The Election: What Will Be The Consequences for Science?

By Chris Mooney | November 2, 2010 11:42 am

It’s an open question–if Republicans take back the House, or the House and Senate, how will that affect President Obama’s ability to implement his pledge to “restore science to its rightful place” in our government?

Just how anti-science is the Tea Party, and how will that make itself felt once governance begins?

I have my ideas, but I want to hear others’ views. Discuss.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Conservatives and Science

Comments (35)

  1. Could this be my post for tomorrow?
    Yesterday, November 2, 2010, America lost. There were no chants of “USA! USA!” or “Yes We Can!” in the research labs across this great country. Those echoes from two short years ago have long since been silenced. In this new reality, as the polls closed, scientists slumped over their benches in disgust as they listened to NPR report that the country had fallen into the hands of the “Anti-science Party.” Just trying to get on with their business of making new discoveries, they toiled away on projects that will be funded only until the next budget cycle. They tried to block thoughts of the election from their minds, but in weak moments, tears were surely shed. Their hopes for government investment in green energy faded away as Democratic candidates gave their concession speeches early in the day. Democrat and independent scientists alike scurried home from work bypassing the polls out of anger to watch the political calamity unfold on the cable news networks. There was no thrill to go up Chis Matthews’ leg. As the results flooded in, the Tea Party victory tsunami began to drown the aspirations of young researchers hoping to get that NIH grant to fund their next big research endeavor; the one that could find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. The Republican candidates delivered their victory speeches to wild crowds cheering the elimination of the Department of Education and Social Security. They decried the wasteful spending of taxpayers’ money on ridiculous research programs like those performed on fruit flies in France or on bear DNA, despite the fact that this research identified a genetic link to Autism and protected the lives of threatened bear species. Save one Republican, all the Party’s candidates held strong and rejected climate science despite scientists’ warnings. This gave them confidence as they denigrated science and scientists in their speeches. As the night wore on, it became clear that the “witch hunt” for climate scientists would be underway shortly. Joe Barton cheered, “Now that we have a majority in the House and Senate, we can forget about that bogus hockey stick data and stop funding those bastard climate scientists.” He called on Sharon Angle and Christine O’Donnell to join with Republican leaders to spearhead the repeal of Obama’s health care plan. O’Donnell bellowed that “just as separation of church and state is not in the Constitution, Obama’s health care plan should be refudiated as un-Constitutional.” Barton went on to apologize to BP for the shake down perpetrated by the Obama administration and now that he would be Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, BP would be given “fair” treatment. John Boehner took the stage in support of his fellow Ohioan Rich Lott to say that it was unthinkable that anyone should criticize Lott for wearing a Nazi outfit, “After all, it was only a reenactment.” As Democrat scientists across the country reached to turn off their televisions hoping they would soon wake up from this nightmare, Sarah Palin came on-screen to say that she was proud of her role in bringing “real Americans” to power and she would soon be targeting the White House in order to put an end, once and for all, to embryonic stem cell research. Yes, it was a sad election day for America, the implications of which are scarier than the people behind them.

  2. Dan Shields

    1) Stem cell research halted. Millions suffer down through several generations. Halliburton gets $400B contract to study how styrofoam can extend life.
    2) Increased *rate* of global warming. Warmer times, less water, less food, collapse of food chain(s). Want to get “practical?”: melted glaciers/no snow=no skiing; no whales=no tourism; no fish=no food. Halliburton gets $500B contract to privatize global water supplies.
    3) No funding for contraception. Population boom. Halliburton gets $250 B contract to conduct a study. Of something.
    4) No alternative energy funding. Faith alone will power us. Halliburton gets $800B contract to study the power of prayer.
    5) Union of Concerned Scientists, already horrified by Bush (43) practices, can’t fathom the extra steps toward insanity taken by the Rs; declare themselves in open rebellion against “non-science-thingy people.” Halliburton gets $100B contract for media blitz against UCS.

  3. In an era that gives Charlie Sheen more press than Sec. Chu, what might one expect. One person on the Charlie Rose show this week quoted Nietzsche as saying that “Convictions are a more dangerous foe to truth than lies.” I imagine a Senate where a Rand Paul puts a hold on all climate legislation, where the culture warriors will try to write their views into law, and where the EPA budget will be slashed to provide “more jobs”.

    When the only reason to vote for some Democrats is that they are not Republicans, then we may end up electing climate denying Democrats.

