Must-Read Krugman: GOP is Now “Aggressively Anti-Science, Indeed Anti-Knowledge,” Which Should “Terrify Us.”

Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. 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.

Paul Krugman had a terrific column in the New York Times Sunday, “Republicans Against Science.”  He discusses not just the anti-science nature of the GOP  as it applies to global warming, but their anti-knowledge approach as it applies to economic theory.

Here’s more:

Jon Huntsman Jr., a former Utah governor and ambassador to China, isn’t a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And that’s too bad, because Mr. Hunstman has been willing to say the unsayable about the G.O.P. — namely, that it is becoming the “anti-science party.” This is an enormously important development. And it should terrify us.

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: 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 peoples’ 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.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”

The second part of Mr. Perry’s statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.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.

In a AAAS presentation last year, the late William R. Freudenburg of UC Santa Barbara discussed his research on “the Asymmetry of Scientific Challenge“: New scientific findings are found to be more than twenty times as likely to indicate that global climate disruption is “worse than previously expected,” rather than “not as bad as previously expected.”

I was just at a conference of some of the top climate scientists in the world, and their projections are considerably more dire than the IPCC, as I’ll report later this week.

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.”

I could point out that 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. I could also point out that multiple investigations into charges of intellectual malpractice on the part of climate scientists have ended up exonerating the accused researchers of all accusations. But never mind: Mr. Perry and those who think like him know what they want to believe, and their response to anyone who contradicts them is to start a witch hunt.

So how has Mr. Romney, the other leading contender for the G.O.P. nomination, responded to Mr. Perry’s challenge? In trademark fashion: By running away. In the past, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, 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!

Of course, we know what’s motivating Mr. Romney’s sudden lack of conviction. According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). 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.

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.

And the deepening anti-intellectualism of the political right, both within and beyond the G.O.P., extends far beyond the issue of climate change.

Lately, for example, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page has gone beyond its long-term preference for the economic ideas of “charlatans and cranks” — as one of former President George W. Bush’s chief economic advisers famously put it — to a general denigration of hard thinking about matters economic. Pay no attention to “fancy theories” that conflict with “common sense,” the Journal tells us. Because why should anyone imagine that you need more than gut feelings to analyze things like financial crises and recessions?

Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. 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.

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35 Responses to Must-Read Krugman: GOP is Now “Aggressively Anti-Science, Indeed Anti-Knowledge,” Which Should “Terrify Us.”

  1. Jeffrey Davis says:

    Krugman’s little aside: ‘maybe the right adjective is “vile.”’ begins an evolution that is long overdue. The media have be toadies and enablers of the establishment, but without change regarding energy and AGW what do they imagine they will be toadies of?

    Krugman is a liberal, but even so, he’s been too decorous in his handling of the obscene. The things that the Tea Parties represent aren’t simply old fashioned. They’re obscene.

  2. CW says:

    Given the corporatist system, here’s one of the main arguments to be made I figure:

    “There were many calls around the world for a generalised boycott of US companies, produts and services when Bush was selected President. If Perry gets in, and if he’s as dangerous to global peace and prosperity as he seems, one can only imagine those resurfacing and gaining momentum.”

  3. jduhls says:

    Knowledge is for elitists. ;-)

  4. cervantes says:

    Indeed. This mad rush back to the 12th Century should no longer be treated as just another political position. Conservatives like to complain that most scientists – and for that matter, most academics – are liberal, which they take as evidence of bias in the university. Nope. The university hires people who study and think. It’s reality that has a liberal bias, and it’s not just evil and terrifying, it’s just flat stupid that people who systematically deny reality get to be a political party, get respectful treatment from the corporate media, and get to hold powerful political offices. They should be laughed out of public life.

  5. Rob Honeycutt says:

    For anyone who uses Twitter Krugman is a great one to follow. He pops out 5 or 6 great tweets a day ranging from the entertaining to the wonkish.

  6. Sasparilla says:

    Krugman hits the nail on the head again.

    Those statistics for Republican voters in Iowa are astounding. The evolution numbers in particular (climate change numbers could possibly be explained as the propaganda effects of News Corp)…just unreal. Perry is right up these folks alley.

