Is Your Political Party Really Pro-Science?

This topic upsets a lot of you, but that’s why it’s necessary for us to write about it from time to time. The last time we did so was Which Political Party Is Anti-Science?

Most of you think you know the answer to that question, and if you’re typical of those who follow the evolution-creationism controversy, it’s understandable if you imagine that Republicans are scientific idiots, while the other party (yours, presumably) is nobly enlightened. However, as we said in our last post:

Our conclusion is that both parties, like the population as a whole, are mostly ignorant of science, but they tend to have confidence in science where it doesn’t conflict with their other opinions — like religion, environmentalism, “social justice,” etc. In other words, the parties are driven by ideology, not science.

When such ideologies are involved — and those are deeply partisan issues — then science takes a back seat — or it may be tossed out altogether. And that’s true of both parties. Don’t take our word for it, and don’t confine yourself to those in the biological sciences. Ask someone in the energy industry, or who works at NASA.

So don’t be so smug that your political affiliation is the smart one, the one that’s on the side of science. The sad truth is that in politics, science has no friends. All we have are temporarily convenient alliances, and depending on one’s science, we don’t have the same allies.

Today we found another article that supports our view of things. It’s Both political parties selectively use science. It appears at the website LancasterOnline, which seems to service several papers located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, including the Intelligencer Journal. It’s written by April Kelly-Woessner, “professor and chairwoman of the political science department at Elizabethtown College.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

A large number of pundits, journalists, and academics have made … claims that Republicans are opposed to science. They cite the belief that Republicans are less likely than Democrats to believe in evolution and more likely to challenge claims about man-made global warming.

Yes, we see that all the time. Let’s read on:

Understanding these issues requires a bit more analysis. A Pew Research Center survey taken in the spring of 2013 shows that white evangelical Protestants are most likely to reject Darwin’s theory of evolution. Black Protestants, however, are close behind, with only 44 percent believing that “humans have evolved over time.” Supporters of evolution often fail to mention this second group of deniers, who overwhelmingly identify with the Democratic Party. It seems that religious affiliation is a stronger predictor of support for evolution than party affiliation.

Good point, at least for the evolution issue. The article continues:

Does this mean they [Republicans] are ignorant of scientific findings? The evidence suggests otherwise. Using the National Science Foundation’s test of “science comprehension,” Yale University researcher Dan Kahan finds that Republicans and Democrats have surprisingly similar scores. The highest scores actually belong to members of the tea party.

We wrote about that before — see Is the Tea Party Movement Pro Science? Here’s more:

Similarly, Northwestern University’s James Lindgren finds that 66 percent of Republicans reject the notion that “astrology is scientific,” compared to 49 percent of Democrats. Likewise, 62 percent of Republicans can correctly answer that the earth revolves around the sun in one year, compared to 49 percent of Democrats. Clearly, education levels play a role in these differences, but this again does not support the claim that Republicans are scientifically ignorant compared to Democrats. In fact, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to fear science and believe that “modern science does more harm than good.”

Does this make you uncomfortable, dear reader? That’s good. Part of a Curmudgeon’s role is to discomfort everyone. Moving along, we come to some material that supports what we’ve been saying all along:

If one looks at issues showing the scientific community is at odds with liberal values, the tables turn and Democrats appear to be at “war with science.” Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell argue in “Science Left Behind” that Democrats are the real opponents to scientific progress. Indeed, Democrats are more likely to embrace alternative medicines, despite the scientific evidence against them. Democrats are twice as likely to believe in reincarnation, a notion rejected by most scientists. Most notably, Democrats reject scientific findings when they conflict with environmentalism, in the same way Republicans reject findings that conflict with religion.

[…]

The same is true of nuclear energy and fracking. The consensus among scientists who study these technologies is that they are safe. Yet, on these issues, Democrats are more skeptical of scientific research reports and government studies.

There’s much more in the article, and you’ll probably want to read it all. We’ll skip to the end:

Both sides cite scientific findings selectively, picking and choosing findings that advance their ideological causes. Politics trumps science.

Science has no political friends — only temporary allies who use science when it suits their convenience, and then abandon it when their temporary needs are satisfied. You may imagine that your party understands you and will always support you, but you’re deceiving yourself. The relationship is a callously exploitive one. Both parties are run by ideological whoremongers.

Instead of expecting a political party to support you, why not wise up, open your eyes, and pick the one that is worthy of your support? As we said before:

Which party should science support? Neither is a perfect choice, but we’d suggest you pick the one that — despite its foolishness — will be most likely to keep us prosperous and free. Without that, there won’t be any science.

So there you are. If you’re annoyed, then we have done our Curmudgeonly duty.

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Is Your Political Party Really Pro-Science?

  1. but we’d suggest you pick the one that — despite its foolishness — will be most likely to keep us prosperous and free

    The Democrats, in other words.

  2. Ken Phelps

    Wait, are you saying life isn’t black and white? Burn the witch!

  3. Most of you think you know the answer to that question, and if you’re typical of those who follow the evolution-creationism controversy, it’s understandable if you imagine that Republicans are scientific idiots, while the other party (yours, presumably) is nobly enlightened.

