is highly specific to certain species of moth caterpillars. This is entirely different than say hydrogen peroxide or cyanide which are directly toxic to all cells. I used to work in a lab that studied BT ‘toxin’ and have probably inadvertently eaten or inhaled grams of it. The stuff is simply not harmful to humans.

            • baal

              C Peterson explicitly made the point that the technology isn’t the problem. It’s how the laws and corporations use the technology that is the problem. ‘Voting’ to kill the technology is sloppy thinking at best. The issues is that corps have captured the government and we’ve gotten away from harm assessment in favor of the one size fits all, “let’s kill the tech” message.

        • Ewan

          “pollinating all over creation”

          Creation? It’s not a creation, it’s a mess. There’s no reason to think that an organism altered by genetic engineering is any more of a problem than one altered by artificial selection, or indeed one altered by natural selection.

          GM gave us golden rice, nature gave us MRSA.

          • guest

            Actually, the overuse of antibiotics, especially in livestock production, is what gave us MRSA. That’s not really any more or less “nature” than GM is.

        • tsig

          What with all this uncontrolled pollinating all over creation, evolving together with the local flora and fauna the corn is developing sentience and one night in some Iowa corn field the plants will uproot themselves and converge on the farmhouses and mankind’s reign will be over.

      • Feral Dog

        I’d say all crops being reduced to one or two clones is a scientifically-based concern. Imagine if some form of blight affected a staple crop like rice or wheat and there weren’t enough crops of resistant forms because of all the identical fields…

        • http://www.dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

          Yes, but that concern is no different for GM crops than for any others. Most food crops are already a monoculture, achieved by traditional breeding methods.

          It’s arguable that the financial incentives companies see in GM crops could actually result in increased diversity.

          • dandaman

            Except for the mentality that one can make a crop that “does it all”.

      • Itarion

        Potentially, allergens. Introducing genes from allergens has the potential to trigger allergic reactions, even if the whole allergenic product, be it peanuts, shellfish, whatever, isn’t present. Do I know? No, but it seems much more likely than a lot of what’s being supposed, like the creation of BRAND NEW allergies.

        • baal

          Spare me. I’ll take golden rice over the risk that someone will be allergic to it. The net benefits are too big and potential harms too speculative. Also, things like allergic reactions are testable. I’m a-ok with GMO products being tested for safety at the FDA (or equivalent) and think more things should be. That’s an entirely different aproach from banning the huge promise and actually delivered products of genetic engineering.

          • Itarion

            Oh absolutely. I’m just suggesting that the “HOLY CRAP SCARY THINGS!” could really be done as much better scary things. Cancer causing foods because genetic mods? As if! If I hear warnings against something, I expect some legitimate concerns, not a hodgepodge of unrelated buzzwords and hotbuttons.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Agreed with all this. I will add that the increased amount of pesticide usage due to Round-Up Reddy soybeans is of concern to me, as is the decline of the monarch butterfly due to Bt corn pollen killing them off. The environmental effects of pesticide-resistant monocultures are very worrisome.

        • invivoMark

          Then you ought to be interested in these studies. Bt corn does not pose a risk to monarch butterfly populations.

          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11559842
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12047949
          http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090902/full/461027a.html
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12949561
          http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11559841
          http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/br/btcorn/index.html#bt1

          I have not heard of Roundup Ready soybeans receiving extra pesticide. I am not sure why they would need additional pesticide compared with non-GM soybeans.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            They don’t need more pesticide and herbicide (and I do think I meant herbicide, not pesticide, so that is my mistake) per se. But because they are resistant to glyphosate, farmers can (and do) use significantly more on their fields. There was already a problem with resistant weeds, and this is creating hyper-resistant weeds while increasing the use of herbicides tremendously. They get into the water supply when they run off after rainstorms, not to mention the general environmental damage of overusing herbicides in the first place.

