Tag: Republicans

How far back will we set our clocks?

By Phil Plait | November 3, 2012 11:59 am

This picture is going around Facebook. I tried to find the original, but it’s hopeless, so I’ll just put this here.

Remember, in the US we’re not just voting on the President, we’re voting on lots of Congresscritters, too. In that case, we may be setting the clocks back more like two thousand years.


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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Humor, Piece of mind, Politics

Flatly wrong global warming denial

By Phil Plait | October 23, 2012 10:24 am

Sometimes climate change deniers make it all too easy.

The UK paper Daily Mail has a long history of courting climate change denial, and apparently it has no wish to change. It recently posted an atrocious article called "Global warming stopped 16 years ago, reveals Met Office report quietly released… and here is the chart to prove it". The article was written by David Rose, who wrote a pretty inaccurate article earlier this year on a similar topic.

In fact, this new article was so blatantly wrong that the MET office – the national weather service for the UK – wrote a rebuttal to it detailing the flaws. To start with, they point out they did recently update their global temperature databases, but that’s a very different thing than "quietly releasing a report", as Rose claims. Cue the conspiracy music!

It gets worse from there. They take on his points one at a time and take them down. I highly recommend reading them. And if you haven’t gotten your fill of it, or you’re still not convinced, you can check out The Carbon Brief’s article that gives more details on Rose’s denial.

Or you can read the takedown by Skeptical Science.

Or by Open Mind. In fact, let’s take a closer look at that.

Tamino, the author of Open Mind, shows just how Rose picks and chooses his data to make it look like global warming stopped years ago. In the picture here, the top graph shows what Rose says the temperature looks like: flat across the past 15 years or so. But that’s terribly misleading: the starting point he chose falsely makes the graph look flat. The bottom one shows the true situation as Tamino describes it. You have to go farther into the past to find a reasonable starting point, and when you do, you see what looked flat is actually a rising temperature over time.

To do what Rose did in that upper graph is to strain reality (and credulity) past the breaking point. It’s almost as if Rose specifically chose the data that he liked and rejected the rest. That’s a big no-no in the reality-based world. Tamino thoroughly vaporizes Rose’s article, showing that it’s wrong in its most basic assumptions, its methodology, and its conclusions.

But other than that…

This article is just another in a long line of climate change denials that fiddles with the data to make it look like the Earth isn’t warming up. But it adds up. This kind of nonsense is damaging to real efforts to do something real about a real problem. And venues like the Daily Mail are all too happy to fan the fire while the world burns.


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Akin breakin' science

By Phil Plait | August 24, 2012 6:31 am

[NOTE: This is not my first foray into political opinion on this blog, so I expect to get a lot of comments which could charitably be called angry. BEFORE YOU COMMENT, first, read the ample links I have included in this post. These are how I back up my arguments, and reading them first may prevent you from saying something already refuted. Second, read my note about posts covering politics and religion. Third, read my commenting policy. Thank you in advance.]


Unless you’ve had your head buried in the mantle of the Earth this week, you probably heard what Missouri Congressman Todd Akin said about women’s bodies and rape. If you haven’t, my friend Matt Lowry at Skeptical Teacher has the lowdown.

But in a nutshell – apt phrasing, that – Akin claimed that:

First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare… If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

This is so appallingly ignorant – to be kind – that it makes my brain explode. Pregnancy from rape is not rare; tens of thousands occur every year. His claim about the female body is complete claptrap, nonsense. And his use of the word "legitimate" is just grossly insulting. As President Obama said the next day: "Rape is rape".

So here we have a man who has not just no knowledge of what happens during rape and conception, but actually provably wrong knowledge. And he makes laws about these things.

It’s clear that Akin’s beliefs are driven by his religious fundamentalism. This would be a matter of concern to me for any lawmaker, but you have to understand: he sits on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee!

The irony in this should be evident.

