Erasing false balance: the right is more antiscience than the left

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Sept. 28 2011 12:31 PM

Erasing false balance: the right is more antiscience than the left

[Note: I'm anticipating some, um, interesting comments to this post. So, before you leave one, please read this post on my political thinking, and this one on political posts in general.]

I write quite a bit about how rabidly antiscience the political right in the US has become. From the attacks on science by the Bush Administration (and Newt Gingrich before that) to the political litmus test of needing to denounce evolution and global warming if you're a candidate, the Republican party has planted its flag firmly in the ground of nonsense. At the bottom of this article is a section called Related Posts that has links to just a handful of the copious examples of this outrageous behavior.

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!  

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They have also become masters at spinning this, going on the attack against science they don't like and using the media to sow doubt. One of the most aggravating of these tactics is the one of false equivalency. For example, in a post I might lambaste yet another Republican candidate saying creationism should be taught in schools, and someone in the comments will say, "Well, people on the left are antiscience as well!"

This is a common claim, but at best it's a gross mischaracterization of what's going on, and in reality it's beside the point. Sure, some people on the left have issues (mostly anti-corporate or alt-med stuff like being against GMO, vaccines, and so on), but those are not the main planks of the left. And those issues are a drop in the bucket compared to what's going on in the right. To say you think evolution might be true is political suicide if you're a Republican candidate right now. It's that simple, and that bad. I think that, like on the left, the majority of voters on the right are not antiscience, but if you look to the leaders in Congress, in State legislatures, and at the Presidential candidates, that's all you see.

And that's why you need to read an article by my friend Chris Mooney, "Unequivocal: Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today's Left". He lays out just how big this problem is, why the right has gone this way, and why they have solidarity among their candidates.

The chief reason the political right is anti-science is because it contains the Christian Right (and Tea Party, which is kind of the same thing). There is no force in American politics generating anywhere near so much unreality, in science or in other spheres, as this one. It is not just evolution, or the age of the Earth... When it comes to science, it is also anything having anything to do with abortion, reproductive health, and sexuality. Moreover, we are talking here about the willful advancement of dangerous falsehoods, and the clinging to them in the face of all evidence and refutation—because this is about unwavering certainty, and ultimately, about faith.

This is one of the most important political articles I've read in quite some time. Chris lays out the political reality of antireality in a stark way. The article is frustrating and infuriating, because it shows just how the right's leaders have lost their grip on reality, and is a grim reminder of just how important the elections next year are.

To be clear: I am not saying that anyone who calls themself a Republican is antiscience. I am saying the leaders of the party and their mouthpieces are, and Chris does a good job of showing that this is now the mainstream thrust of the party. If you are a conservative person who is pro-science, it is up to you to talk to your leaders about this issue. The GOP used to be pro-science, but was hijacked by the antiscience fringe many years ago. I can talk about this all I want and try to raise awareness, but your voices must be heard. Speak up.



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