  4. Chris Mooney

    Wes–i’m interested in what happens to EPA.

    Do you expect congressional investigations of its activities? just cuts to funding? i’m wondering precisely how it would be impaired in its abilities.

  5. FUAG

    As a Republican, I recall having many fears when Obama took office with a majority in the house and senate. I was sure that socialized health care and cap and trade would be in our future. But, the American people put pressure on their representatives to successfully halt these initiatives.

    Point being, we have a representative government. And because of this it is very difficult to pass anything the country does not agree with.

    Due to this, I think it is bad news for Obama as he has not been in-step with the majority of Americans. However, on the flip side, not much will happen the other way as he has veto power for the next 2 years.

    And, guess what, if the new representatives try to go too far right (by trying to pass evangelical legislation) when they take office we’ll have another large turnover at the next cycle. (much like we have now due to representatives going too far left)

    I do agree that, unfortunately, we are not going to make much progress on stem cell research. I think that is a horrible side affect of the abortion debate that we must get over!

  6. Chris Mooney

    Another question…how does a split congress, or a gridlocked government, affect funding of research?

  7. I think we should expect more Cuccinelli-type investigations of climate scientists like Michael Mann, but this will likely only come from states with Republican governors. If Bill White loses in Texas as expected, we will very likely see more cases brought against the EPA and perhaps a pursuit of cases against Texas-based climate scientists. The overall effect might be to impair the abilities of these American scientists to effectively perform their research. In the long run, this could reduce our ability to understand how the climate is changing.
    One ray of hope lies in the Republicans new-found fiscal awareness. Since these cases are a waste of tax dollars, because the science is established, one might think it would be fiscally responsible to avoid these cases. At some point, one should expect the fiscal conservatives to recognize the waste, but I’m not optimistic.

  8. how will that affect President Obama’s ability to implement his pledge to “restore science to its rightful place”

    That depends on whether the Senate Democrats are smart enough to change the rules and allow more of his nominees to be seated.

    Just how anti-science is the Tea Party

    Very. But remember, there’s no light between the Tea Party and the Republicans in Congress when it comes to climate or environmental science.

    How will that make itself felt once governance begins

    Assuming Republicans remain in the minority, it will be just like today (Lots of flame wars, little of substance).

    If they gain the House but not the Senate we’ll see lots of scientists called into hearings and any new legislation will be stalled.

    If they get both the House and Senate, you’ll see lots of tax breaks for oil companies, a big push for nuclear, attempts to privatize most of the regulatory structure and lots of fights with the administration as they try to take back money for green technology.

  9. how does a split congress, or a gridlocked government, affect funding of research?

    If they shut down the government or refuse to fund grants for the next few years, it will do significant damage.

  10. TomInAK

    Chris: In the context of your question, just what do you mean by “science”, and what do you mean by “its rightful place”? I’ve seen the “rightful place” phrase both here and at BA, and it’s always bothered me. It makes the whole discussion of science policy seem more like a matter of salving bruised egos than of deciding who should fund who, and to what degree.

    My take on the possible results of the election: Not much will change, unless the Tea Party movement keeps momentum for quite a while. There is a tremendous amount of inertia in government, and to change things from the way they currently are would take either years of successful political trench-fighting or a complete collapse of the country’s economy. Frankly, the latter is much more likely than the former.

    If the TPers were to eventually get their way, I think the ultimate result would be a shift from government to private funding of research (duh!). Consequently, you would see more of an emphasis on projects that are likely to have a near-term, concrete payout. It’s hard to say how funding levels would change. Obviously, the government cash machine would be gone. On the other hand, a non-hostile business climate could generate exponentially higher levels of private funding, though a lower percentage of it would go toward pure research. I would also expect to see much less of an effort by the government to pick technological winners and losers (i.e. subsidizing a favored technology through grants and tax breaks and hobbling the disfavored one through taxes and reglations).

    How anti-science are the TPers? This goes back to my initial question. If by “Science” you mean something along the lines of “advancing our understanding of the natural world through research and applying our findings to bettering the lot of mankind”, I would say not at all. If your understanding of science is more along the lines of “appropriating as much of the nation’s wealth as possible, to be spent without question as we see fit, and using the results of our research to justify increased government control of the population”, then very much so.

  11. That’s what you get for continuously making a fool of yourself apologizing for the woo woo religious beliefs of conservative Americans, Chris. You only have yourself to blame.