    Perry probably won’t get a Nobel if he gets elected…

  7. Pangolin says:

    The worldview of U.S. conservatives has been increasingly in conflict with actual, provable, facts for some time now. Facts about geology, biology, human “races”, evolution, astronomy and, of course, climate change.

    It’s far, far easier for them to simply deny whatever facts are inconvenient and continue on as if nothing had changed. It’s somewhat akin to normalizing running through red lights because you live in a small town. Most of the time there’s nothing there to stop for…….. until there is.

    Playing crack the whip with reality tends to end poorly. Ask any older coal miner, cigarette smoker, couch potato or drunk driver. For that matter ask anybody whose business depends upon cheap gasoline. Ignoring the long term consequences of your actions does not exempt you from those consequences.

    Nature bats last; and she swings for the fences.

  8. Michael Tucker says:

    A representative democracy requires an educated and well informed electorate but the new Republican Party requires the exact opposite while they feast on the superstitious and conspiracy fueled fears of their so-called “base.” All the candidates who are being taken seriously by the new radical party base are all rank political opportunists who will reverse even supposedly deeply held beliefs depending on the situation. Perry has done it and Romney can’t stop doing it.

  9. Sasparilla says:

    Very well put.

  10. David Fox says:

    The Khmer Rouge and the Tea Party agrees with you.

  11. David Fox says:

    There’s also a large group of people who are purposefully trying to bring about the ‘end times’. Knowledge has no place among these people…

  12. David Fox says:

    Another thing the wages of fear buy is the docility of the public at large.

  13. Lou Grinzo says:

    Perry’s new campaign slogan:

    A vote for Rick Perry is a vote for phlogiston.

  14. Joan Savage says:

    I’ve been reading Don Peck’s “Can the Middle Class Be Saved?” in the September issue of Atlantic.
    A majority of Americans have a high school education, or less. Peck also draws attention to a shift in income that favors graduates of professional schools, while graduates of conventional colleges now lag behind in income.

    I would like to see a survey that picks up on political views and type of education. It could yield some clues about who the GOP candidates are trying to reach.

  15. Jeff Huggins says:

    Read This!

    I (strongly) suggest that people read Chris Hedges’ latest piece, ‘The Election March of the Trolls’, which can be found on CommonDreams-dot-org today.

    Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate and agree with Krugman’s comments and concerns here, and I appreciate Joe’s coverage of them. But …

    You’ll see the broader issue — including choices we must consider — when you read Hedges’ piece alongside Krugman’s, and indeed when you consider the whole big picture, Obama’s failures, and so forth.

    For example, who thinks that the fact that the Repubs have gone off their rockers means that the necessary (or wisest) thing for us to do is simply put up with whatever we get (or don’t get) from “our” Democrat leaders who don’t deliver on their promises or even try to deliver on them?? Read Hedges’ piece. Any comments?

    I appreciate, deeply, what the folks in Washington (at the ‘nonviolent civil disobedience’) are doing and trying to do. But here’s a question: Is the message to Obama essentially “Please, please, don’t approve of Keystone XL (but in the end, you know that we’ll vote for you no matter what you do)”? Or instead, is it this: “Dear President Obama. If you want our votes next time, you must not approve of Keystone XL. If you approve of Keystone XL, we simply will not vote for you. Period. End up story. Got it?”

    Anyone who reads Krugman’s piece, but not Hedges’ piece, is missing a very important part of the puzzle — indeed, an essential part of the puzzle/predicament that must be considered if we are to make choices that will ultimately prompt change and be effective. Yes, the Repubs are scary. But Democrats who do nothing to resolve our biggest problems, effectively and in a timely way, are equally scary, and those seem to be the people that we are enabling and putting back into power no matter what they do or don’t do.

    A clear question is this (for example, for Bill McKibben): Bill, if President Obama approves of Keystone XL, will you still vote for him next time around? If so, why? If not, have you made this clear in your messaging? And either way, how do you reconcile your answer with the observations that Chris Hedges makes in his piece today?

    These are hard questions, but they are necessary ones. We will keep getting “mush” if we don’t demand better, and if we don’t state the conditions under which we’ll vote for Obama’s reelection.