And worse, Rep. Akin is not the only woefully under- and simply miseducated person on that committee who attacks science. It’s full of such antiscience people. Examples include Mo Brooks, a global warming denier; Ralph Hall, who tried to use porn to scuttle a science funding bill; Jim Sensenbrenner, another global warming denier; Paul Broun, a creationist (a creationist on the science committee!); Dana Rohrabacher, another climate change denier, and more.

It’s mind boggling.

Today, more than ever before, we need politicians who are educated about science and technology. At the very least our economic future depends on science! Yet we have people on the Science Committee who are devoted to actively destroying it.

This is why I support Science Debate 2012. The goal of this organization is to educate the public about where politicians stand on science issues, including evolution, global warming, energy, and the economy.

We need to hold current politicians accountable when they are flatly against reality, and we need to make sure we elect ones who are reality-based. As Rep. Akin showed us clearly, this spans a broad range of political issues.

Let me leave you with this: in America, only about half the people of voting age actually go out and vote. That means there is a vast, untapped resource of people who can make a real difference in November.

If you don’t vote, then you are letting someone else decide for you what to do with your money, your life, your future, and even your very body.

Learn the issues. Vote.


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In the Constitution We Trust

By Phil Plait | November 1, 2011 5:42 pm

[UPDATE (20:00 Eastern time): Sigh. The bill passed.]

[UPDATE 2 (23:00 Eastern time): I have been told that this bill, even when passed, does not have the force of law. It’s what’s called a House Concurrent Resolution, and basically is used to express a sentiment of the legislature. I might then argue it’s not unconstitutional, but then why did several House members say it would be (see the link provided in the post below)? Making law really is like making sausages. Anyway, even if the argument about it being unconstitutional is not a good one, this bill was still a colossal waste of time, and meaningless. There is simply no good, real reason to have done this, and the fact that so many thought it was a good expenditure of time, and that so many signed it, makes me sad.]

I found out about this too late to do much about it, but just in case you hadn’t heard, The US House of Representatives is voting tonight on a bill to make reaffirm "In God We Trust" the official motto of the US.

This is pretty shocking. Well, it’s not shocking in that everything the Republican-majority House has done in the past few months has been pretty antireality, but this is such a clear violation of the First Amendment that it’s, well, shocking. That Amemndent to the US Constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

There are many cases where the interpretation of this simple statement is not terribly clear, but this ain’t one of them. Passing a bill saying the official motto of this country is a religious one is clearly making a law about the establishing of religion. It is putting a religious belief above non-religion, for one. It is also putting a monotheistic belief above pantheism, for another. While some people might think pantheism is silly, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this bill violates the Establishment Clause.

And it’s not just me saying that; several dissenters in the House feel that way as well.

This country, you may have noticed, is a mess. A lot of this is due to the government itself, but we’re at the point that we need the government to fix it. There are ways they could help: jobs bills, increasing science funding, and so on. Instead, they’re wasting time and making us look foolish by violating the very principles upon which this country was founded.

We are not a Christian nation. The majority of this country may be religious, but that is all the more reason to make very, very sure our laws are free from religion. The immediate reason is that we want everyone to be free to practice religion or not according to their own beliefs or lack thereof. But also, remember, just because one religion has the majority now doesn’t mean it always will. There could come a time when some other religion, or some other version of it, has control. Making laws based on religion now will make it easier to make laws based on some other religion then.

It’s a bad, bad idea.

I know that the current House has no clue about this sort of thinking, but we the voters do. Any Congressperson who is inclined to vote YES on this bill should first remember the very first thing they did when sworn in as a Representative of the American people: uphold and defend the Constitution. This bill is the antithesis of that oath, in spirit if not in letter.

[UPDATE: Note that I originally said this bill would make this the official motto; it is actually to "reaffirm" it. Either way, it’s a waste of time and still a violation of the Establishment Clause, as the dissenters pointed out.]

Tip o’ the quill to Tim Lloyd on Google+.