    You, Chris Mooney, are the problem, not the solution.

  12. Marion Delgado

    Tom in AK your attitude is what got us disappearing coastlines, melting permafrost and bark beetles. Since you are anti-science yourself, and attempting to politicize science as being advocacy of elitism, of course the teabaggers don’t seem anti-science. The Alaska I grew up with is gone forever, including some of its coastline, which is under water – but since the Market approves, so do you, and it has to be an improvement, because Mammon and His Invisible Hand and their celestial choir of unaccountable, immortal, all-powerful invisible “persons” know all and make the best of all possible worlds. And when funding is cut and TB is coming back in Alaska, that, too, is market-good. And when the Joe Millers and Sarah Palins demand creationism in the science classes, that too is market-approved, therefore sound. You’re the end result of decades of wiping out a culture in Alaska that, when I was a child, was scientific in outlook and progresssive in vision. After the pipeline, greedy sociopathic oil families took over more and more of Alaska. It also brought in lots of Southern Baptists – the church founded to perpetuate slavery – and their abject nonsense.

    How well do markets calculate things, anyway? As well as supercomputers? As well as the Bureau of Statistics? You have no idea. You just know goodthink and crimethink. How does science work? No idea, but Marc Morano tells you not to worry, he’ll tell you the good doggie scientists and the bad doggie scientists. Essentially, you’re a crew of Juggalos without the honesty.

    Once upon a time, even Republicans in Alaska, like Jay Hammond, were supporters of science. In effect, your endorsement of the Tea Partiers as not anti-science, in the context of how you justify it, is further evidence of just how bad they are.

  13. TomInAK

    Marion:

    My congratulations. That was certainly one of the most impressive, purely ad-hominem attacks I’ve ever found myself subject to. It’s not everyone who can write nearly 300 words in reply to a politely-toned expression of opinion and make no point other than “you suck.”

    Since I apparently suck, and since this is apparently because I’m “anti-science”, could you please tell me what it means to be “anti-science?” Does being “pro-science” necessitate supporting a particular method of funding? Does one lose one’s right to be considered “pro-science” if said person doesn’t trust distant and usually un-elected bureaucrats to make decisions about every aspect of his or her life? Can one enjoy keeping up on the latest developments in research into the natural world, but be “anti-science” if he or she doesn’t hew to a particular political line of thought?

    I have all kinds of questions in this vein, and would be grateful to have them answered by someone who’s apparently brilliant enough to divine my motivations and know my every thought by simply reading a 4-paragraph blog comment.

  14. Any idea what will happen to geoengineering proposals if Republicans dominate?

    I agree with some of the commentators above that not much of substance will probably change even if Reps get elected. The real trouble will begin when an anti-science Republican president joins their ranks after 2012.

  15. first thing that happens is funding for basic research through NIH, NSF, etc will decline – the House will make dramatic cuts in all places to assume a negotiating position in conference committee. If they don’t get what they want they’ll simply shut down the government. Seriously.

    second thing that happens is a series of hearings that take on everything from EPA’s position on carbon emission regulation to re-opening the farce of “climate gate.” Ken Cuccinelli will be the star witness for at least one and probably more than one hearing.

    the more important development is how political communication and the funding sources of it have changed dramatically since the Citizens United case. The conservatives have stumbled upon a formula that works for them and they will step it up. Paid ads will bleed into friendly media like Fox and Politico. Obama will be the main target, but outspoken scientists will find themselves in the crosshairs as well. Climate bill? Already off the table. Re-jiggered carbon tax? Nope, off the table.

    I can’t see how the WH will want to fight the GOP on regulating emissions. I’m convinced they will cave – what do they have to gain politically? After all, there is no meaningful, coherent block of political of support that has their back on it.

    scientists are a pinata for conservatives. the more you hit them, the more candy you get.

  16. Nullius in Verba

    #13,

    It was a good comment. Don’t mind Marion. He’s just sore that the electorate are about to pass judgement on his creed.

    The thing that motivates the TPers is taxes, big versus small government, state interference, and so on. So while they will probably try to shut down the green money machine of carbon taxes and subsidies, and possibly have a go at the climatology scandal as a part of that, I doubt they’ll bother with science in general very much. Republicans and TPers are as much in favour of science, technology, and progress as anyone, and probably far more so than your average Green. It’s only a few particular topics that have this political partisan split.

