Right Wing Numbnuttery is Bad Whether It’s “Anti-Science” or Not

Right Wing Numbnuttery is Bad Whether It’s “Anti-Science” or Not December 28, 2017
"No, you're the puppet!"
“No, you’re the puppet!”

The fine publication Mother Jones describes the right wing’s attacks on environmental research, the rights of defendants and convicts, and the underclass in a recent issue, in an article called, “Here Is the Worst Anti-Science BS of 2017.” The problem with that title is that it implies that we’re supposed to be outraged at the science denial aspect of the stories rather than the right-wing cynicism and cruelty at the heart of them.

Though I urge you to read the article, which deals with each story in greater detail, I’ll show you the list of items they chose for their article:

1. White House declares climate science a “waste of your money”

In March, Trump released a budget proposal calling for steep cuts to the climate research conducted by NASA, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other government agencies. When asked about these proposals, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said, “Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore; we consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that.”

2. Trump staffers play dumb on the global warming “hoax”

For a week this spring, as the administration rolled out Trump’s decision to begin withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, reporters repeatedly asked whether the president still believed what he’d said over and over: that global warming is a hoax. Rather than respond to this basic question, multiple administration officials simply pretended to not know the answer.

Both of these items are disturbing, because they expose a right wing administration in hock to corporate interests who oppose the regulatory action necessary to combat global warming, and one that doesn’t feel it owes Americans any sort of explanation on its position. The science aspect is largely irrelevant; the issues here are economics, the corporate influence over our government, and a lack of transparency in our elected officials.

3. Jeff Sessions opposes forensic science reform

Much of the forensic science used in American courtrooms is shockingly unreliable. As a result, innocent people go to prison. Some might even be executed. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn’t buying it. Even before assuming the nation’s top law enforcement position, he had a long history of pushing back against forensic reform efforts that might make it more difficult for prosecutors to win convictions.

The outrageous aspects of this item are the cheap moralism of the right wing and its law-and-order mentality. If anything, Sessions is being too trusting of so-called forensic science, and isn’t interested in reforming a system that’s working in favor of prosecutors.

4. New Mexico scrubs its science education standards

In September, New Mexico’s public education agency attempted to eliminate references to global warming, evolution, and the age of the Earth from the state’s science standards.

Any measure that targets schoolkids deserves our disgust. And the political posturing to curry favor with religious conservatives is nauseating too. But the main problem here is that powerful corporations are exerting control over even public education in the USA. The MJ article mentions that a former employee who worked on the standards said that one of the big reasons for politicizing them was concern over “the oil companies.”

5. Citing the Bible, an Indiana county ends needle exchange program

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, a Republican, applauded the Lawrence County vote, declaring in a statement that “handing out clean needles encourages substance abusers to shoot up,” which, he said, leads to “increased likelihood of overdose and death.” The CDC disagrees with the claim, stating that these programs can actually reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C without increasing illegal drug use.

Once again, the problem here isn’t the anti-science aspect, or even the Bible verses supposedly offered to justify ending the public health program. The problem is that right wingers have a cynical disdain for the underclass, drug abusers in particular, and want to cause as much suffering and devastation to the victims of a nationwide opioid epidemic as they can. This has nothing to do with science or religion, this is indifference.

6. Scott Pruitt declares war on climate science

When Trump chose Scott Pruitt to run the EPA, many staffers worried that the former Oklahoma attorney general, who had repeatedly sued the agency in the past, would undermine their work. It turns out they were right. A few weeks after taking office, Pruitt went on CNBC and contradicted decades of science by declaring that carbon dioxide isn’t necessarily a “primary contributor” to climate change.

As I said in response to the first two items, this is all about corporate shenanigans. It’s not as if Pruitt were chosen as head of the EPA because of his expertise in climatology; he’s a stooge appointed by a stooge of the multinationals who want the elimination of the regulatory power that curbs their profits and influence. This is economics, plain and simple.

