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IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING (5)……………


Here is the 5th reason many individuals are not considering voting for Republican candidates in this election.

Reason #5 – Republican political figures exhibit a significant “anti-science” attitude that leads to policy implementation that is uninformed and imperils both the environment of the planet and the welfare of those who live on it.

In the realm of government, science does not set policy.  On the contrary, science informs policy.  There is no possible way for our elected officials to be experts on every issue that comes before them.  It is imperative that our elected officials educate themselves before casting their votes on legislation that is beyond their realm of expertise.  Without input from science and technology, related legislative votes are reduced to uninformed actions dependent more upon ideology and financial backing than on reality.

The Republican Party has increasingly become “anti-science” as the party has morphed into what it has become today.  This “anti-science” mentality has exhibited itself for several decades but it was never more apparent than during the most recent Republican Administration.  I fully understand that those who are attracted to the conservative ideology will deny this as nothing more than the musings of someone who doesn’t share their same world view   As one who is educated at the University level in science, I recognize that I am considered “the enemy” by many who have a different world view.  It is a label I wear without reservation.  I believe in science and the scientific process.  I believe in legitimate medical and environmental research and in their value to the health and well-being of all members of society.

Any legitimate investigation of the recent and past history of “conservatives on the hill” will find that what I am stating here has been observed, documented and verified for a long time.  Any denial that the problem exists can only be made along ideological lines.  As a matter of fact, denial along conservative ideological lines is what causes the problem to exist in the first place. The actions and attitudes of the Bush Administration in this realm were transparently obvious and do not take a college degree to identify.

To my past students whose lives are centered on their faith in God, I say that nothing has changed in regard to my faith since you walked into my classroom so many years ago.   However, the political party that once represented my political leaning has morphed into something that is unrecognizable.  The Republican Party is without question, demonstrably “anti-science” in its attitudes and behaviors.

The previous Republican Administration was known in the scientific community as one that was significantly “anti-science”.   In fact, the Bush Administration was not interested in the normal policy advisory role that scientists have fulfilled in past administrations whether Republican or Democrat.  The Bush Administration was not remotely interested in factoring in the results of legitimate and fact-based scientific inquiry into their policy decisions.

There is a reported conversation between a very prestigious investigative reporter and a Bush Administration official that beautifully illustrates the attitude of the Bush Administration towards those who would question the reliability of their actions.  In an October 2004 New York Times article, Ron Suskind describes his encounter with a “senior advisor” to President Bush as follows:

“The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community”, which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.”  He cut off my response, saying “That’s not the way the world really works anymore, we’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

I suggest to you that when the leadership of the country makes the claim that we are so important that we are an empire, and that because of this we create our own reality, it opens up the possibility that creating this reality ignores fact and thus policy decisions and actions of the government become uninformed and ignorant.

Scientists and people who believe in their processes are in the reality-based community and believe strongly that study of that reality (also known as truth) is the only way to inform important decisions.

The reality of the Bush Administrations reliance on untruthful information and their efforts to create their own reality is undeniable.  Should I mention the presence of WMD in Iraq?  Should we talk about the belief without a shred of evidence that Sadaam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were connected at the hip and therefore Hussein should be removed from power regardless of the fact that there was no truth to their beliefs?

This fact is beautifully illustrated by the fact that President Bush met with science-fiction novelist Michael Crichton to discuss global-warming issues that he faced as President.  Obviously Michael Crichton was a terrific science-fiction writer.   Unfortunately, his stated views on the global-warming issue never remotely approached reality and, in fact, were more in line with his science-fiction background.  There is no place for science-fiction in policy decisions.  This meeting is illustrative of the fact that the President of the United States had a blatant disregard for the legitimate role of scientific expertise in his decision making process. Truth be damned!  I am proceeding based upon what I believe, as long as it makes my base happy.

For decades, science has come in contact with political processes in several different ways.  The United States government funds scientific research through several agencies such as the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation.  Additionally, science endeavors are funded through direct congressional appropriations (often called “academic pork”).  In the past, both political parties have found common ground when it comes to funding scientific enterprise.

Political leaders need legitimate, hard data, to properly evaluate and justify certain political decisions.  This is where scientists and technical experts play a key role in the political process.  However, of late there has been a significant shift within the Conservative movement.  This shift has resulted in an increase in the tension between a politicians ideological commitments and their reliance on pure science.  Chris Mooney, author of “The Republican War On Science” defines political “abuse” of science as “any attempt to inappropriately undermine, alter, or otherwise interfere with the scientific process, or scientific conclusions, for political or ideological reasons.”   That being said, the history of past Republican administrations, and current Republican Congressional leaders has been one of significant abuse of the processes and results of scientific inquiry.

One doesn’t have to peer too far in the past to find a typical example of how a political ideology has exerted pressure on individuals vying for standing in the Republican political sphere.  It doesn’t take a keen sense of observation to realize that the vast majority of the individuals attempting to gain the Republican nomination for President of the United States clearly aligned themselves against overwhelming scientific observation and data regarding the effects of years of pouring CO2 into our atmosphere.  The pressure exerted on these individuals to gain the support of their political base is undeniable.  When all but one of them goes on the record against over 97% of the legitimate, peer-reviewed, scientific conclusions about climate change, it is patently obvious that pressure from their political base trumps legitimate and reasonable thinking processes.