    This idea that because TPers don’t believe in partisan-Democrat science, that they’re therefore anti-science, is just the usual magnification of issues seen through the lens of political preconceptions.
    But there’ll be no persuading them that the world hasn’t come to an end until it’s all over. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth and the tearing of beards. Best to let them get on with it.

  17. Any idea what will happen to geoengineering proposals if Republicans dominate?

    Actually, I expect they love the idea of geoengineering since it seems like a get out of jail free card.

    Just dump tons of sulfur into the atmosphere and global warming is solved. No problems, right.

  18. FUAG

    @19 – Really? Sounds more like something a crazy scientist would do. Or, something that a crazy politician would suggest to induce fear.

  19. This idea that because TPers don’t believe in partisan-Democrat science….

    I know many Earth scientists, and in my experience, I’ve never been able to tell anyone’s party simply based on the fact that they believe global warming. They are just as often Democrats Republicans, and Libertarians .

    But it’s virtually guaranteed that the few who “doubt” global warming, vote for Republicans. The same can be said of the commenters on Chris’s blog. Many of the debates about global warming somehow end up with denialists railing in the end about taxes, socialism or “Obamacare” which frankly have nothing to do with the evidence that the world is getting hotter and humans are the cause.

    It’s your side that engages in partisan science, not the other way around.

  20. TomInAK

    Nullius: Oh, I’m not losing any sleep over it. It’s just that I see the term “anti-science” used on some of these boards the way “un-Christian” or “un-American” might have been used in another time, and the way “un-Islamic” or “Racist” might be used in some quarters today. In other words, it’s a non-specific term directed at someone in order to shut them up or de-legitimize them and stop debate. I just thought it might clarify things somewhat if the term were defined. We’d at least then have a basis for discussing something.

  21. Nullius in Verba

    #21,

    “How could McGovern lose? Everyone I know voted for him.”

    So the implication of your statement is that Republicans appear on both sides of the debate, but Democrats are exclusively pro-AGW? And that’s you’re evidence that Democrats are not being partisan about it? Hmm.

  22. Sounds more like something a crazy scientist would do. Or, something that a crazy politician would suggest to induce fear.

    Actually, it’s a reference to the argument pushed by the authors of SuperFreakanomics. The short version is that global warming isn’t really a big problem, and anyway we can fix with inexpensive solutions like injecting sulfur into the atmosphere.

  23. Chris, when the Democratic Joe Manchin (WV Gov. running for Senate) produces a campaign ad using the EPA bill for target practice, I don’t see things stopping at just slashing the budget. I am sure you will see a bill introduced that directly limits the EPA’s ability to invoke Clean Water or CO2 emission containment in any manner that would limit the use of coal or petroleum.

  24. Brian Too

    The Tea Party gets some candidates elected. The Repubs back them 100% as their main chance at relevance.

    During the next 2 years it becomes clear that they have little to offer. They continue to play a blocking role, being unable to control the federal government. Plenty of Sturm und Drang but little to point to with pride.

    Next in the 2012 elections, voters are fed up with the Tea Party. There is a large swing in voter sentiment back towards the Dems and they get in with a sustantial majority.

    Not that this is the end of the cycle, not by a long shot. It just gets dangerous and unreliable to predict too far into the future.

  25. TomInAK

    Brian: You forgot the last part . . . .”eventually the government runs out of other people’s money and the whole scheme collapses.”

  26. Matteo

    Answer: not much.

    Unless that is, you are some sort of wet-behind-the-ears, idealistic panicky bedwetter, who simply hasn’t lived through enough elections yet to know that their effects on the progress of science are precisely nil.

  27. Sean McCorkle

    Just how anti-science is the Tea Party, and how will that make itself felt once governance begins?

    Federal research budgets don’t show wild pendulum swings with party/ideology: http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/trres09p.pdf
    When push comes to shove, most extremists will know, deep down, Il ne faut pas tuer la poule aux oeufs d’or and back down from axing research budgets in general. In particular, the big gorilla, NIH, is something that even anti-scientific congresspeople can understand is important because they know that they’ll ultimately get old and sick themselves.

    I’m more afraid of what Jamie Vernon describes, more public witch hunts and a build-up of attacks on politically incorrect science. Funding for specific programs, like climate science, might be attacked, but I would think that that in particular would face a lot of pushback if it were attempted.