            And no, I am not opposed to herbicides or pesticides in general. They’re poisons, and they need to be respected as such, but they’re very useful poisons when used in moderation. They’re just overused at the moment, with predictably bad results for biodiversity and, well, us.

            And thanks for the studies. I had seen a few that suggested the Bt corn was killing the monarch butterflies. It could just be loss of habitat as well, given that milkweed is being systematically eradicated.

            • invivoMark

              Actually, the increased use of glyphosate is a good thing. The reason glyphosate-resistant crops were engineered is because glyphosate has a very benign effect on the environment compared to other herbicides. It degrades very rapidly, so almost none runs off when it rains.

              That’s exactly why glyphosate was a common herbicide in the ’80s, used to eliminate weeds in sidewalks, etc. And that’s also when glyphosate resistance evolved – before glyphosate resistant crops were engineered. Overuse of glyphosate is almost certainly causing the spread of glyphosate resistance in weeds, and that’s a concern for those who want to use it to kill weeds in sidewalk cracks, but it isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                As herbicides go, glyphosate is one of the safest. That doesn’t make it a good idea to use it nearly as much as we do. Cities use it and it does get into the water supply because it runs off hard surfaces. It does bind to soil for about a month and a half (average half-life). It’s not that dangerous to people if we eat residues, but it’s quite bad for field biodiversity, which is bad for crops (bees do not appreciate any chemicals, for example, though glyphosate doesn’t mess them up nearly as badly as the new pesticides). It also renders the soil eventually infertile to just grow corn on it- that’s more of a problem with monoculture agriculture in general, granted, but that only works because of things like glyphosate.

      • baal

        Your comment is precisely correct. The basic idea of moving things around in genomes (even between species) is largely benign. Viri have been doing it since life started on the planet. The exact how it’s done may or may not be a good idea depending on the particular suggested change.

    • skeptical_inquirer

      I think that Monsanto has made it so you keep having to buy seed every year while regular plants often produce seed for the next crop. So, I can see why people are iffy about it. Also this is one nasty litigious company.

      • Anat

        Farmers had to keep buying seeds every year even before GMOs. because the productive seeds came from hybrids of different strains – neither of the parents had all the desirable traits and the traits of the offspring would segregate in Mendelian fashion, few would have all the desirable traits.

        • nettwench14

          But they didn’t get sued by a multi-national conglomerate if a neighbor’s different strain of seeds blew into their land. There are also plenty of valid questions about how these genetic hybrids affect everything else in the environment, like bees. Or genetic hybrids getting loose and tainting nature like an invasive species. There are all kinds of valid questions that don’t have to do with denial of science, but lack of science by a company only concerned with marketing it’s products.They are likely to misrepresent dangers in order to sell their product, like big tobacco.

  • Itarion

    As a “secular humanist atheist liberal poindexter college” student, I’m going to have to say that not all “secular humanist atheist liberal poindexter college professors” love science, simply because not all “secular humanist atheist liberal poindexter college professors” teach science. That said, the “secular humanist atheist liberal poindexter college science professors” do love science. Very much so.

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

    Most Republicans support sensible gun regulations and raising the minimum wage. It’s Republican LEADERSHIP and MEDIA that is aggressively oligarchic, plutocratic, theocratic, and anti-science.

    • Pitabred

      Then maybe most Republicans shouldn’t be Republicans?

      • Itarion

        And this is the problem with the two-party system. If they aren’t [insert party], then they won’t get the people they really want into office, so they’d rather go with the people that they kinda want.

      • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

        None of them would be if they could accept reality and shed their media-bubble mythology.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    The right wing of the american political scene are anti-science. Because even if they aren’t rabid bible bumpers, they only ask the question, “How does this research benefit me directly?” instead of asking the more basic and central to science question “How does this work?” Even the most pro-science republican will only want to direct funds to projects that have immediate economic impacts. It’s like picking the fruit while starving the roots.

