With the ascension of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and other GOP candidates who don’t cotton to this evolution or climate change stuff, people have begun to ask if Republicans and conservatives are actually becoming hostile to science. It doesn’t help that one of those people is Republican Presidential candidate John Huntsman.
Rightbloggers leapt into this fray with a broad reinterpretation of the word “science” to mean whatever they wanted it to mean, which in most cases was “something liberals and scientists use to attack God and America.”
A few weeks back Huntsman worried aloud that Republicans increasingly “find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.” He was seconded by such expected sources as Paul Krugman. But less ideologically-oriented publications jumped in as well: Last week the science magazine Discover, for example, wondered about “the increasingly antiscience Republican candidates.”
Some people who are decidedly not liberals got nervous about it too. At libertarian magazine Reason, Steve Chapman wrote about “The Conservative Reversal on Science.” Bernard Goldberg said this week, “Liberal Democrats may be nuts, but they’re not nuts about this kind of thing. A conservative running for the GOP nomination for president may do quite well in Iowa believing in religious fairy tales – but it’s not going to play well in other parts of the country, especially with independents who tend to be more moderate.”
The brethren put on their thinking caps and came up some zingers to shut up them science-y liberal types.
“In no sense that the ordinary person would understand the term is Rick Perry ‘anti-science,'” asserted National Review‘s Rich Lowry. “He hasn’t criticized the scientific method, or sent the Texas Rangers to chase out from the state anyone in a white lab coat.”
In fact, said Lowry, “Perry’s website touts his Emerging Technology Fund as an effort to bring ‘the best scientists and researchers to Texas.'” As if that weren’t convincing enough, he also pointed out that Perry’s home state “has a booming health-care sector,” which proves Perry’s devotion to science much as Texas’ record drought might prove his devotion to dehydration.
Lowry admitted Perry has a “somewhat doubtful take on evolution,” but explained that it “has more to do with a general impulse to preserve a role for God in creation than a careful evaluation of the work of, say, Stephen Jay Gould.” Also, lots of Americans don’t think man came from no monkey, neither. So Perry has great motives for his anti-evolution stand: God, and possible election to the Presidency.
By contrast, said Lowry, liberals only believe in evolution because they hate God. “Science is often just an adjunct to the Left’s faith commitments,” he wrote. “A Richard Dawkins takes evolutionary science beyond its competence and argues that it dictates atheism… They are believers wrapping themselves in the rhetoric of science while lacking all the care and dispassionate reasoning we associate with the practice of it.” Scientists, huh? Rich Lowry will tell them what science is!
Ridiculous as this is, Lowry’s colleague Jonah Goldberg managed, as is his wont, to make it worse.
“You only struck a glancing blow at my biggest peeve about the whole anti-science thing,” Goldberg told Lowry: “Why does the Left get to pick which issues are the benchmarks for ‘science’?”
What? one is tempted to ask, but Goldberg went on: “Why can’t the measure of being pro-science be the question of heritability of intelligence? Or the existence of fetal pain?”
Fetal pain is a term of art used in anti-abortion legislation; researchers say there’s no evidence of it early in pregnancy, but each time they do anti-abortion groups dispute their findings (“RCOG is using a faulty definition of pain… The humanness of the unborn child is not contingent on its capacity for pain,” etc). This is apparently Goldberg’s idea of scientific inquiry.
Goldberg ran through many such cases and, while admitting “some of these examples are controversial, others tendentious,” nonetheless maintained that “all are just as fair as the way the Left framed embryonic stem cell research and all are more relevant than questions about evolution.” Plus, when Larry Summers suggested girls aren’t as good as boys at science, “actual scientists got the vapors because he violated the principles not of science but of liberalism,” proving to Goldberg that the liberals and the scientists are in cahoots — sometimes even one and the same!
Thus, concluded Goldberg, “the idea that conservatives are anti-science is self-evident and self-pleasing liberal hogwash. I see no reason why conservatives should even argue the issue on their terms when it’s so clearly offered in bad faith in the first place.” That’s settled science, buddy — political science!
At the Washington Times, Amanda Read (who describes herself as an “unconventional scholar”) lamented the tyranny of a “Darwinocracy” that seeks to impose its atheistic conceits on good American creationists.
“On the Origin of Species had not been written when the American system was being crafted,” she wrote, “so the American founders didn’t have to kiss the ring of the British theology-student-turned-naturalist who wrote it.” Living Americans have not the Founders’ advantage, but they still don’t accept evolution, which Read applauded: “I don’t find it too surprising coming from an American society that descends from revolutionaries who were skeptical of establishments,” she said. “We could easily be wary of scientific or academic as well as political and religious establishments, if any start looking authoritarian enough.”
What’s authoritarian about evolutionists? Read cited a joke made by a Chinese paleontologist and quotes from the author of God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, neither of whom described creationists being sent to concentration camps or anything like that. But as long acquaintance with conservatives has taught us, for them merely being challenged on their beliefs, even their daffier ones, qualifies as persecution.