  28. Sorbit

    Sean, you are right. I don’t think Republicans will affect science funding across the board. The real question is how they will affect the quality of science produced in this country.

    As just two factors, the quality of science in this country has depended not only on funding but on a. The quality of science education and b. The availability of talent from abroad.

    a. It seems to me that conservative religious Republicans may seriously affect the quality of science taught in schools by pushing for intelligent design. The problem is that once you start floating a pseudo-scientific theory as an alternative to valid science, you open the doors to more generally blurring the lines between science and pseudoscience and directly impact the ability of kids to think scientifically.

    b. Many of the current conservative Republicans are xenophobic. Their partly legitimate anger about illegal immigration has also often spilt over to anger about immigration in general. Add to this the paranoia about terrorism and the bad job market, and you can see them making it even harder for legal immigrants to settle down here; this has already happened after 9/11 in the form of hurdles for gaining permanent residency or citizenship. If this trend continues, talented foreign scientists (and future American citizens) will not find it attractive enough to emigrate to the US. Although domestic scientists can partly make up for this shortfall, that will directly impact the quality of science done and published in this country.

  29. What’s your take on the GOP huge victory yesterday? It seems that when places like Michigan go almost totally GOP, people in the United States are pretty disappointed with his policies until now.

  30. Johnee

    I think one of the most distressing things… is the denial from the Tea party that they are not ant-science, anti-gay, and pro- big government ( that’s right! pro- big government ). I see a lot of posts on this site primarily concentrating on climate science. However, as we all know, a huge influence in the Tea parties’ direction is from the Religious Right. This has the absolutely embarrassing effect of the rest of the Western world looking at us like we are a bunch of idiots. I have talked to many traditional, hard working Europeans from several countries over the past several years, and they are absolutely flabergasted ( did I spell that right? ) that we have political candidates, and a huge Demographic of Right -wing conservatives that are pushing completely backwards , almost Dark Ages kind of thinking!

    Look, the vast majority of the Western World has completely signed on to certain rational, moral, and Humanistic ideas:
    1) Evolution is real and it is a FACT
    2) One’s sexual preference has absolutely NOTHING to do with whether or not an individual is a good or bad person.
    3) Religious Fundamentalism is B.S. and it inhibits rational thought.
    4) An embryo is human in it’s genome but since it consists of only a few cells, it CANNOT be a person.
    ( There are several ideas that automatically go along with these. I tried to break it down into basics. )
    There are plenty of other issues with complexities and shades of gray, that reasonable people can disagree on. That’s why I didn’t include political issues like: gun control, border control, the degree of Goverment’ s role in social programs, etc. I also fully acknowledge that Libertarians are included in with the rest of the Western world, as people who have fully accepted the progressive, socially Liberal ideas listed above.

    The Tea Party regularly backs candidates that are vehemently opposed to the ideas in the preceding paragraph. The percentage of Tea Party members that deny evolution and want to teach creationism in the classroom is staggering! Right behind that is the belief that it should be up to the States on whether anti-sodomy laws should be imposed and enforced. ( I’ve personally spoken to several Tea party members that think ant-sodomy laws should be the law of the land. ) There is also a disturbingly high number that think we are a Christian nation ( in the Religious sense not philosophical sense ) and Christian symbols and Religious ideas should take FEDERAL priority over ( if not outright replace ) other religions ( this just one reason why I say they are for Big Government. What could be bigger and more intrusive? ). Also , as we can all guess there is incredibly strong support for EVERY drop and tittle in The Patriot Act ( again, are these guys REALLY for small government? ) .

    To sum it up, by all appearances, the Tea party and it’s constantly repeated slogan; ” more freedom and less government” is quite false and duplicitous!

  31. Nullius in Verba

    #33,

    It depends who in Europe you talk to, and you only have to look at America’s economy, technology, and achievements to know that they’re not a bunch of idiots.

    European liberals, in the original sense of the word, also sign on to the ideas of freedom of speech, freedom of belief, the recognition that other cultures have different traditions, conventions, and institutions that are going to look odd or outlandish to us, and (within certain limits) respect for those differences.

    There are cultures extant in the world today in which religious fundamentalism is the law, and disbelief in creationism (let alone outright atheism!) or unconventional sexual preferences would technically merit the death penalty. Would you go to such a country and make such a speech about their dark-age culture, how it makes them look like idiots, and how yours is so much better?