  • cyb pauli

    The problem with Republicans is Christian pseudoscience. The problem with Democrats (and liberals) is woo. As a skeptical empiricist liberal, it is exhausting listening to other liberals defend Islam, praise Pope Francis, say WBC aren’t True Christians ™ and go on and on about evil vaccines and GMOs. Skeptical people are the minority no matter where we go, it seems.

    • closetatheist

      I don’t think the problem is being skeptical. I think the problem is people don’t logically think about what they’re skeptical of and they’re often too lazy to do any real research. They merely learn that someone else is skeptical about something and so they become skeptical about it too! I know people that are skeptical of vaccines, GMO’s, laundry detergent, the ghays, immigrants, microwaves, cell phones, synthetic fibers, the color black, contact lenses, pants…honestly, its enough to drive me buggers!

      • Itarion

        Danged right I’m skeptical of pants! What can they do that shorts can’t?

        • Feral Dog

          Keep your legs safe from blackberry vines.

          • Itarion

            …among other things.

            Which makes this position as ridiculous as any of the other positions mentioned by closetatheist.

      • cyb pauli

        Whenever I ask my fellow libruhls what’s the issue with (insert thing here) the answer is always the same: IT’S UNNATURAL! The mother goddess, the Christian God or “nature” didn’t intend things that way!

        • closetatheist

          That drives me buggers too! so what? can’t humans have intentions too? aren’t we lords of our own destiny!?

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Now, Fisher is right that the left has its own problems with science
    acceptance, on subjects such as nuclear power, GMOs, and vaccinations.

    This is almost entirely wrong.

    1) Nuclear power. The left does not deny the basic science of nuclear power, but rather, they hold a greater fear of the consequences of something going wrong. This is quite different than the position of global warming denialists and creationists, who deny basic findings of science. And considering Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima, their position cannot be dismissed as irrational.

    2) GMOs. A similar deal. Once again, enviros do not deny the science of cloning. Rather, their fear of consequences of a mishap is heightened, in this case to an extent I would agree is irrational.

    3) Anti-vax. Anti-Vaccination Has a Slight Rightwing Trend Boo-ya.

    And, the portion of the Democratic party holding these views is much more marginal than the portion of the Republican party who are Creationists and climate change denialists, as can easily be detected by the very limited influence of these positions on party platforms and campaign claims.

  • JT Rager

    I think one problem with a lot of people (that is definitely not limited to Republicans) is their misunderstanding of a scientific mentality. It’s more than just testing, it’s eliminating your biases. You’re supposed to work from a hypothesis and see where the evidence leaves.

    This IS a problem with the religious right. They already have their conclusion that a god exists. And this spills over into their other conclusions: abortion is bad, mmm’kay. Earth is not heating up. Vaccines are bad. But let’s see what I can snag to support my position.

    I think they genuinely think everybody works like this, which is why they don’t see this as a problem. It’s as if there’s no “truth” that’s actually correct. Absolutely baffles me.

    • nettwench14

      I see this kind of thinking all the time, especially when you hear things like “liberal scientists are biased in favor of global warming.” They are so used to being told what to think by elders and betters, they can’t even see logical fallacies, or understand the scientific method is about FACTS, not beliefs. They approach journalism the same way, Their think-tanks approach issues the same way, making up their minds or pushing a conclusion they have come to before their evaluation of it. I see logical fallacies in the op-eds of conservative columnists all the time, where they make all kinds of assumptions that aren’t necessarily true, and then try to validate them. That’s marketing and propaganda, not logic. I start to believe that even conservatives who think they are intellectual can’t be very smart to not question that horse$hit.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    But if it is perceived as a partisan litmus test, it will not continue to exist in its current state as the government’s other financial obligations continue to grow.

    It’s a powerful point. It’s possible that by shouting from the hilltops that Republicans hate science and they Democrats love it (or, more specifically, that secular humanist atheist liberal poindexter college professor elitists love science), it becomes more and more toxic for Republican leaders to embrace, lest they look like the aforementioned pinkos to their base.