    I agree with Krugman’s concerns about the Repubs. It is scary. But I also believe, at this point, that the only way to prompt and get change is to demand it of our own “leaders” and make our continuing votes conditional. If President Obama approves of Keystone XL, I won’t vote for him next time around. Period. I hope he hears this message, gets it, and believes it. I hope that many millions of other people adopt the same action-oriented stance. If so, Obama might actually find it within himself to not approve Keystone XL. And that will be as it should be.

    I’d be interested to know how Bill McKibben feels about this topic, in light of Chris Hedges points and so forth.

    Please read the Hedges piece.

    Be Well,


  16. Mark says:

    “Democrats who do nothing to resolve our biggest problems, effectively and in a timely way, are equally scary, and those seem to be the people that we are enabling and putting back into power no matter what they do or don’t do.”

    agree with this.

    The Democrats sound a little more reasonable. so what.

    The displays of ignorance by republicans is theatre, to frighten people into voting for the Democrats, who will then drill for oil in the Gulf/Arctic, frack for gas anywhere, and open up government lands for coal mining.

  17. Paul magnus says:

    You certainly should be worried, especially since the US has an awful lot of nuke.

  18. dick smith says:

    Tehre’s a wonderful irony that Rick Perry has probably done more than anyone else to shift the media coverage on climate change that I’m feeling as well.

  19. prokaryotes says:

    This explains why we needed 2000 years …

    For example we had a lot before – and lost it… lost time.

    Ancient Greek computer from 100 B.C.: Archimedes strikes again?

    Read more:

  20. Rick says:

    Exactly right, Jeff!

    These “We have to live in mortal FEAR of the GOP” posts almost always ignore the current regime’s behaviors. Muzzling NOAA in the wake of the BP Death Gusher, waging a witch hunt on a polar bear expert… and so on.

    Obama’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is an abomination of so many levels, he might as well be aping Rick Perry at this point.

    I would submit that if liberals can’t even deal with their own leadership that’s gone well off the reservation, then jumping ahead to Emperor Perry or Emperor Jeb is just another sideshow to instill fear. That fear only serves the purpose of making a corrupt Democratic Party somehow look less craven, somehow, even though it was Obama who let BP off the hook. Even though it was Obama that decided to persecute a polar bear expert. Even though it’s Obama that is approving the Keystone pipeline, which will be a disaster on numerous levels.

    So I’ve pretty much had it with the FEAR posts.

  21. Paul magnus says:

    Crazy people everywhere….All eyes are on the US to see how this is all going to end….

    Bachmann: Hurricane Irene was a punishment from God

  22. Tim says:

    By the criteria that define “liberal” now in the minds of “conservatives”, the claim that academics are liberals is becoming truer by the day. As for scientific community, academic or otherwise, a 2009 Pew study found that only 6% of U.S. scientists now identify themselves as Republicans. 50 years ago, there was no such extreme rejection of the Republican party. As one editorialist I remember reading concluded, ‘it’s not the scientists who have changed, it’s the Republicans.’

  23. Paul magnus says:

    Climate change reality kicking in…. Infrastructure infrastructure infrastructure….

  24. dick smith says:

    I respectfully disagree. In 1968, because I believed that renouncing the war in Vietnam was the ONLY issue, in my first presidential election I wrote in Gene McCarthy rather than vote for Hubert Humphrey. I knew it meant Richard Nixon. I will never waste my vote like that again.

    And, here’s an inconvenient truth. Those who voted for Ralph Nader in Florida gave us George Bush. Al Gore would have president. Think about that.

  25. James Newberry says:

    Repugnicrats and Texas Tea partiers will protect the financial interests of the fissile (nuclear) and fossil fueled oligarchic, financial plutocracy to the fullest extent possible. Their PR machine is simply amazing, although it is leading the nation and climate off of the cliff. That is the nature of ideology, especially one involving nation-state finances and political power.

  26. Bruce McClinton says:

    This is a growing trend among conservatives. After being corrected on the facts behind the apocryphal story of the NASA space pen (the manufacturer paid for it, not NASA) a conservative I know insisted that “those may be the facts, but they aren’t the TRUTH”. I could actually hear the capital letters.


  27. jyyh says:

    one could hope the same applies to any republican or any democrat more to the right or more against renewable energy than Obama… anyway it’s your business what you do in your country though pollution knows no borders, which is possibly why the estonian right-wingers have accepted help controlling their oil shale pollution… do you need help?