    To the intellectual European liberal, the defining characteristic of ‘dark age’ culture is not specifically religious or unscientific beliefs, but intolerance of the other and the censorship of heresy. And the thing that makes America such a shining beacon of liberty is its tolerance of a wide diversity of belief.

    But it seems that the old divides on religious and national grounds have simply been replaced by this left-versus-right tribalism, in which contempt and intolerance for different beliefs makes its perennial return.

    It’s curious, but my limited experience of Tea Party types has been quite different. Religion was never raised as an issue. I’m sure some of them were religious, but it didn’t seem to be why they had joined the movement, or what they expected to get out of it. Perhaps they’re not all the same?

  32. Johnee

    Nullius #34,

    I agree with some of the things you say. However, some of the points you made are confusing if not downright contradictory. It seems that you blow your own argument several times.

    First off ,in paragraph #3 I really don’t understand the point you are trying to make. Of course I wouldn’t make a speech like that in such a country! I would get killed! You described an intolerant, ignorant,and backward society (EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO AVOID HERE ). One of the great things about America and the west is that I can make such criticisms and not have to fear jail or death ( What? Did you think I was one of those knee jerk “blame and hate America” extremists ? ). The “we look like a bunch of idiots” comment was in reference to certain perceptions that many westerners have about American politics and a certain demographic of voters that have backwards thinking; not to belittle all the things that make America great! Again, I still don’t get your point. Were you trying to say: A) That I shouldn’t criticize and judge one of the extant cultures you describe? If that is the case, then you are falling into the “tolerant of intolerance” conundrum. Which any rational thinker understands to be a contradiction (i.e. one CANNOT be tolerant without recognizing and criticizing INTOLERANCE ). Or is it: B) You think I AM one of those people that practice selective outrage, and will maintain an ” I can’t judge” position when it comes to 3rd world intolerant cultures, but slam America all day long? ( As you can see, this is far from the case.) Please clarify.

    You also made statements about “censorship”, “intolerance of the other”, and “contempt.” If I were just reading these paragraphs out of the blue, I would be in agreement 100%! Yet, you are trying to relate these statements back to my previous post. Once again, for the life of me I ask how? Where do you get the idea that I would want to censor people? I am excercising my constitutional right of free speech and voicing my views. I do not EVER want to censor heresy or opposing viewpoints!

    When you talk of “contempt and intolerance for different beliefs” , your argument turns into a confusing head scratcher. It seems you are mistaking my vehement criticism of certain beliefs in this country as being intolerant? Excuse me, but… Huh? My very argument was based on a certain demographic holding on to backward and INTOLERANT views. Yes, in America we have a wide diversity of beliefs and views. The KKK, Black Panthers, Nation of Islam, PETA, and neo-Nazis are allowed free assembly, and free expression. So, yes we tolerate them! But are you somehow suggesting that if I criticize these groups’ beliefs I am somehow being intolerant? Nullius, do you see why I am having a problem with some of the points that you made and why I say there are contradictions? We are getting into the old “tolerant of intolerance” conundrum again. You may say, “It’s not the same thing. Those groups you mentioned have extremist viewpoints!” It’s not? I’m sorry, but if a fundamentalist/Christian conservative Tea party member thinks it’s perfectly Ok to have the bedroom police arrest people for consenting adult behavior, and wants to legislate Creationism in the classroom, that same tea party member is an extremist! (Yes , if put on an apples to apples comparison with some of those groups the Tea Party seems tame by comparison, but I was using extremes to make a point ).

    Also Nullius, There is a big difference between social tolerance of certain beliefs and ideas and tolerance of the ” It’s their right to believe that way if they want” Constitutional rights variety. On the social front, not all ideas and beliefs are equally valid. I’m not going to pretend that someone who believes the Earth is only 10,000 years old has a valid scientific argument. Also, If I meet a guy that thinks that Jews are trying to take over the world, he’s not gonna be invited over to my house for a barbecue any time soon. So yes Nullius, SOME beliefs are worthy of contempt. However, in a broad non censorship ” it’s their right to believe what they want” way, we tolerate these people and leave them alone.

    To sum up, not so long ago, there was robust political debate on whether Blacks should have equal rights and whether women should have the right to vote. This sounds ridiculous to us now! During this time, people on the winning side of this debate predicted that History will be on their side. They were right of course, and and we don’t have to be too psi with our crystal balls to know that certain unscientific, intolerant and anti-gay beliefs are going the way of the Dodo

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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