As scientists (and those who support science) prepare to descend on Washington D.C. and other locations around the world in the “March For Science,” I am disturbed by many things about it. I am disturbed that scientists should feel the need to defend science and the scientific method, what is the alternative? I am disturbed at a world and nation that increasingly attacks science (and scientists), without which the modern society they enjoy could not possibly exist.
But what I think what disturbs me most, particularly as a life long Republican, is that the march is regarded by so many Republicans and conservatives as an attack on them. Science is viewed as a “liberal thing,” because for so many Republicans science itself (and scientists) are regarded as liberal. They label science (and scientists) as “socialist” and “communist.” They believe in some sort of vast international left wing science conspiracy against conservatism and capitalism. On issues from evolution, to global warming, to vaccines they attack science and those who do it. People have forgotten the routine miracles that science has brought us, to include the ability to spread ignorance across the internet.
Trying to find the cause for all this is equally frustrating. Part of this is because many of them are dumb. I know it is impolite to say so, and I have to work to avoid smearing all of them as such, but in my discussions with such people I have found many of them are just flat dumb. By this I mean they don’t understand science. They don’t understand the scientific method, they don’t understand basic science and scientific principles.
They are people who will say incredibly stupid stuff like “if evolution is true then why do we still have monkeys?” Another example are those who claim to believe in “micro-evolution” but not “macro-evolution,” not understanding that scientists don’t use these terms and what they call “macro-evolution” is just micro-evolution X time. They don’t even understand what the word “theory” means in science, dismissing evolution as “just a theory” (as our Vice President did). Some of these people will tell you that global warming can’t be happening because it would supposedly violate the laws of thermodynamics while falling for some free energy perpetual motion con they have seen on the internet. Dumb.
Conspiracy theorizing and the mainstreaming among Republicans of nut job conspiracy theories, is also part of it. Having elected a nut job conspiracy theorist to the office of President many Republicans are more comfortable with adopting nut job conspiracy theories themselves.
Many adopt conspiracy theories to support their anti-science view. It is practically impossible to be a climate change skeptic without being a conspiracy theorist. At some point skeptical arguments break down to “they” are faking the data demonstrating global warming. Who are “they”? Well, it’s all the climate scientists in scores of countries engaged in a vast conspiracy to fake the data. Even scientists in countries hostile to America participate in the conspiracy. The “they” in time expands to NASA, NOAA and even the CIA (which has accepted climate change as a risk to national security).
Supposedly, the vast bulk of scientists in the world are united in a drive to reverse capitalism and impose one world order socialism. Climate change is just one of the tools to do so. Our President himself has tweeted that global warming theory is nothing but a commie plot against America.
Another such tool of the evil international cabal of scientists is evolution, a plot to weaken the institutions of religion and thereby expand the influence of the state, and the reliance of people on the state. Former Representative Paul Brown, who the Republicans actually placed on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said the following:
All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. There’s a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I believe that the Earth is about 9,000 years old. I believe that it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says. And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually. How to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all our public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason, as your congressman, I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.”
I’ve read “there is a large gap between agw deniers and evolution deniers.” I disagree. Virtually every evolution denier is also an AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) denier. Many, if not most, AGW deniers are evolution deniers. Once you believe Godless scientists are attempting to lead us to Hell it’s a short step to believe Godless scientists are trying to destroy our way of life, and vice-versa. The contradiction that this way of life was largely built by science and scientists is missed by them. To tie in the anti-vaccine movement, once you believe Godless scientists are trying to destroy our way of life, it is a short step to the belief that they will cover up creating autism in children. Our President has declared to us that the medical community is lying to us about vaccines, dangerously legitimizing this whack-a-doodle view.
After all, if one accepts the CDC is lying to us about something as deadly as Ebola, lying to us about autism is easy to believe.
The attack on science is broader than mere disagreement with global warming. The President believes the world’s scientists are not only lying to us about global warming, but also that the world’s doctors are lying to us about everything from vaccines to to Ebola.
Once one rejects the massive evidence of evolution, rejecting the massive evidence of climate change is even easier (and vice-versa). Some of these people believe the Earth is less than 10,000 years old, a proposition as scientifically impossible as the Earth being flat or being the center of the universe. Moving from flat out impossible beliefs to beliefs merely contrary to the great weight of evidence is a very short step.
Science haters like to defend their attacks on grounds that science has not always been right. They point to past errors, and even frauds, to argue that science is not perfect. When doing this they never pause, they never take the next step, to ask themselves how they know science was once wrong. They know that science has been wrong in the past because science told them so. They rely on science correcting itself to discredit science, and scientists. Again, the irony is lost on them. The self reflection science routinely employs is not one of their strengths.
Science is not liberal or conservative. Science is not Republican or Democrat. Facts and data are not ideology. Many in our increasingly fact ambivalent society are marginalizing science, facts and data, to a particular ideology. They generally do so to advance an agenda supporting their own ideology over science, data and facts. That is why so many of one ideology have become anti-science.
I speak strongly and harshly because in a world where this nation’s economic prosperity and national security shall be increasingly defined by scientific advancement, the anti-science movement risks all the freedom and prosperity we enjoy.