Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

Science scorned: The journal Nature warns, “The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.”

By Joe Romm on September 9, 2010 at 1:44 pm

"Science scorned: The journal Nature warns, “The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.”"

Share:

google plus icon

US citizens face economic problems that are all too real, and the country’s future crucially depends on education, science and technology as it faces increasing competition from China and other emerging science powers….  Yet the public often buys into anti-science, anti-regulation agendas that are orchestrated by business interests and their sponsored think tanks and front groups.

That’s from a powerful editorial published today by the journal Nature titled, “Science scorned” (subs. req’d).  It is an important message that, apparently, few science journals and leaders in this country have the guts to spell out.

Then again, Nature is not merely one of the top journals in the world, it is one of the rare publications of any kind that understands what we are up against — see Nature: “Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.”

Here are extended excerpts from this must-read piece:

The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.

“The four corners of deceit: government, academia, science and media. Those institutions are now corrupt and exist by virtue of deceit. That’s how they promulgate themselves; it is how they prosper.” It is tempting to laugh off this and other rhetoric broadcast by Rush Limbaugh, a conservative US radio host, but Limbaugh and similar voices are no laughing matter.

There is a growing anti-science streak on the American right that could have tangible societal and political impacts on many fronts “” including regulation of environmental and other issues and stem-cell research. Take the surprise ousting last week of Lisa Murkowski, the incumbent Republican senator for Alaska, by political unknown Joe Miller in the Republican primary for the 2 November midterm congressional elections. Miller, who is backed by the conservative ‘Tea Party movement’, called his opponent’s acknowledgement of the reality of global warming “exhibit ‘A’ for why she needs to go”.

The right-wing populism that is flourishing in the current climate of economic insecurity echoes many traditional conservative themes, such as opposition to taxes, regulation and immigration. But the Tea Party and its cheerleaders, who include Limbaugh, Fox News television host Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (who famously decried fruitfly research as a waste of public money), are also tapping an age-old US political impulse “” a suspicion of elites and expertise.

Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause c©l¨bre within the movement. Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”, has called climate-change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world”.  The Tea Party’s leanings encompass religious opposition to Darwinian evolution and to stem-cell and embryo research “” which Beck has equated with eugenics. The movement is also averse to science-based regulation, which it sees as an excuse for intrusive government….

In the current poisoned political atmosphere, the defenders of science have few easy remedies. Reassuringly, polls continue to show that the overwhelming majority of the US public sees science as a force for good, and the anti-science rumblings may be ephemeral. As educators, scientists should redouble their efforts to promote rationalism, scholarship and critical thought among the young, and engage with both the media and politicians to help illuminate the pressing science-based issues of our time.

Hear!  Hear!

Related Posts:

Tags:

‹ PREVIOUS
The coming climate election: Tea party extremists backed by Big Oil and corporate polluters want to stop and then reverse all efforts to advance clean energy or avoid catastrophic global warming

NEXT ›
Serreze: Arctic is “continuing down in a death spiral. Every bit of evidence we have says the ice is thinning.”

24 Responses to Science scorned: The journal Nature warns, “The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.”

  1. PurpleOzone says:

    A incessant drum beats against the schools: “Teach both sides of the controversy”. Meaning, lies are as good as solid researched science.

    Revisionist history is a work too, most notably, the proposition that the U.S. was founded to be a Christian country.

  2. pete best says:

    They cant help it, its just the way brains work. Evolutionary strategy produces different mind types.

  3. toby says:

    This is terribly said. The United States, so often the place where free enquiry and freedom of thought had a last refuge, may fall to the obscurantists, demagogues and ideologues. The effects on the United States will be too awful to contemplate, for the rest of the world more so.

  4. PSU Grad says:

    “But the Tea Party and its cheerleaders, who include Limbaugh, Fox News television host Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin…, are also tapping an age-old US political impulse — a suspicion of elites and expertise.”

    But Limbaugh, Beck and Palin ARE members of the elite! None worries where his/her next meal is coming from, or where they’re going to live. They look down upon and mock the “useful idiots” hanging on their every word. People who advocate against their own economic self interest to attempt to curry favor with people who don’t even know, or care, that they’re alive.

    And Limbaugh, who famously refused to serve in the US military during a war he strongly supported, has no room to talk about socialism or communism.

  5. Dan says:

    My theory: Nature is more willing to stand up because it is a British journal, more removed from the constant murmur of American politics.

  6. paulm says:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100906/full/news.2010.451.html
    Claims that global warming can drive civil unrest are hotly disputed.

    [JR: Tell that to the Pakistanis!]

  7. Sasparilla says:

    A very sobering article, thanks for putting this up Joe.

    That quote from Limbaugh “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists” (as well as the other quote) – could have easily been said by the infamous Sen. Joseph McCarthy of the 50′s (although Limbaugh probably regards his methods as something to aspire to).

    There appears to be a large population of Americans (growing?) who are living in a real time “alternate reality” being promulgated by Limbaugh, Beck, Fox news (and its expected candidate for President – Palin) etc..

    This seems exceedingly bad (on so many levels) for the country longterm (unlike 20 years ago, you can now spend your whole day in this alternate reality never hearing anything that offends the libertarian world view – anything that does offend that view is discredited as a conspiracy and doesn’t exist like climate change, peak oil, that deregulation may have caused a large part of the financial crisis, evolution and on and on).

    We’re making quite a bed for ourselves to sleep in as we face (or not) these massive crisis over the coming decades.

  8. Science still works just fine…

    “Yet the public often buys into anti-science..”

