A Mad Tea Party

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | October 18, 2010 5:38 pm

And we’re not in Wonderland…

Elections should not be a popularity contest of reality television-like, over-the-top, nonsensical personalities. Political decisions must be based on real issues affecting our families, our lives, our collective future. Over at Southern Fried Science, David explains why scientists need to be interested and engaged in politics:

The Tea Party movement is anti-science. They believe global warming to be a hoax. They believe that evolution isn’t real. They are against stem cell research. They are against science-based regulation.

In our political system, decisions are made by those who show up. The outcome of the 2010 midterm election will affect United States science policy. Regardless of your views on government spending, people who care about science policy should reject the Tea Party.

Exactly. Now go read his terrific post and make sure you vote! Because I fear we’re falling down a dangerous rabbit hole where nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics and Science

Comments (26)

  1. David

    Almost all of our politicians are just as bad. Anyone remember Hank Johnson and Guam tipping over and capsizing? Should we reject the Democratic party because they are ignorant of science by the same criteria?

  2. Philip Payne

    Mr. Mooney and Ms. Keirshenbaum,

    I am delighted to inform you that no matter your scientific views of the world, if we do not get our government spending under control, we as a free nation will cease to exist.

    The first issue is we must get control over the federal debt. It will not matter what you think about science because we will be completely destroyed by our debt. Freedom is a fragile thing. Our for-fathers warned us about the consequences of hight debt. The for-fathers saw how the European countries continued to war and plunder the people by going into excesive debt. Do not ask the govt to take my money, put me and my children and my grand-children into tax slavery and think I should thank you for it.

    Secondly, we have many enemies that want to destroy us and if you think they are just going to make friends with us and leave us alone, you are terribly naive. The Tea Party candidates are the only ones that are addressing our debt, taxation, immigration and foreign policy problems.

    Thirdly, I think that you can have all the opinions you want but do not force your unscientific reasoning on the rest of us. For one thing, there should not be a central govt school system. If you want to teach your children that evolution is correct, that is your business. But don’t tell me through the govt schools to ignore laws of nature that fly in the face of evolution. The eco-system is not going from disorder to order. It is a scientific fact that the eco-system is going from order to disorder. There are no known transition species that would be everywhere in the fossil record if these transitions took millions of years. As a matter of fact, our eco-system and life around us look more and more like it was designed by a designer. The odds of this DNA thing just coming together by random chance is to astronomical to fathom!

    In conclusion, we need to get back to letting people live without govt programs that make them dependent on govt. The Tea Party is the only movement that addresses these concerns. I am sure that you have nothing but the best of intentions, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Just vote for the Tea Party candidate and you will see that you will have more freedom to do your job, live where you want to live, teach your children what you want to teach, eat the foods that you want to eat, worship or not worship as you like, unless your job is taking from the public to enrich yourself. We can all get along as long as you let me have my liberty to think, act and work as I please.


  3. Jim O'Neill

    Re: Philip Payne’s comment:
    I take it you favor abolishing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Doing so would help balance not only the fedreral budget but also state budgets. It will help eliminate the poor (especially the elderly poor) who are dragging the rest of us down. Or do you have some compassion and really don’t mean what you wrote?

  4. Yeah, you can’t argue with that.

    In the same way that you can’t teach a pig to sing.

  5. Nice article. One of the most effective take downs of the Tea Partiers I have seen recently is Matt Taibbi’s Rolling Stone article.

  6. Brian Too

    You see, my theory is that the Tea Party is anti-science, but for perhaps a different reason than Sheril thinks (apologies if I have assumed too much about Sheril’s thinking process).

    My bet is that science is one of the convenient punching bags for the Tea Party and their ilk. It doesn’t matter what the target is really, it just happened to be science at this time.

    The Tea Party’s real agenda is to weaken their opponents and get into power themselves. I bet you’d find an actual Tea Party administration implementing a mixed bag of pro- and anti-science policies. They’d explain this dismissively of alternate opinion, along the lines of “well, we never really said we were against stem cells, it was Human Caused Global Warming. We just wanted to take a closer look at stem cell research. The country was off track and we put it back on track. Stop asking these questions!”