7. States use experimental drugs to execute inmates

Mother Jones’ Nathalie Baptiste spent much of 2017 chronicling capital punishment in the United States—a system that is arbitrarycruelexpensive, and highlyinequitable. It is also an affront to basic standards of science and medicine. As Nathalie has explained, there was never much evidence behind the original “three-drug cocktail” that was supposed to make lethal injection painless and humane. But in recent years, things have gotten even worse as pharmaceutical companies have become increasingly unwilling to allow their products to be used for capital punishment, which has left prison officials scrambling to find drugs they can use to kill inmates.

In response, some states have resorted to even more unscientific methods of execution, concocting new lethal injection regimens using untested drugs and procedures. The results have been predictably horrific, culminating in Arkansas’ failed attempt in April to execute eight men in less than two weeks—before its supply of the controversial sedative midazolam expired.

This is the same issue as in items #3 and #5: the moralistic hatred of the underclass and convicts. The right wing has no qualms about executing citizens, even after it’s been shown that there are a lot of socieconomic, ethical, and methodological problems with the death penalty. I can’t see how science is the real issue here, rather than morality.

I agree with Mother Jones on all these matters. It’s just that I think it’s important to see them in the contexts of power, corporate influence, and ethics rather than as challenges to the authority of science.

What do you think? Is the scientific aspect of these issues the most important? Or are there other aspects that are just as disturbing?

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  • Kevin K

    There’s a lot of forensic “science” that has more of voodoo and witchcraft to it than actual “science”. Everyone knows, of course, that “lie detectors” are in actuality “nervousness/anxiety detectors”, and can be easily beaten by anyone with even half of the psychopathy of a certain orange shitgibbon. So much so that the results aren’t even admissible in court anymore. If I was ever asked to take a lie detector test, I would firmly refuse unless I could bring a psychic to do a Tarot card reading to the session and a dowser as well.

    Bite mark analysis has also been proven to be about as accurate and reliably reproducible as phrenology. Faulty burn analysis got a guy unjustly executed for an arson-murder, when it was in reality an accident.

    Of course, the most reliable technology, DNA analysis, can be easily contaminated unless samples are very carefully handled. Which is how OJ Simpson got off, despite having practically a liter of his blood (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but way more than enough to firmly establish his presence) at the crime scene.

  • Bite mark analysis has also been proven to be about as accurate and reliably reproducible as phrenology. Faulty burn analysis got a guy unjustly executed for an arson-murder, when it was in reality an accident.

    I remember seeing a Frontline episode about that! The guy’s children were killed in a fire that prosecutors say he set in a Satanic pentagram design, when it was just the way that the room’s windows fed air to the fire.

    The point of the post wasn’t to downplay the problem of science denialism. It was to make it clear that in most cases, science isn’t really the problem. The oil companies who want information on climate change suppressed aren’t “anti-science” in the least. They’re just looking out for their bottom line and they can influence the legislative process in a way that doesn’t serve the common good. That’s a lot more objectionable than denying the authority of science.

  • Karen Hwang

    You haven’t even touched on the right’s attacks on reproductive choice, everything from claiming fetuses are people to claiming abortion causes cancer and mental illness.

  • I’d say the principle is the same: it’s the misogyny that we should object to, not the “anti-science” mentality behind the attacks. Anti-choice views derive from mistrust of sexually active women, not from opinions about scientific inquiry.

  • Think Light Blue

    The cumulative effect of science denial is devastating. It has been going on for some time now, there was “junk science” long before there was “fake news”. It adds to the distrust of any authority. We can see the results with the rejection of vaccines, GMO foods and a whole host of other things.

  • I think the anti-vaxx phenomenon is particularly disturbing. But it’s because it has the potential to cause real suffering, as kids die from easily treatable diseases like measles. It’s not because it undermines the unquestionable authority of science. You see the point I’m making here, right?

  • JSloan

    What is it with you and science? I have to admit that I was sort of with you until I got to the end, with your comment about “the authority of science”, and your comment below about “the unquestionable authority of science”. What is this authority in science? There is no supreme scientific leader or a junta of scientists dictating the unquestionable laws of nature. Sure, there are some scientists who have garnered public recognition, but they have no more authority than any other celebrity. To go on asserting that there is some unquestionable authority of science is to reveal either a gross lack of understanding about how science is conducted or the mindset of a tin-foil capped conspiracy theorist.

