Stepping off the narrow path of reality

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March 22 2010 1:15 PM

Stepping off the narrow path of reality

I've said here before that the path of reality is razor-thin: there's only one way to be right, but an infinite number of ways to be wrong.

The thing is, that narrow path is like a single, unbroken strand, but each path of unreality leads to every other. If you can chuck reality into the dustbin, then all manners of silliness seem equally plausible. You might think that believing in Santa Claus is a lot sillier than believing in homeopathy, but really they're the same: they're both fantasy.

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For support in this thesis of mine, I present to you an article in the New York Times about how politicians who attack evolution legislatively are now also attacking global warming. This doesn't surprise me at all, for two reason. One is that I've already written about dumb legislation in South Dakota and Utah trying to resolve away climate change, resolutions filled with nonsense and ridiculous assertions that fly in the face of what we know. That's empirical proof that politicians are willing to try to legislate narrow partisan beliefs into reality.

But the other reason I'm not surprised is that, over the past decade or so in particular, we've seen the far right promote fantasy over reality. Abstinence-only education, creationism, global warming denialism, defunding stem cell research, the mocking of volcano research, fruit fly research, planetarium star projectors.

It shows to me that once you buy into one flavor of candy-coated nonsense, they all start to taste pretty good. But we have to be adults here, and understand that you can't live on candy. In fact, too much makes you sick. And that'll make walking that narrow path that much harder.

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!