To be sure, those that align themselves with the political right, generally have very serious doubts regarding scientific data, hypotheses, and conclusions that come from those that they consider to be part of the “liberal elitists” who happen to be educated at the university level.  Carl Rove, the famous (or infamous) conservative political operative has defined a liberal as “somebody with a doctorate”.  Obviously he was trying to make a point with this comment, but to be sure, his comment illustrates the rights disdain for highly educated individuals who do not agree with their political ideology.

Conservative political ideology as exemplified by today’s Republican Party has increased the tension between politics and science.  Those in leadership roles within the Republican Party have resorted to actions and attitudes that have significantly ignored advice from legitimate scientists who work within the government and in other scientific agencies.  Here are a few examples of their response to this tension:

  • Distortion of legitimate health information from qualified scientific professionals.  For example, Conservatives political operatives have often made the claim that condoms don’t work well in protecting against sexually transmitted disease.  The ignorance of those statements can literally cost the health and well-being of someone who believes the uneducated and politically motivated garbage.    Statements such as this absolutely foster outright ignorance.  If this is a faith-based issue for you, make your claim boldly and do nothing to give those who believe differently added ammunition in ways that reduce the validity of your argument.  Introducing provably false arguments reduces ones credibility.  Another example of this is the widespread belief in the Conservative community that there is scientific proof that there is a link between abortion and breast cancer.  It wasn’t that long ago that the Rush Limbaughs, and Sean Hannity’s of the world were making this claim without regard to legitimate scientific evidence to the contrary.  I realize that when we start talking about abortion that the temperature in the room goes up about 20 degrees.  However, using provably false scientific data at the expense of truth to justify ones beliefs is, at best, ignorant of fact.  Ones beliefs regarding this topic are obviously informed by many sources and influences, faith being one of them.  However, the issue is important enough to stand on its own merits without introducing untruthful elements into the issue to persuade others to believe similarly.  Credibility is always on trial.
  • Suppression of scientific information for political reasons.   During the Reagan Administration, a report issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology called attention to very serious environmental conditions scientifically attributed to the presence of acid rain.  Those within the Reagan Administration stalled the release of the report so that citizens of the United States would not complain regarding the administrations complete disregard for the problem.  No action was taken at the time.  Examples of this type of action by political leaders are documented and numerous.
  • Attacking the credibility of individual scientists for the purpose of discrediting their work.  For a detailed example of political heat applied to legitimate scientists take a look at “Global Warming and Political Intimidation” by Raymond S. Bradley and “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” by Michael E. Mann.  Both of these distinguished scientists have faced significant attack from Conservative political leaders currently serving in the House of Representatives and the Senate.  One need look no farther than the actions of Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma as the ranking Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in regard to the issue of attacking scientists whose work contradicted his political ideology and endangered his sources of funding for his campaigns.   Inhofe publicly named a group of scientists that he wanted investigated for possible referral to the US Justice Department for prosecution.  Their crime?   Publishing their scientific observations and conclusions in peer-reviewed journals as all scientists are required to do to gain legitimacy.  The right-wing media echo chamber picked up the call for action and soon the scientists mentioned began receiving hundreds of emails accusing them of falsifying their science for political purposes.  Death threats soon followed.  By the way, Inhofe invited Michael Crichton to testify before a government panel as an expert on the science of global warming.  Basically, he invited a science fiction author to give expert testimony before his committee.  No act of complete ignorance could be more illustrative of Republican lack of credibility and downright dishonesty when it comes to their battle against any scientific evidence that contradicts their ideology.  It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

Here is an example of one of the many emails that these scientists received as a result of Inhofe’s indiscretion as reported in “Fool Me Twice, Fighting the Assault on Science” by Shawn Lawrence Otto:

“You communistic dupe of the U.N. who wants to impose world government on us and take away American freedom of religion and economy-you are a traitor to the U.S., belong in jail and should be executed.”

This is a perfect example of the attempts of a political ideologue to intimidate a legitimate scientist.  Read the email again carefully.  Any doubt in your mind that the issue for this fine upstanding Conservative was not related to the legitimacy of his scientific research?  Nope, afraid not!  This garbage is entirely related to a difference in ideology and a fear that somehow, the product of legitimate scientific inquiry would reduce stated ideology to irrelevance.  The writer of this email included several illustrative terms” often used in attacking individuals who do not believe as Conservatives.  Here is a quick list:

  • Communistic
  • U.N.  (United Nations)
  • World Government
  • American freedom of religion and economy
  • Traitor to the U.S.

Obviously the scientist was a communist, believes in that horrible organization known as the United Nations, wanted a one-world government, decries American freedom of religion, and was a traitor and as such should be executed.  I am surprised that the scientist did not turn himself in to the authorities after learning of his real standing in the community.

This one is getting a bit long here, obviously my beliefs regarding the importance of the role of science are important to me.  If I were to sum up the feelings of many of us who will not vote for a Republican in the coming election the following statement would pretty much cover it.

We don’t trust Republicans to make informed decisions regarding policy that should be informed by legitimate science.  The reason we don’t trust them is that for decades they have proven to be untrustworthy.  Their beliefs, attitudes, and actions have informed those of us in the “reality-based” community that their beliefs in their “empire status” make them dangerous to the planet and those who occupy it.

 

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