  28. david glover says:

    is news on the methane releases in the arctic being suppressed?

  29. Asteroid Miner says:

    Sense can be made of Rick Perry’s getting elementary school science wrong in 2 different ways:
    1. He took $11 Million from fossil fuel companies.
    2. See this book: “The Authoritarians” by Bob Altemeyer. Free download from:

    According to Professor Altemeyer, Authoritarian followers believe whatever they are told last by their leader. But first the leader has to tell them that he is one of them. Disbelieving GW or evolution is sufficient to tell them that you are one of them. Once they identify you as their leader, they will work very hard for you for free. Saying “GW is nonsense” is the same as Mandrake gesturing hypnotically or Obey One Kinobey or Yoda invoking “The Force.”

    By conscripting the Authoritarian followers, the Republicans get a dedicated set of registered voters and precinct workers without having to work for them. The Authoritarian followers can be betrayed without consequence because the Authoritarian followers will never notice.

    Authoritarian followers [the weak minded] believe all sorts of contradictory things. Their minds are so compartmentalized that they never check for contradictions. Authoritarian followers are also the religious extremists.

  30. Spike says:

    A worthy article by a man of great wisdom and integrity.No doubt they’ll try and go after him soon, one way or another.

  31. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Part of the problem, in my opinion, is the reflex incantation of the declaration that the USA is ‘the greatest country on earth’. Do you realise just how many people you offend with that relentless claim? The USA has produced a great deal of good (mainly the actions, I would say, of its iconoclasts and outsiders)and a good deal of ill, even evil (the work of its ruling elites), but Americans are just human beings like the rest of us. The hubristic arrogance simply grates on all but the direst sycophants.The problems we face today can only be solved by concerted, worldwide action by all of humanity, and the USA must play a leading role, but a humble one. Some chance! No matter what the concern, the USA always demands that it lead, that things be done its way, or else. ‘Either you’re with us, or you’re against us’ as GW Bush might have said.
    And while still making these absolutist demands for obedient acquiescence, US society itself is undergoing a sort of process of mass dementing, under the influence of maniacal religious fundamentalist obscurantism and hard Right ideology so extreme, so deracinated, so unreflecting that it is almost beyond parody. I’d say that the USA must get its house in order before it starts issuing diktats, but it’s way too late for that. The US middle class, now being immiserated by capital precisely as Marx predicted, has been brainwashed to see everybody (foreigners, the Chinese, immigrants, climate scientists, Moslems, terrorists etc)as the architects of their predicament, everybody but the real culprits-the insatiable greedy and misanthropic ruling capitalist elites. And, as the Right appears incapable of restraint, even in self-interest, but seems pathologically determined to push this process of mass impoverishment and disempowerment as far as they can get away with, I believe that you are sitting on a powder-keg that, when it detonates, will take us all down as well.

  32. Thomas Zaslavsky says:

    The Democratic party that chose not to pursue the Florida recount aggressively and thoroughly (and state-wide), while the Republicans mounted a mob attack on vote counters (you can look that up), were the ones who gave us the Bush Presidency. The Democrats who choose to continue and strengthen persecutions of whistle-blowers and give-aways to large corporations, and to acquiesce in the attack on Social Security and many other federal programs for the people, are the ones who are giving us Bush Lite. It’s hard to know what to do. Voting for Nader was at least an attempt to circumvent the Tweedle problem.

  33. Thomas Zaslavsky says:

    Perry may be eligible for the IgNobel Prize and if so, he should be a shoo-in.

  34. Dennis says:

    I think it’s time for high-profile science organizations like AAAS to start handing out “science stupidity awards” to people like Perry when they make these statements. These are people who have to make policy decisions based on facts. When they ignore the facts in front of them, they are either stupid — or lying. Let the public decide which.

  35. kermit says:

    Not just science Pangolin, but also politics, language, law, and history. Apparently our Founding fathers were all Southern Baptist; Sadaam Hussein attacked the World Trade Center; and colored folks were happier as slaves. Language is becoming useless for public discourse. How can one carry on a conversation with somebody who uses ‘liberal’, ‘Communist’, and ‘Fascist’ interchangeably? Or that the Constitution affirms the USA is a Christian nation?