Antiscience party

Antiscience party

Antiscience party

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Dec. 3 2010 9:48 AM

Antiscience party

Capitol smokeMany times, when I post about political antiscience, I get some people who are very upset that I don't point out when liberals or Democrats attack reality. While I do disagree with some or even many of the Democrats' planks, they typically are not the ones rabidly attacking science. For the most part these days, those on the left are more supportive of science than those on the right. Stem cell research, evolution, climate change, cosmology... these are not generally targets of those on the left.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

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

So it was with some grim amusement that two articles came up one after the other recently in my RSS feed reader: one from Chris Mooney at The Intersection, where he points out that attacks on global warming come almost exclusively from Republicans (and you can read more from Chris about this on DeSmogBlog), and the other by Josh Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas where he frets -- and rightfully (haha) so -- about Eric Cantor's gearing up to attack science en masse when Congress reconvenes.

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I have a lot of worries about the new Republican majority in the House, and you can get a taste of them in an earlier blog post. Everything I've read and seen in the few days since I've posted that hasn't exactly been reassuring, either: John Boehner just announced that when the Republicans take over, they'll dismantle the House Select Committee on Global Warming.

Terrific. I remember quite well when the Republican Party was steadfast in support of good science, and it was the Democrats who attacked it (William Proxmire was a Dem, as was Walter Mondale, who wanted to reduce funds for the initial Space Shuttle program; and while his reasons for doing so weren't necessarily antiscience, he did fall for the false dichotomy of funding space exploration versus funding social programs... and please, spare me once again the lie that President Obama is killing manned spaceflight (and more to the point, that link outlines a lot of ridiculous Republican attacks on NASA).

I don't know what happened to cause a major switcheroo here. Certainly the Republican Party's aligning itself with the religious far-right explains a lot of that side's actions, but I don't know when the Democrats started coming to the defense of science. When I was a kid and becoming politically aware, I liked a lot of the social progressiveness of the left but was disenchanted with the stance on science. Now it's nice to see those two things aligned better, but I wish the Democrats had the backbone to get more done. With the antiscience, antiprogressive Republicans controlling the House starting in January, that window will close pretty firmly. It's clear the Repubs in Congress have their stance fossilized for now, and the clear lack of willingness to negotiate means nothing will get done in the next two years, I'd wager. And these are two years we can't afford to lose.