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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics, Religion

You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true

By Phil Plait | November 1, 2011 7:00 am

Here at BA Central, I have my hands full trying to battle the Forces of Darkness: those who would spin, fold, and mutilate reality for their own gain. They may be motivated by greed, or power, or ignorance, or ideology, but the thing they all have in common is, they’re wrong. They come in many flavors: homeopaths, psychics, creationists, antivaxxers… and yes, sadly, far too many politicians.

And I can rail against them time and again, my arsenal filled with the facts from an entire Universe at my disposal, yet make hardly a dent in their armor.

Sometimes, though, a small dose of satire penetrates right through that shielding and pierces the very heart of antiscience. Thank you, The Daily Show, for fighting this good fight:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Weathering Fights – Science: What’s It Up To?
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook


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GOP senior officials quietly trying to restore science to their agenda

By Phil Plait | October 4, 2011 7:00 am

If you’ve read this blog for more than a few nanoseconds, you know how incensed I am over the blatantly antiscience trend in the Republican leadership. As I have pointed out before, supporting the reality of global warming or evolution is akin to political suicide if you are a candidate for office in the GOP. The attacks on science by the far right are not new, but the openness and outspoken nature of it are fairly recent. Even Newt Gingrich, who used to a be a strong supporter of science, is making Michele Bachmann-level misstatements about it.

So I was very glad to read an article at the National Journal saying that older leaders of the Republican party are trying to re-establish the role of science in the GOP:

But quietly, many acknowledge a deepening GOP schism over the issue, as many moderates grow increasingly disturbed by their party’s denial of proven science. A number of influential Republicans who have left the battlefield of electoral politics are now taking action in an effort to change the GOP’s stance.

And we’re not talking about lightweights, either. People like former (under Bush I) Secretary of State George Shultz, who said this:

"My own opinion is that this [climate change] problem is very real," Shultz told National Journal. "I recognize there’s a lot of people pooh-poohing it. Whether they like the science or not, there’s a huge problem coming at us. There’s a huge melt coming in the Arctic regions. There’s melting taking place." Of Republicans like [Presidential candidate Rick] Perry who deny climate science, he said, "They’re entitled to their opinion, but they’re not entitled to the facts."

Oh my. That is very heartening to hear. Of course, they have an uphill battle ahead of them. And by uphill, I mean like climbing out of the event horizon of a black hole, given how loud the antiscience noise is. The article acknowledges this, saying these leaders have kept quiet

in part because acknowledging climate change puts them out of sync with the tea party base that has so energized their party, and because climate-change legislation stands no chance of passing Congress in the current political environment.

The far-right Tea Party is mired in a radical religious agenda, and has become the de facto voice of the GOP. I have serious doubts that the more moderate wing of the Republican leadership can do much about it; that whirlwind has been sown, and they are now reaping it… as are we all. Once an audience is whipped into a frenzy that is not based on reason, corralling it will be nearly impossible. Just look at the editorial climate scientist Michael Mann wrote for the Vail Daily, defending his research against oft-repeated falsehoods about it — which sometimes come from people as lofty as Congressmen in the House of Representatives. That kind of stuff won’t stop overnight, or even in the next few years. It’s a foregone conclusion antiscience will play its role in the 2012 election, too.

So while I’m glad to hear that some members of the Republican Party are fighting to get their party back, I despair of their chances of actually doing it.

Tip o’ the beaker to Steve Silberman (via JenLucPiquant), and reddit.


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Erasing false balance: the right is more antiscience than the left

By Phil Plait | September 28, 2011 12:31 pm

[Note: I’m anticipating some, um, interesting comments to this post. So, before you leave one, please read this post on my political thinking, and this one on political posts in general.]

I write quite a bit about how rabidly antiscience the political right in the US has become. From the attacks on science by the Bush Administration (and Newt Gingrich before that) to the political litmus test of needing to denounce evolution and global warming if you’re a candidate, the Republican party has planted its flag firmly in the ground of nonsense. At the bottom of this article is a section called Related Posts that has links to just a handful of the copious examples of this outrageous behavior.