    Their agenda is anti-science mainly because they don’t care for it’s welfare, and are willing to use it as a punching bag. It’s a lack of respect for the subject area. For a contrary subject area, and this is just me supposing here, I’d suggest checking out how they treat something like prayer in schools.

  7. Eric the Leaf

    The most compelling–excuse me–the only compelling part of the Tea Party message revolves around debt, but probably not for reasons they suspect. Today’s debt-and-interest economy is dependent upon growth, which must occur in such a way as to insure the repayment of debt and the interest on that debt. In essence, it is based on the ability to create ever more money, which equals debt (loans). Current levels of debt rival if not surpass anything in recorded history, including the tulip bubble of the early 1600s. Thus unprecedented levels of growth must occur to right the ship, which I don’t believe anybody is predicting to occur anytime soon. But growth in the economy is intimately tied to growth of energy and resources. If energy is constrained and essential resources deplete, the needed growth cannot occur. Hence one of the problems that folks raising the alarm about resource depletion (such as oil, metals, soil, fish, etc.) are riled about is the total and complete collapse of the economy.

    I must say that one of Sheril’s colleagues, who just attended the Peak Oil conference in Washington DC, must be well-versed in these issues. I have read his blog entry on the conference and cannot find anything to disagree with. With Sheril’s focus on energy, I’m surprised that such an important energy “event” has gone unreported on The Intersection. One of the speakers at that conference, Chris Martenson, is an authority on the very topic that I have attempted summarize above, so I defer to his works (and others) on the subject, which can be easily accessed in detail on the web.

    I suggest, then, that atheists (including myself) and religious believers in fact have a common god. Our god is growth and our belief is unwavering.

  8. Magoonski

    In response to Philip Payne

    First, we wouldn’t have such a big debt if there wasn’t a cap on taxes for the wealthy at about 35% for those who make more than $373,650 a year. A person who makes $374,000 per year will pay $130,900 (%35) in taxes, a person who makes $1,000,000 per year will also be taxed %35, how is that fair? Also, many big business (not mom and pop shops) find ways to get out of paying taxes altogether. We need to return to the ‘golden days’ of the 1950’s when taxes for the wealthy went all the way up to %70 on a sliding scale.

    Second, your “enemies” as you call them are people too. We need to find common ground for the sake of future generations. Quit living in fear, it’s pathetic. Dying is part of life and if we don’t look to preserve a HUMAN legacy than we all die for nothing.

    Third, you don’t see even the slightest bit of truth in evolution? I believe that Christ died on the cross for our sins but I also believe that to believe a book written by the hand of man over the glory of God’s Creation that is revealed before us through the use of scientific inquiry is heresy! How dare you deny the beauty and complexity of God’s creation!

    As for your conclusion…I’ll gladly accept your Social Security check when you retire since you obviously don’t believe in government intervention. Also, if you really believe that the Tea Party provides “more freedom to do your job, live where you want to live, teach your children what you want to teach, eat the foods that you want to eat, worship or not worship as you like”
    ARE YOU BLIND? What do you think we have now? You can work in any field you want, you can home school your kids, the Bill of Rights guarantees religious freedom…as for the food part, other than your parents making you eat your vegetables as a kid you’re allowed to eat as much junk food as you want, no one is going to stop you.

    I respect that you were trying to write a well written, organized reply but you need to wake up, the Tea Party is just a snake-oil salesman trying to sell you something you already have. The United States of America is a wonderful country but if you follow the propaganda train of the Tea Party we’re going to turn into a Christian version of Iran.

  9. Nick

    @ Philip Payne
    Even if the odds are astronomical… We’re here because DNA came out that way. If it had come out the wrong way and DNA didn’t come together, then we wouldn’t be here to examine it and say, “Hey, that’s a neat coincidence.” To put it another way, only the very lucky (or those guided by God, if you prefer) would be able to see it. Not that it must be so because we’re here, but we’re here because it’s so.
    I happen to believe in science and religion coexisting peacefully, and I’m glad you have the best of intentions too. I just worry that you have all the right answers for all the wrong reasons.