  • stevie68a

    There are a lot of people who want a theocracy. They are dangerous, deluded nuts.
    Hopefully, they’ll overreach, and much of what they want will collapse.

  • All I’m asking here is what’s more disturbing to us about these items? Is it the cynicism, indifference, and the corporate control of our government? Or is it the fact that the government is engaging in “science denial”? Would we be okay with the government kowtowing to corporate influence, and violating the rights of convicts and the accused, as long as the administration had scientific reasons for doing so?

  • JSloan

    That is not all you are asking here. Twice you have tossed out a reference to something call ‘the authority of science’, without explaining what you mean by that.

    Although I agree that in many areas of government, (and especially in the current administration), policies are heavily influence by the interests of large corporations. In the case of climate change policy, the government is blatantly denying the results of research, and it is fairly clear that corporate interests are involved in the policy. If this is what you mean by government engaging in “science denial”, then I would agree. However, in your reply your last question makes two assertions: one, that “the government” is influence by corporate (i.e. pharmaceutical companies) interests in setting policies regarding capital punishment, and two, that the government uses “scientific reasons” to justify the policies. First, need I remind you that, except there the Supreme Court gets involved, it is state governments where capital punishment laws are set. And the Mother Jones article points out that Pharmaceutical companies are refusing to sell to the states the drugs used in executions. This is the opposite of what you are saying in your reply. Also, the Mother Jones article states that “there is virtually no scientific data to suggest that lethal injection is humane.” So where are these “scientific reasons” that state governments are using to justify there execution methods? If they had any reasons, a bit of research would likely show them to be baseless.

  • That is not all you are asking here. Twice you have tossed out a reference to something call ‘the authority of science’, without explaining what you mean by that.

    I’m characterizing the outrage over “science denial” as science-fan umbrage over perceived skepticism of science, rather than a realistic understanding of the political, economic, and ethical problems with the GOP’s policies. Oil companies want to circumvent necessary climate change regulation, so they’re backing politicians who will de-emphasize the severity of global warming. Oil companies aren’t “anti-science” by any stretch of the imagination. They just know the negative impact that regulation will have on the earnings-per-share of their stockholders.

    I object to the corporate shenanigans here, and deplore politicians’ willingness to oppose legislation that would inconvenience their deep-pockets sponsors. But calling this “science denial” implies that there’s something sancrosanct about science, like it’s an unquestionable authority, and that calling “science” into question is the most objectionable aspect of the matter.

    I never said anything about pharmaceutical companies, so you obviously misunderstood what I was saying about the execution drugs. The point is that the right wingers are engaging in moralistic posturing about capital punishment, and being seen as “tough on crime” is more important to them than dealing with the various ethical issues concerning the death penalty.

  • JSloan

    You need t read my comment again. I said it was the Mother Jones article that mentions the pharmaceutical companies. To paraphrase your previous comment, you asked if we should go along with a government policy of altering a lethal injection protocol if the state had “scientific reasons” for doing so. I asked you: what are these scientific reasons you are referring to? But rather than address that question, you veered off to talk about the right’s moralistic posturing.

  • To paraphrase your previous comment, you asked if we should go along with a government policy of altering a lethal injection protocol if the state had “scientific reasons” for doing so. I asked you: what are these scientific reasons you are referring to?

    That’s what’s called a rhetorical question, and it relates to the entire gist of the OP. I didn’t mean there are good scientific reasons for oppressing and executing people. What I meant is that we should be objecting to the Republicans’ attachment to the death penalty, not its allegedly science-denying rationale for doing so.

    Do you even understand my point here?

  • JSloan

    I have noticed that you have a habit of saying one thing, and when you are called on it, you deny having said it, and then you say something else unrelated or even contradictory. It’s like squeezing a balloon only to have it pop out somewhere else. I find that intellectually dishonest.

