Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is The Republican Party Anti-Science?

The Atlantic doesn't think so.  In an editorial called The Republican Party Isn't Really the Anti-Science Party, Mischa Fisher makes the case that the blame can be equally spread around and that rank-and-file Republicans are every bit as educated in science as democrats. I confess that I have, perhaps, fallen into this trap, profiling, almost with glee, such scientific giants as Paul Broun of Georgia, and Don McLeroy, of Texas ("I disagree with these experts. Someone has got to stand up to experts").  Indeed, Fisher writes:
I'm the first to admit that there are elected Republicans with a terrible understanding of science—Representative Paul Broun of Georgia, an M.D. who claims evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell” is one rather obvious example—and many more with substantial room for improvement. But Republicans, conservatives, and the religious are no more uniquely “anti-science” than any other demographic or political group. It’s just that “anti-science” has been defined using a limited set of issues that make the right wing and religious look relatively worse.
Perhaps this is true but that, in a way, makes them look even worse because, if they accept the rest of established, accepted science but can't wrap their brains around evolution and global warming (lets call it what it is), then the legitimate reasons for rejecting those areas scientifically crumbles. How did everybody else get the science right and the evolutionary biologists get it so wrong?

This paragraph, however, surprised me:
Numerically speaking, according to Gallup, only a marginally higher percentage of Republicans reject evolution completely than do Democrats. Yes, an embarrassing half of Republicans believe the earth is only 10,000 years old—but so do more than a third of Democrats. And a slightly higher percentage of Democrats believe God was the guiding factor in evolution than Republicans.
When one reads newspaper accounts of democrats and science, the first revelation is revealed nowhere.  Reports always indicate that democrats are enlightened and Republicans are  scientifically illiterate.  On the other hand, while the last part of this paragraph is probably true, the reason for that may be reflected in the fact that a higher percentage of Republicans think that humans were created ex nihilo around 10,000 years ago.The percentages just got shifted from one column to the other. 

To me, one of the most interesting things about the table that is quoted in the paragraph is that only 20% of those questioned think that God had no hand in either the creation or evolution of humans.  I make this statement with the understanding that I am making a large assumption here: that those that think that humans were created in the last 10,000 years think that God had a hand in it.  The reason I think it is a valid assumption is that I have yet to find anyone, anywhere that accepts the creationist account of origins and who is not a fundamentalist Christian. 

The rest of the article is damning in its examination of bad science policy on both sides of the aisle and should be read by anybody interested in this area. 

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