  10. ChH

    Magoonski, the top rates in the 1950’s were 91% or 92% depending on the year. JFK lowered top rates to 70%, which resulted in greatly INCREASED tax revenue. Reagan lowered them again to 50%, and ultimately to 28%, which resulted again in INCREASED tax revenues and a generation of exceptional economic growth. W lowered top rates in 2003 from ~39% to 35% which resulted in INCREASED tax revenues.

    Sticking it to the rich does not reduce debt.

    Debt is caused by OVER-SPENDING, not under-taxing.

    As for corporations not paying taxes … people pay all taxes. Corporate taxes are paid by employees, customers or shareholders. If a corporation loses money they may not pay taxes, but their employees are still paying taxes on their incomes. Also consider the USA has the 2nd highest corporate taxes in the industrialized world – punishing our manufacturing base & incentivizing them to move overseas. That is insane!

  11. Eric the Leaf

    Wrong. Debt is caused by borrowing, pure and simple. It is facilitated by fractional reserve banking, abandoning the gold standard, etc. It is also the way that money is created. Not all debt is federal. It is also corporate and individual. Debt, and its repayment along with interest, is essential to the growth of industrial economies. Lack of growth is a recession or depression. Ultimately, growth is not sustainable in the face of depleting energy and essential resources.

  12. ChH

    Eric, obviously debt is caused by borrowing – that’s just a tautology. congratulations.

    What I was pointing out is that we are near the maximum revenue that is possible to collect from our society – higher rates slow the growth you rightly point out that we need and result in lower tax revenues along with recessions or worse. If anything, lowering rates is the way to achieve higher revenues.

    But if we’re spending 30-50% more money than is possible to collect, debt is what happens.

  13. It is dishearting that Discovery Magazine allows itself to be part of an article that is full of so much information.

    First, we aren’t against evolution, we just believe that there has been an intelligent force involved in the process of creation; we disagree that this is all an accident.

    Second, we don’t believe that science is infallible; we do believe that anyone who thinks it is, is ignorant of the scientific process.

    Third, we do believe in climate change, but we are convinced that the science of AGM is both extremely suspect, and economically and politically driven.

    It’s about time you realized that your drinking the Kool-Aid.

  14. BUNNY

    Governments are nothing more than mobster-style rulerships that work by stealing from people in the form of taxation!

  15. Chris

    Proof of mice with human brains.

  16. Sorbit

    Payne: There are no known transition species that would be everywhere in the fossil record if these transitions took millions of years.

    Tiktaalik. Lucy. Archeopteryx. Ambulocetus. Google these, and please come out of the cave.

  17. Matt

    I don’t think the author realizes what the Tea Party is all about. It’s about getting the government to leave us alone, it just happens to draw a lot of conservatives in that believe in creationism. I honestly think that all this branding on them is just because people are freaked out that such a large group of people are getting mobilized. Sort of how so many people in 2008 took up the mantra of….hope…….. Not the best action plan, in my opinion.

  18. Tea Party

    Election Year Medicaid Medicare Inducement issues left open for November not openly discussed.Politics have gone from heated to man on fire thoughts. Also the Judicial dilemmas, since all are offically allowed to bear arms again, the big city Mayors are concerned about how the poor will be able to rearm themselves, and are looking for some type of financial relief from Federal State Medicaid programs to maintain their status quo.The higher courts face tough issues this term since making honest fraud legal, there agenda now turns toward making honest kickbacks and honest bribes equally as legal. This topic remains high as a shared issue by the medicaid medicare enrollment providers since they are looking to expand inducements past the complicated pregnancy stage.The DOJ has serious concerns that if legalized marijuana in California for medical reasons could be used as a inducement or inticement to help secure new enrollments for the Federal State Medicare Medicaid programs.The State of California is concerned that if the Feds step up their effort in killing off the marijuana crops it could cause higher tax problems that effect Medicaid currently under consideration by the State ‘marijuana tax control board’. Limo drivers cancel their planned Medicaid Cuts DC rally and leave for California to protect this years crop. Wow, don’t think I would like to be in Politics for this years elections. Govenor Schwarzenegger indicated that if the Tea Partys membership keeps holding their rallies at our Marijuana burning fields they will have to be taxed for their free use of inhalants, prior to having them bused back to Arizona.