  • Um, but in this case, I’m trying to clarify what I’m saying, but you’re ignoring me. And that’s intellectually honest?

  • JSloan

    I am not ignoring you, I am giving up on getting a straight and honest answer from you to my original question, which you have been ignoring. You have not been clarifying. You have been dodging and obfuscating. If the point of your article was clear to be begin with, you wouldn’t need to be clarifying it here.

  • It’s not complicated, amigo: I’m saying that by characterizing these items as “anti-science,” we’re making it seem like the Republicans’ cynicism, kowtowing to corporate interests, lack of compassion and disregard for civil rights are all irrelevant, and the main problem for us is that they’re not sufficiently respectful of Almighty Science.

    That’s what the point is and has always been. If you’re still not clear on that, then I submit the fault isn’t mine.

  • disqus_ZBXJDbYJHe

    Funny how these right wingers don’t care about science considering the fact that many of them benefited from science; otherwise, they would be living in caves, trying to cook food over an open fire pit, and being half naked because there were no technology means of producing clothes to cover the whole human body.

  • Sophotroph

    This is the only way he knows how to argue. He’s on a personal quest to de-legitimize science by characterizing all pro-science enthusiasm as fanboyism and all anti-science sentiment as legitimate skepticism.

    Most people who come here figure it out eventually, which is why there are so few comments.

    He’s an “ignore your points, attack attack attack” sort of guy, but he thinks he’s hiding it pretty well.

    Do a little digging on Shem. I promise you’ll find it enlightening.

  • My posting history is open to digging, unlike yours.

    But what’s your problem this morning? You make it sound like I pissed in your corn flakes.

  • JSloan

    Thanks Sophotroph, I have been coming to the same conclusion. What I don’t understand is how he fenagled his way into the nonreligious category. Is anyone curating this thing?

  • Why wouldn’t I be in the nonreligious category? Is there anything religious in my posts?

    Happy new year! Hope you’ll be able to grouse and whine about my blog throughout 2018.

  • JSloan

    Generally there is nothing religious in a blog about automobile maintenance either, but you don’t see that in the nonreligious category.

    By the way, snide and insulting seems to be your stock in trade.

  • I’ve got my blog, you’ve got your opinion.

  • Neko

    Faulty burn analysis got a guy unjustly executed for an arson-murder, when it was in reality an accident.

    The New Yorker had a wrenching piece on this tragedy.

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/09/07/trial-by-fire

  • al kimeea

    Why not both? Ask Steve Jobs, who delayed real treatment for some all natural mumbo-jumbo. Or maybe the two native girls in Ontario who went to court to stop healthcare pros from forcing them to follow a chemo regimen in favour of “Traditional Medicine” – one of the girls said Jesus(?) came to her in a dream to tell her she would be cured. They’re both dead now for refusing a treatment that cured my niece and about 85% of patients with a similar cancer. As for the “medicine” the dead girls opted for, don’t think sweat lodge and a shaman. No, it was cold laser therapy and whole veggies, etc on a quack farm in Florida. It seems the owner of the “medical” spa actually trolled their reserve, selling his snake-oil.

    This charlatan, like the anti-vaxx crowd, would be undermining the utility and efficacy of science, while ironally claiming to have science behind his woo. It’s these two things which lend science authority – usefulness and effectiveness. As I mentioned elsewhere, the current anti-vaxx phenom was kick-started by a doctor with $ome unethical $cientific method$. Now a brave rebel, a martyr, against “the unquestionable authority of science” dogma to his flock.

    It is this undermining of the credibility of scientific endeavour which allows unnecessary suffering to spread. One of the ways woomeisters do that is by framing their quackery as the answer to a question science doesn’t want you to ask. Or can’t answer. So people in Africa get HIV because nipple headed old men in funny dresses tell them “NO HEAVEN FOR YOU” if they use a condom. Or a quack will charge YUGE sums to cure your cancer with urine, while never having completed a rigorous examination of his idea.

    To say that science isn’t perfect and that it should be questioned is no surprising revelation. At least not to me and I’m sure, many others.