    It’s not really that powerful. It doesn’t matter what Democrats think here, what matters is that the Republican base elects large numbers of anti-science politicians. Democrats do not determine what Republicans use as their “litmus test.” (Unless the Republican party platform is merely “whatever those other guys oppose,” in which case the Republican party is much sicker than Fischer will admit.)

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    Yes, we also hear some unscientific nonsense coming from liberals. Anyone who reads Huffington Post knows that. What we don’t have are Democrats trying to put religion into science textbooks, at least not in significant numbers. If this guy is upset that Republicans are seen as anti-science, then he should get the party to change its platform and tactics regarding science and science education. It’s not as if that perception isn’t based on facts.

    • Itarion

      Non-science versus anti-science, you say? Either way, it is true that neither supports science sufficiently. Or education, which leads to science.

      “We’re in debt, what do we do?” “Cut education!” DAMMIT, NO!

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    Just to touch on GMOs I don’t have much of an opinion on the subject, but I do absolutely loathe the actions of Monsanto when it comes to how they treat farmers. If the author knows so many GOP members that accept the science of climate change then he should tell them to speak up.

    I think the author is disingenuous when he talks about evolution in his piece.

    “Believing in God is not the same as rejecting science, contrary to an all-too-frequent caricature propagated by the secular community.”

    No one is claiming that, but when you claim that the earth was created 6K years ao and that you believe in the bible and not man you are anti-science.

    On global warming, conservative policy positions often seem to be conflated or confused with rejection of the consensus that the planet has been warming due to human carbon emissions.

    Again if that were the case you would be ok, but the stance of the GOP is that global warming is not happening. You have high ranking members in the party that have gone after climate scientists and other members have stated that climate change doesn’t exist because god would never flood the world again. Also, the majority of scientists, 99%, agree that humans are having a major impact on climate change. Saying climate change exists doesn’t do any good if you oppose trying to slow the devastation that it will cause.

  • eric

    Supporters of federal science funding, a group of which I am a card-carrying member, can ill afford to lose Republican support for science. But if it is perceived as a partisan litmus test, it will not continue to exist in its current state as the government’s other financial obligations continue to grow.

    It’s a powerful point.

    It is indeed. The problem is that even in the absence of (liberals) vilifying Republicans or claiming they are anti-science, Republicans still shut down good science disproportionately more than Democrats. The American public can say nothing at all about science, and Republicans themselves will perceive support for mainstream science as a partisan litmus test.
    The history of the OTA (Office of Technology Assessment) is a classic example. Congress bipartisanly funds and staffs an investigative arm intended to help them understand scientific issues. For several years, OTA publishes reports that are solidly mainstream coverage of scientific issues. Result: Congressional Republicans defund the OTA permanently because they see it as supporting Democratic policies more than GOP ones.
    We can’t afford to lose GOP support, that’s true. Unfortunately, the problem is not about how outsiders view support for mainstream science as a political litmus test. The problem is how the GOP itself often views support for mainstream science as a political litmus test – in a negative way. As in, ‘if you support it, you aren’t one of us.’

  • Kael Godkiller

    I like the careful wording: “do not reject the underlying science of global warming.” Notice that this does not mean they accept it either; they could just say that there’s no evidence for or against (they’d be wrong, but politically it sounds very reasonable). Also, what is meant by “underlying science?” You could say that the underlying science is just the principals of physics and chemistry. Like so: “Excuse me congressperson, but do you think that our fundamental understanding of physical and chemical concepts is valid?” “Of course, what nut wouldn’t believe in physics or chemistry, everyone knows it’s biology that’s crap.” “Err…ok then, do you understand that it is those basic principles of chemistry and physics that allow us to understand that man-made climate change is real?” “No, everyone knows that that climate change crap is a lefty Democrat conspiracy to hurt industry.”


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