  19. JMW

    I’m going to quote a book about British naval history. The quote in question deals with Oliver Cromwell, who defeated, deposed and beheaded King Charles I and briefly established England as a republic. The book is “The Command of the Ocean”, by N.A.M. Rodger.

    “The leaders of the Commonwealth government…were profoundly religious men for whom the will of God was the fundamental determinant of policy and the only guarantee of success. Though Cromwell and his colleagues were not immune to the temptations of human nature, and the promptings of the Holy Ghost did mysteriously tend to align with their political objectives, they were not chiefly motivated by worldly rationality. Believing they were God’s instruments, that His favour was proved by their repeated victories, they were apt to interpret opposition, not simply as misguided, but wicked, predestined to failure in this life and damnation in the next.”

    The religious right in the United States do not “believe” in a literal interpretation of the bible. They KNOW it is correct, and they KNOW that in attempting to say anything – anything at all – that contradicts the bible is the work of the Devil.

    You have to understand this, in order to combat them. You will NOT be able to convince them otherwise, because they have built-in counter argument that you are evil tempters sent by the devil to corrupt all of humanity. All you can do is continue to argue with those who are not committed to this point of view, and try to keep them from supporting it, so that it – eventually – the extremism will fade to a small element muttering sulphurously on the fringes of discourse.

  20. Matteo

    Naive, knee-jerk leftism served up by starry-eyed twentysomethings. How scientific.

  21. Andy

    I second that Matteo.

  22. Naive, knee-jerk leftism served up by starry-eyed twentysomethings.

    Still better than the paranoid, gullible rightism regurgitated by self-absorbed seventysomethings.

  23. Jim G

    The main problem is 1/3 of the budget goes to to servicing the debt. So it looks like because both political parties have been partying away too much for too long. Don’t blame the Tea Party because they want to bring some sanity back into the process. I am not a Tea Party(er), I’m a libertarian, but I subscribe to a lot of what they are saying. I think you associate Tea Party with Bible Thumper and it’s an unfair association. There are a LOT of TPs that are not Bible Thumpers. A lot of TPs are just tired of Dems, Repos, Liberals, Conservatives, whoevers, feeding the hogs. The days of bringing home the bacon and pork projects need to come to and end. It means that cuts have to come from EVERYWHERE. It means government has to become smaller and all these lovely new programs need to be put on a shelf until we can afford them, maybe in 20 years. If we weren’t paying 1/3 of the budget serving the debt, even with bottom of the barrel interest rates, we could afford a military and a healthy amount of social programs and REASONABLE taxes. BUT!!!! Our politician sold us out, SO ALL OF YOU just deal with it eh!!! Massive cuts! and some tax hikes until we have some money in the budget to work with again. The alternative is HELICOPTER BEN and hyperinflation… That will work wonders eh?

  24. Don’t blame the Tea Party because they want to bring some sanity back into the process.

    Strange that the Tea Partiers didn’t get motivated to take to the streets while George W. Bush was racking up $5 trillion in debt during the good years, or when he decided to spend a trillion dollars on a war without raising a war tax to pay for it, or even after he signed a $700 billion blank check to the banking industry. Instead, they took to the streets about a week after Obama took the oath of office.

    The Tea Party line on the debt is exactly the same line that Republicans have been spouting for the last 30 years. No cuts to defense, no increase in taxes, slash all spending on public services (except for spending in their own districts).

    Tea Partiers are simply hard core Republicans, mad that Democrats won the last election. They’ll forget their fiscal conservatism the day they can grab some money for their own pet projects. I’ll take them seriously when they give us real solutions to the problems they tell us are so important to them.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.


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