They have also become masters at spinning this, going on the attack against science they don’t like and using the media to sow doubt. One of the most aggravating of these tactics is the one of false equivalency. For example, in a post I might lambaste yet another Republican candidate saying creationism should be taught in schools, and someone in the comments will say, "Well, people on the left are antiscience as well!"

This is a common claim, but at best it’s a gross mischaracterization of what’s going on, and in reality it’s beside the point. Sure, some people on the left have issues (mostly anti-corporate or alt-med stuff like being against GMO, vaccines, and so on), but those are not the main planks of the left. And those issues are a drop in the bucket compared to what’s going on in the right. To say you think evolution might be true is political suicide if you’re a Republican candidate right now. It’s that simple, and that bad. I think that, like on the left, the majority of voters on the right are not antiscience, but if you look to the leaders in Congress, in State legislatures, and at the Presidential candidates, that’s all you see.

And that’s why you need to read an article by my friend Chris Mooney, "Unequivocal: Today’s Right is Overwhelmingly More Anti-Science Than Today’s Left". He lays out just how big this problem is, why the right has gone this way, and why they have solidarity among their candidates.

The chief reason the political right is anti-science is because it contains the Christian Right (and Tea Party, which is kind of the same thing). There is no force in American politics generating anywhere near so much unreality, in science or in other spheres, as this one. It is not just evolution, or the age of the Earth… When it comes to science, it is also anything having anything to do with abortion, reproductive health, and sexuality. Moreover, we are talking here about the willful advancement of dangerous falsehoods, and the clinging to them in the face of all evidence and refutation—because this is about unwavering certainty, and ultimately, about faith.

This is one of the most important political articles I’ve read in quite some time. Chris lays out the political reality of antireality in a stark way. The article is frustrating and infuriating, because it shows just how the right’s leaders have lost their grip on reality, and is a grim reminder of just how important the elections next year are.

To be clear: I am not saying that anyone who calls themself a Republican is antiscience. I am saying the leaders of the party and their mouthpieces are, and Chris does a good job of showing that this is now the mainstream thrust of the party. If you are a conservative person who is pro-science, it is up to you to talk to your leaders about this issue. The GOP used to be pro-science, but was hijacked by the antiscience fringe many years ago. I can talk about this all I want and try to raise awareness, but your voices must be heard. Speak up.


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MORE ABOUT: left, Republicans, right

Republican candidates, global warming, evolution, and reality

By Phil Plait | September 8, 2011 12:27 pm

So, last night was another debate among the Republican candidates for President. While Ron Paul appears to have done quite well, at least according to an MSNBC poll, it was Rick Perry who is grabbing headlines.

Of course, that’s because what he said was outrageously awful. About climate science, he said, "…just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell." That analogy is so ridiculous it’s hard to know where to start; but a good place might be to simply say that Galileo had the advantage of being right. Just because a tiny fraction of people claim global warming isn’t real, or that humans aren’t responsible, doesn’t make them correct. Especially when going up against the overwhelming evidence compiled by a consensus of 97% of scientists who study climate as their career.

Also, the religiously conservative Perry should be a bit more circumspect on his analogies. It wasn’t scientists who were fighting Galileo, it was religious conservatives.

Bismillah, no!

Jon Huntsman, as expected, stood up for science, as Sheril Kirshenbaum points out on her new Culture of Science blog. And while I disagree with Huntsman on a number of social and government issues, it’s nice to know one of the Republican candidates is willing to at least dip his toe in reality. But how messed up is it that supporting actual evidence-based research is considered political suicide in the GOP?

If you’re curious about where the other candidates stand on issues of global warming and evolution, Luke Scientiæ has compiled an overview. I’ve looked it over and that article falls into line with what I’ve read elsewhere as well. It’s not a pretty picture; with the exception of Huntsman essentially all the currently viable candidates have gone out of their way to deny basic science such as evolution. That includes Ron Paul.

As Tom Chivers wrote for The Telegraph about this cohort of antiscience candidates:

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, as the old saw goes. Nothing: not anatomy, not biochemistry, certainly not genetics. Not species distribution or death or the immune system or sex. Nothing. It’s like trying to explain the behaviour of football players without acknowledging the existence of a game of football.

