Wednesday, May 07, 2008

not a phony war on science

Former Bush speechwriter turned Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson today complains that "There are few things in American politics more irrationally ideological, more fanatically faith-based, than the accusation that Republicans are conducting a 'war on science.'"

To prove his point, Gerson points out three scientists who have done good work in the de facto Bush Administration; of course, none of them are involved in climate change, setting pollution standards for water, teaching evolution, stem cell research, or any of the other more controversial areas. And Gerson brings up the old conservative attack by alleging that liberals favor eugenics, and mentioning the Nazi Party in Germany.

Let's ignore that rhetorical head-fake, shall we? Are the allegations of a Republican War on Science accurate?

Unfortunately, yes. For the past 40 years the GOP has been far more willing than the Democrats to lie and obfuscate about science in order to protect their ideological golden oxes.

Currently perhaps the best known example is climate change. It is REPUBLICANS who have led the campaign to cast doubt on the science about the causes, mechanics, and possible catastrophic effects of climate change. It is Republicans, and their corporate allies at Exxon and elsewhere, who support the fringe lunatics. They have moved their line, from "climate change is a hoax" (still believed by Senator James Inhoffe and other Republican stalwarts) to "climate change is happening but it's not our fault" to "climate change isn't going to be that bad anyway", refusing to acknowledge that we maybe we should try to so something in the off-chance that we could be provoking a civilization-ending transformation in our climate.

It is Republicans and their Christianist allies who insist on "teaching the controversy" about evolution, trying to foist their narrow Biblical view of Creation on the rest of us, wasting valuable time and energy and money, and not helping us improve our science education while students in other countries continue to study biology without crazy hang-ups about God. The same people are pushing their ridiculous views of geology, trying to make the evidence of a billion-year-old planet fit with their myth of a planet built in 7 days about 6000 years ago.

Republicans (shamefully supported by some Democrats) have denied the cause and effect relationship between smoking tobacco and lung cancer. And between various other chemicals and other cancers, because to do so would be inconvenient and costly for their corporate pals.

Republicans (not all, though) have fought and fought against stem cell research, based on absurdly narrow moral grounds, driving jobs out of the US and possibly costing lives to protect cells that are not going to become lives. (Not to mention that the GOP only cares about children before they are born; afterwards, let 'em eat cake.)

Hell, just to pick a narrow sample of their selective use of science, remember the Republicans claimed "well golly shucks, we couldn't have predicted a hurricane like Katrina" when scientists had been warning about the effects of a direct hit on New Orleans for decades.

Don't let GOP operative Gerson fool you. There HAS been a Republican War on Science. And we all are paying for it.

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