    People are the problem… We were great for a while … now quite imperfect

  9. NatResDr says:

    Yep. I’m seeing tea-partiers in the classroom now: 20-year-olds with completely closed minds, studying environmental subjects so they can defeat environmental policies, not interested in collective action for the greater good, believing that science is a threat to liberty. They’ll have a rude awakening someday and drag us all down with them in the interim.

  10. Lou Grinzo says:

    NatResDr: I have a good challenge for such people. Ask them to swear on whatever holy book they choose that when they or some loved one experiences the personal hell of a very bad diagnosis from a doctor — an advanced stage of most forms of cancer, for example — that they will be true to their convictions and refuse all science-based medical treatment.

    I’ve done this. Their knee-jerk defensive reaction can be seen from space. The conversation usually gets quite ugly at that point, with the denier/TP member accusing me of “getting personal”. I tell them I was curious as to whether they meant what they said about science, or if they were merely playing politics, thank them for clearing it up, and change the topic to baseball.

  11. hapa says:

    @NatResDr, what rude awakening? cynical lackeys rarely lack work.

  12. mike roddy says:

    Good comments today, thanks to all.

    This isn’t just an American thing. Heretics, often grounded in science, were tortured for centuries, including in England. Both the Nazis and Pol Pot murdered college professors on principle. As a Zen Buddhist once said, our species is so new, and so crudely evolved, that our judgments are all suspect. Science is about all we have on key issues, which is why the dark forces attack it so fiercely.

  13. Dean says:

    One aspect of this that hasn’t had much comment is the focus on attacking statistics. We see it in the concentration on the Hockey Stick. But think about Republican efforts to prohibit any statistical methods being used in the census. Those statisticians who are jumping on the bandwagon wrt climatologists not consulting them enough should be careful who they ally with.

  14. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    When the reality of global warming finally penetrates the minds of those in the tea bag movement, it could get very ugly. The brothers Koch have no idea what they are stirring up.

  15. Adam R. says:

    @13 Rabid Doomsayer: “When the reality of global warming finally penetrates the minds of those in the tea bag movement, it could get very ugly.”

    Easy prediction: when the streets of Miami are flooded with sea water, the deniers will still deny, deny, deny.

  16. Charles St. John Smythe IV says:

    Science needs to be be taught as early as first grade in our schools. Children need to learn early about how they cause global warming. The Repuklicans hate education and are a threat to the environment and future generations.

    [JR: In case you wondered why I moderate my comments, this guy, who keeps trying to post this faux eco-extremist BS, is a great example. For the record, it is anti-science, pro-pollution ideologues who are the threat.]

  17. Peter Bellin says:

    The attacks on science are distressing on more fronts than climate change, although thaat is most significant in my mind. This type of thinking causes some people to refuse vaccinations, for example.

    Most newspapers are very short on articles discussing science topics, our culture seems to deride education (I hate those jokes w/r/t kids hating to go back to school), people seem to think in reflexive and political terms.

    Editorials such as this one are important, I only wish they got more play.

    I was in a hotel this weekend – and they had Fox News on. I asked the channel to be changed, but it was clear the clerk was hesitant. It turned out the manager wanted only Fox News on the TV in the breakfast room.

    I don’t know how we can get past this lack of rational thinking, as that is the only way we can get effective action on forestalling climate change.

  18. John Mason says:

    “For the record, it is anti-science, pro-pollution ideologues who are the threat.”

    Sure, that’s what they are, but I don’t think they are willingly pro-pollution. Denialism, in the psychological sense, goes deeper than that – it is a belief-system as embedded as any of the religions, and that’s why the hardcore characters are so difficult to constructively engage with, as we all know from experience.

    Cheers – John

  19. “when the streets of Miami are flooded with sea water, the deniers will still deny, deny, deny.”

    They’ll admit it’s real – caused by God’s vengeance on gay parades in South beach.

  20. catman306 says:

    Kevin Drum reviews a book he thinks offers some answers to why people are siding in with the Big Corporations against their own best interests. (climate change denialism)

    ‘ Winner-Take-All Politics, by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, puts together all of these pieces with a clarity of explanation that’s breathtaking.’

    http://motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2010/09/paul-pierson-jacob-s-hacker

  21. Chris Winter says:

    Peter Bellin wrote: “I was in a hotel this weekend — and they had Fox News on. I asked the channel to be changed, but it was clear the clerk was hesitant. It turned out the manager wanted only Fox News on the TV in the breakfast room.”

    If this is a hotel you otherwise enjoy, pass over the rest of this message. My thought is that knowing the name of this hotel, or hotel chain, would let other travelers avoid one that pushes faux news.

  22. Chris Winter says:

    Catman306 wrote: “Kevin Drum reviews a book he thinks offers some answers to why people are siding in with the Big Corporations against their own best interests.”

    Thanks for posting this. Hacker and Pierson do good work. I admired their previous book Off Center. Here’s my review:

    http://www.chris-winter.com/Erudition/Reviews/Hacker_Pierson/Off_Center.html

  23. homunq says:

    hapa@10: We’re all in for a rude awakening. If civilization strains and the US becomes a has-been, there may still be some form of wingnut welfare, but it will be very easy to fall off the gravy train. And that’s, at best, the median result; the worst awakenings are rude enough that they will make the moral distinctions between a modern-day Prius-owner bike-to-the-store green and a flat-out denier seem like splitting hairs.

  24. James Newberry says:

    When a plutocratic, corporatist (and militarist) nation state has become structured on increasingly evident fraud, elite corporate media will resort to oppressive communication tactics to maintain that fraud.

    Fraud: Oil is an energy resource.
    Science: Mineral oil is a liquid, a state of matter, a material. Ecosphere contamination, including climate change, is one tragic manifestation of that societal fraud. Fiscal insolvency will soon be another.