As I’ve pointed out before, the same is true for climate science. It’s de rigeur for Republican candidates to deny global warming, and it’s even worse for Tea Partiers. That’s not surprising as the noise machine rattles on; a recent study that did not link cosmic rays to global warming is being touted as saying exactly the opposite (you can find links to more about that on Greg Laden’s blog). Heck, a paper that got lots of play in the global warming denial sphere was so flawed a journal editor resigned over it, saying it should not have been published. But that won’t even slow things down.

As we get closer to the Republican nomination — yegads, still a year off — expect to see the noise ratcheted up and the rhetoric to get even more heated. This is going to be a very long process, and given what I saw last night, an embarrassing one.


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The increasingly antiscience Republican candidates

By Phil Plait | August 29, 2011 2:35 pm

A lot of folks on the web are buzzing about Paul Krugman’s NYT OpEd today about the antiscience convictions of the current cohort of Republican candidates running for President of these United States. I find little fault in what Krugman wrote. Each candidate on the right is simply scrambling to be even more antiscience than the next.

Of course, if that "next" is Rick Perry, then I doubt anyone could sprint away from reality more than he does. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool creationist who apparently has no problem narrowing or stepping well over the line with separation of Church and State, and when it comes to denying climate change he also apparently had no problem with simply making things up (Krugman calls his statements "vile", and the Washington Post blog The Fact Checker rated his claims as "whoppers"). Perry’s stance on other big issues is similar.

And he’s far and away the front runner, which leaves me shaking my head.

Where Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum stand is obvious. Newt Gingrich — who claims he’s a fan of science — equivocates when it comes to Intelligent Design and evolution as well as global warming, and was instrumental in defunding the House Office of Technology Assessment in 1995.

Even the candidates people are calling "moderate" are falling over themselves to appease the base when it comes to science and the lack thereof. Mitt Romney tried to eat his cake and have it too about accepting evolution, and even Ron Paul has now distanced himself from evolution.

Which brings up Jon Huntsman, which is where things get truly maddening. He recently said he thinks both evolution and global warming are real. This makes me sad, and scared. Why? Because this statement is considered bold.

How can it be bold to accept reality, to not deny the overwhelming evidence, and to agree with the vast, vast majority of scientists studying the very topics of discussion?

Huntsman wants his party not to be "the antiscience party". But that shouldn’t be bold. That should be common sense.

As it happens, Huntsman is trailing in the polls by a nearly insurmountable distance. That’s certainly not caused by his statement — he’s been behind for a long time — and may not even be correlated directly; as one Republican strategist commented, he may simply be saying things to try to stand out from the crowd.

But if true, think on that: he’s making clear, logical, rational statements in order to separate himself from the other candidates.

And that’s where we are.


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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Piece of mind, Politics

Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA): on climate change, makes wrong even wronger

By Phil Plait | May 31, 2011 9:30 am

Sadly, I am not surprised when I hear a Republican congressman make some sort of grotesquely antiscience statement. It’s all too common now, and seems hardly worth noting except to throw it on the ever-growing pile of political distortions of reality the GOP is now known for.

But sometimes, one comes along that is so outrageous and ridiculous it must be noted. Enter Dana Rohrabacher.

He is a far-right Republican in California, and toes the GOP stance of climate change denial. Recently, he made a statement that’s pretty bizarre, and it’s making the rounds on the internet. There was a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee (which he chairs) about UN climate policies and the US contributions to it. On the stand as a witness was the "top U.S. climate diplomat" Todd Stern… and Rohrabacher asked him this:

"Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases? … Or would people be supportive of cutting down older trees in order to plant younger trees as a means to prevent this disaster from happening?"

Say WHAT? The idea here is that decaying matter in rainforests is emitting a lot of carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming. Rohrabacher seems to be saying that if we cut down old trees in rain forests there will be less decay, and therefore less CO2 emission.

This is such a bizarre statement it’s hard to know where to start. Read More

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