One of the Democrats’ most annoying conceits is that they are the party of empirical reason, while conservatives are a bunch of faith-based “anti-science” snake-handlers.
Now, most of us know better. And among them, writing at that noted conservative tool The Atlantic, is Mischa Fischer:
In his first State of the Union Address in 1790, George Washington told Congress, “There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of science and literature.” He went on to call science “essential” to our nation. Two hundred and twenty years later, in his first inaugural address, Barack Obama vowed to “restore science to its rightful place.”
The president’s insinuation plays into the common perception in the media, electorate, and research community that Republicans are “anti-science.” I encountered that sentiment routinely in nearly a decade working for Republicans on Capitol Hill, and it has become more commonplace in the broader political discussion.
And of course, it’s not that no problems exist:
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. (As a politically centrist atheist, this claim is not meant to be self-serving.)
The two solitary issues on which the left banks this meme are evolution and global warming.
As to evolution? A Christian with a literal, fundamentalist reading of the Genesis story is going to object to the idea of evolution. But the allegorical interpretation – which is the one the vast majority of contemporary politically-conservative Christians follow – is not in any way incongruent with the idea of evolution. People of faith – including Christians – have always been leaders at scientific enquiry:
Members of all faiths have contributed to our collective scientific understanding, and Christians from Gregor Mendel to Francis Collins have been intellectual leaders in their fields. Collins, head of the Human Genome Project and an evangelical Christian, wrote a New York Times bestseller reconciling his faith with his understanding of evolution and genetics…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.
And I’m going to hazard a guess that that percentage breaks down along “allegorical vs. literal reading of the Genesis story” lines.
And then there’s global warming – the left’s current “which is heavier, a witch, or a duck?” meme:
On global warming, conservative policy positions often seem to be conflated or confused with rejection of the consensus that the planet has been warming due to human carbon emissions…Of the many Republican members of Congress I know personally, the vast majority do not reject the underlying science of global warming … Conservatives believe many of the policies put forward to address the problem will lead to unacceptable levels of economic hardship. It’s not inherently anti-scientific to oppose cap and trade or carbon taxes. What most Republicans object to are policies that unilaterally make it more expensive in the United States to produce energy, grow food, and transport people and goods but are unlikely to make much long-term difference in the world’s climate, given that other major world economies emit more carbon than the United States or have much faster growth rates of carbon emissions (China, India, Russia, and Brazil all come to mind).
Beyond that? The Left rejects science – or embraces ideas that are no less faith-based and anti-empirical than the most zealous biblical literalist, particularly under the rubric of “social science”, which is frequently less “science” than “applied rhetoric” – on a raft of issues:
- Pro-infanticide activists plead that life begins when a “fetus” exits the womb, whenever that is, and that a “fetus” in the uterus at 38 weeks gestation is just a mass of tissue – ignoring that preemies born as early as 22 weeks have gone on to live normal, healthy (if very difficult, early-on) lives, and that keeping preemies born after 28 weeks alive is, if not “routine”, at least very common.
- Gender-Identity Feminists have tried for decades to obscure and ignore the fact that men and women are physiologically, biologically, emotionally and intellectually different – and to enact that enforced ignorance in policies that go beyond “equality before the law”.
- Gun grab activists are almost to a person allergic to valid statistics.
- Green Energy activistshave gotten the government to “invest” billions in “green energy” scams that can not and will not in the foreseeable future ever address our society’s base power needs, while turning hatred of nuclear power into a near-religious expression of faith over empirical fact.
And many more; the article compares the two sides’ relative commitment to hard science, and you should read the whole thing.
Moral of the story? Next time some lefty bobblehead calls himself part of the “fact-based” community, smack ’em with a beaker.