The topic of climate change is fresher and more controversial than evolution, which gave rightbloggers an opportunity to portray themselves as at least opportunistically interested in science. Scientists, they observed, sometimes obtain evidence that does not directly confirm predominant climate change theories, which proved in their eyes that the whole science thing was a cock-up and nobody really knows anything except global warming is bullshit. For example:
The research powerhouse CERN “has embarked on an experiment aimed at addressing whether or not comic rays from deep space might be seeding clouds in Earth’s atmosphere, influencing climate change,” Popular Science recently reported. “The early findings are far from deciding the issue of whether climate change is man made or otherwise, but they have borne some interesting results. It turns out that cosmic rays could be influencing temperatures on Earth. Perhaps even more groundbreaking, it turns out they also might not. Welcome to climate science.”
Nature magazine, in which the CERN findings were published, described them as providing “tentative evidence” that “‘cosmic rays’ from deep space might be creating clouds in Earth’s atmosphere and changing the climate.”
That’s how science journals talked about it — which we guess just proves their elitism, because here’s how the story was reported by the rightwing National Post: “[CERN] published a paper in the journal Nature that would seem to prove that the sun, and not humans, is the main ‘driver’ of climate on Earth.” The Post compared this alleged finding to the discovery of “an ossuary – an ancient burial box – containing the skeletal remains of Jesus of Nazareth,” which in their view would prove “that Jesus was God made man who ascended to Heaven whole – bones and all – after his crucifixion” — the divinity of Jesus standing, in this case, for the anti-climate-change position. (* See update.)
“Who knew that big yellow hot thing that hangs in the sky each day would play a major role in our climate?” said QandO. “You mean that big, glowing ball in the sky can actually affect the climate?” said Small Dead Animals. “I know, I know. The very notion is just so bizarre, it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around it.” Haw haw, stupid scientists!
“Alarmists Got it Wrong, Humans Not Responsible for Climate Change: CERN,” headlined International Business Times. “Climate Alarmists Attempted To Shut Down CERN Sun Science,” claimed Right Wing News. “I’m guessing Al Gore thinks this piece is racist,” said Wizbang.
“It may be too strong to say that this finding rubbishes previous climate models that didn’t take cosmic ray effects into account,” said PJ Tatler. “But not by a whole lot, since the models don’t account for cosmic rays. One thing is for sure: Humanity cannot do a thing about cosmic rays or their influence on the atmosphere.” Q.E.Duh!
At Hot Air, Howard Portnoy took a “the other kids are doing it, too” approach. In “The Other ‘Anti-Science’ Party,” he mocked Democrats’ “fondness for parading lists of signatories from the science community” on the pressing nature of climate change. Indeed, there are many such documents extant, signed by hundreds of prominent scientists.
Well, said Portnoy, if they like signatures so much, “then why do Democrats choose to ignore this list of names appended to a statement that posits 25 general conclusions about nature of human intellgience, one of which follows?” He then cited the point from the document that he found most noteworthy: “The bell curve for whites is centered roughly around IQ 100; the bell curve for American blacks roughly around 85…”
“These findings,” declared Portnoy, “are troublesome for a political party that would choose to coddle one of its most loyal voter blocs rather than expose them to the truth” — the “truth” in this case being, apparently, that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. “They are also a tough pill to swallow for blacks,” added Portnoy, in case you thought we were misrepresenting him, “who have been reassured repeatedly that their below-average test scores are the product of years of systematic oppression or cultural bias in the test, not some inborn limitation.” Portnoy’s got some science for your dark-skinned people, alright, and for you dark-skinned-people-lovers! Plus a document, with signatories!
In the last ditch, rightbloggers could always dump on the idea that intelligence itself is a desirable thing.
Last week Fox News’s Megyn Kelly asked rightblogger Michelle Malkin, regarding incurious-seeming Republican candidates like Rick Perry, “Does it matter — should it matter — if somebody is dumb?”
Kelly then eased the path for Malkin by reminding viewers that it was people from “the mainstream media” who had been questioning these candidates’ intelligence, not ordinary folks like Fox News anchors. Kelly ended: “Does it make [the question] illegitimate just because of who’s asking it?”
“I think it does, in a way,” answered Malkin, who attributed concerns over the brainpower of potential Presidents to “elitist bigotry about the Republican Party” as expressed by “those who pose as objective, neutral journalists.” Malkin pronounced herself — in contrast, presumably, to the phony objecto-neutrals — as unconcerned with “how much [the candidates] may have paid to go to some Ivy-league-minted school.” She referred directly to professors, including “the Constitutional law professor who’s sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue right now,” who, she said, “teach and warp [the Constitution] to their liberal students.”
Malkin said that instead of brains, she was interested in a candidate’s “bedrock principles.” Of course, her whole routine suggests that one is more likely to find such principles in a moron than in an educated person. This is an important point to put across in the run-up to an election in which Republicans may nominate a candidate whom many independent voters will consider a dummy; maybe they’ll vote for him anyway if the economy is bad, especially if they can also be convinced that stupidity is not a drawback in a President. But how could it be? It’s obviously not a drawback in rightblogging.
* Update — Commenter Consumer Unit 5012 points out that the National Post analogy is not as we originally portrayed it: instead of comparing skeptics to Christians, it actually compares adherents of anthropogenic climate change to Christians who would not be convinced by evidence that Jesus Christ was not God:
One way or the other, though, some faithful Christians would deny the find was real. Then when that position was no longer defensible, they would continue to insist the bones were immaterial.
Something similar may be happening in the climate change debate…
In other words, the Post article is still crazy, but not in the specific way we suggested. Normally we’d say we regret the error, but in this case we’ve actually rather enjoyed it.