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.
- With science journalism “basically going out of existence,” how should climate scientists deal with well-funded, anti-science disinformation campaign?
- GOP WI Sen. candidate Ron Johnson: “I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change,” claims “sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time” is warming the planet: Republicans embrace pro-pollution, anti-science candidates
- Nature editorial: “Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real “” or that human activities are almost certainly the cause.”