The Anti-Science of the Republican Party Terrifies

Paul Krugman in a New York Times column on Sunday gave voice to the fear that must haunt any aware observer of the anti-science tide currently sweeping through the American Republican party. “It should terrify us,” were his words. I’m not an American, but it certainly terrifies me, all the more for the recognisable lineaments which seem to be manifesting themselves in the Australian right and are unmistakeable in the New Zealand ACT party which is in coalition with the government and apparently welcome back next time.

Krugman looks at two serious contenders for the Republican party nomination to run for President, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got people’s attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

Krugman vacillates on how to describe Perry’s statement, first calling it “remarkable” then reflecting that maybe the right adjective is “vile”.

He points out that the second part of the statement is just false. As the evidence for climate change is mounting the scientific consensus is getting stronger.

In fact, if you follow climate science at all you know that the main development over the past few years has been growing concern that projections of future climate are underestimating the likely amount of warming. Warnings that we may face civilization-threatening temperature change by the end of the century, once considered outlandish, are now coming out of mainstream research groups.

But never mind that, Mr. Perry suggests; those scientists are just in it for the money, “manipulating data” to create a fake threat. In his book “Fed Up,” he dismissed climate science as a “contrived phony mess that is falling apart.”

… Mr. Perry is buying into a truly crazy conspiracy theory, which asserts that thousands of scientists all around the world are on the take, with not one willing to break the code of silence.

Romney’s approach is to backtrack on his previous endorsement of the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern.

…last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but “I don’t know that” and “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.” Moral courage!

In Romney’s case it’s a matter of meeting the requirements of the Republican voters:

Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates, one that Mr. Romney is determined to pass at all costs.

Krugman sums up:

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

Krugman adds that the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right in America extends far beyond the issue of climate change, and concludes:

But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.

I happen at present to be reading a couple of biographies of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president. The anti-slavery thinking which was prominent in the party’s origins was enlightened and humane by the standards of the day. The dark irrationality which buoyed the institution of slavery wasn’t for them. It’s a strange reversal which sees the Republican party today defending the indefensible on grounds which can only be described as irrational and determinedly ignorant.

9 thoughts on “The Anti-Science of the Republican Party Terrifies”

  1. Personally I think that the Republicans/Tea partiers should be entitled to reject science. However, in so doing, they should be denied drugs and medical treatments amongst others, which are all founded on science. They should reject ALL science, not just the bit that doesn’t suit their wallet.

  2. As an American I am appalled by the Republican party’s stance on science and many other things. There is no excuse for their ignorance and apparently they all speak the party line. Most intelligent people that were Republicans have left the party, except for those like Karl Rove who can remain in the background and not take responsibility for their efforts. They can lead others and let them have the limelight. Ronald Reagan was the first “star” they shoved forward. I don’t know who is behind Perry but I’ll bet the Kochs are very happy with his candidacy.

  3. The problem goes deeper than the cabal of right wing nut cases of the republican party hopefuls. Overall in the world we find people very willing to “take back” what they have lost in humanities ascent from the days of old to our modern science driven world: The ability to control the world by their gut sense of what they think is right or wrong. The republicans partially drive this wave, partially they swim on this undercurrent.

    It is science that tells us that the way of our lives, the exponential growth paradigm, is over. It is the street, the plumber Jones types with their six packs and an over mortgaged home, who can not accept that message. They rather turn their head away from the messenger and join the howling circus of the anti-science movement.

    The Kochs are well happy, but this is unfortunately also a very popular movement, not just a top down manipulated one. It must be so cool to smirk at your scientists relative with this all knowing look: “you are all crooks…., finally I get my one up on your whole shebang, I knew I one day would”.

    The outcome of this whole rot if it is not changed will be devastating.

  4. I find it interesting that the front runners in the Republican Presidential contest all profess rejection of climate change, minimalist central government and no new taxes. The only candidate who rejects these and has a more moderate stance, John Huntsman has very little support and no traction.
    I take this as an indication that politicly centre voters have deserted the Republican Party and all they are left with is the wacky extreme right Tea Party and religious activists, which is not enough to win an election.

    1. I wish you were right on this one. Unfortunately I am not so sure. As I said, there is a large underbelly of the US society – and also elsewhere – which is supportive of their message. When times get harder, peoples sense for right and wrong goes out the door. The rise of nut case fascist movements in Europe after the great depression is a dark reminder of what an angry and irrational people are capable off. Sense is less common than we would hope it is.

      When cornered (environmentally, economically) humans tend to resort to relying on their own reconnaissance coming from their underbelly and not on listening to the messages coming from a distant ivory tower, especially if these messages contradict the entitlement thinking that is so ingrained in our western psyche after a century of plentitudes…. and especially if they are conditioned to getting brain washed every Sunday/Saturday or Friday (depending on the color of the book…) by the biggest con operation of all times…..

      No, I am very concerned that those dark times of the 30ites will revisit us. And this is no time to be complacent about this. The political constellations of the next decade or two will determine the fate of humanity.

  5. Out of interest I’d have to say how rockytom, above, appears not to know that Karl Rove recently called Governor Perry out as “not presidential” — relating to attitude and tone on topics abovementioned by PK.

    We should be clear that votes render-up power, mass ignorance in this regard of no matter insofar as putting science and climate scientists down or delaying action/s, ignoring consequences, or worse – per the Perry political proposition – copping out to global domininion-under-God.

    If it helps the Perry prop is well-aligned to US republicanism’s G.W.Bush model. Mebbe enough already.

    One sympathises with Krugman for even so much as his need to deal to huge politicized prejudice, yet effectively talking up home-nurtured ‘terror’ looks dodgy unless, that is to say, doing so is part of a strategy.

    I’d be interested to hear back on this..

  6. oops!

    Adding an assist for rockytom.. seen at Perry prop fundraisings the Gramms – Phil and his mrs – infamous on the Glass-Steagall financial law unreform.. unregulation being the big-time biz of all manner of ‘republican’.

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