    The Republicans are, for the most part scientific idiots. But it goes way too far, to suggest that the Dems are nobly enlightened.

    But then, that’s why I’m an independent.

  4. Charles Deetz ;)

    As I said in an earlier thread, you should first just throw away the data from those who answered that the sun revolves around the earth. Then this data might mean something. Otherwise all it can tell us is there are more scientifically illiterate democrats.

  5. Article notes:

    Democrats are the real opponents to scientific progress. Indeed, Democrats are more likely to embrace alternative medicines, despite the scientific evidence against them.

    I don’t doubt this, nor the basic findings here that ignorance of science is pretty general across party lines. Still less would I want to defend Democrats, particularly in light of this data.

    But, short of some overnight miracle by which the general understanding of science is some raised throughout the populace, the real question IMHO needs to be: which political party is more determined to inflict its scientific ignorance on its policies–and on the body politic when it is in power.

    I don’t have any data to answer that, but would suggest–as no more than a hypothesis, absent such data–that the Democrat believers in astrology and alternative medicine, as idiotic as such beliefs may be, don’t appear to be intent on pressing those views into legislation and into educational institutions the way that Republican SoCons and fundagelicals keep pressing evolution denialism.

    IOW, judge by actions rather than by professed beliefs, surely? Plenty of actions alone by both parties to wish a plague on both their houses!

  6. I would wager that many of those liberal democrat Whole Foods shoppers buy into the pseudo-science on display 🙂
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/02/23/whole-foods-america-s-temple-of-pseudoscience.html

  7. That both parties selectively use science is something I painfully observed ~20 years ago as I was evolving from reluctant Democrat to reluctant Republican. Politicians of both parties are shameless opportunists, so even if they so know more science than their average constituent, they’re likely to come across as at least as clueless. Most Democratic politicians avoid pandering to anti-evolution activists, but only because they have been clued in that they don’t need the Fundamentalist vote.

  8. DickVanstone

    Democrat / Republican, two sides of the same publicly subsidized, privately profitable coin.

    The only use our two party system has is to divide and conquer our country.

  9. If our dear transatlantic friends want a European perspective on the American two-party system, it seems to us old-worlders like a rather stunted form of democracy compared to the wide spectrum of parties WE have to choose from. In the US, you can have Pepsi or you can have Coke, but there is no realistic way to order orange juice, much less milk.

    Surely the Republicans seem to be the ones most ready to embrace anti-science when it suits them, but as the article so rightly points out, the Democrats are in no way above suspicion.

  10. Although a candidate in a Republican primary would probably lose votes if he openly stated his acceptance of evolution, it’s doubtful if his Democrat counterpart would lose any votes by stating that the earth revolves around the sun. The whole idea of evolution conflicts with religious views; not so with heliocentrism. That’s just simple ignorance, not a tightly held belief. Republican evangelical rejection of evolution, on the other hand, is willful ignorance to protect a tightly held belief.

    Unfortunately, many people in our society have been brainwashed to believe that they are going against God’s will if they accept evolution. It became a political issue when the Republican Party adopted planks in their party’s platform that would appeal to the evangelical Christians. Now they are stuck.

  11. Both deserve ridicule. It’s just more fun to be threatened with an eternity in the lake of fire than an afternoon watching Drs. Oz and Phil.

  12. “will be most likely to keep us prosperous and free.”

    There’s the rub. What does the science say on that front? I don’t see a lot of science supporting the ideology of free market extremists.

  13. “which political party is more determined to inflict its scientific ignorance on its policies–and on the body politic when it is in power.

    I don’t have any data to answer that, but would suggest–as no more than a hypothesis, absent such data–that the Democrat believers in astrology and alternative medicine, as idiotic as such beliefs may be, don’t appear to be intent on pressing those views into legislation and into educational institutions the way that Republican SoCons and fundagelicals keep pressing evolution denialism.”

    Bingo.

  14. vhutchison

    I agree with much of what is stated by the Curmudgeon, when viewed at the national level, but not here in Oklahoma at the local level. After all we have Senator Inhofe (Republican) as our example of the lack of scientific knowledge. The vastly outnumbered Democrats and very few Republicans in the Legislature support education in general and oppose anti-science legislation.

  15. I’ve yet to hear a Democrat say something stupid and asinine like “after a rape a woman’s body will shut down” (Akins/Mo) or that evolution is “the devil’s work” (Braun/GA).

  16. “Is Your Political Party Really Pro-Science?”
    Definitely yes – but then again, my political party is Dutch and left – and not left meaning “liberal, ie slightly right of the centre like the American Blue guys”.

  17. not left meaning “liberal, ie slightly right of the centre like the American Blue guys”

    What do you mean, “slightly”?

  18. In the last five years, about twenty states have had anti-evolution/academic freedom bills introduced, often multiple times, sometimes every year, and every bill has been sponsored by Republicans. The two bills that have become law, in Louisiana and Tennessee, were sponsored and passed by Republicans. At least eight bills have been introduced already this year, all sponsored by Republicans. A Democrat has sponsored a bill for the last four years trying to overturn the Louisiana antiscience law. To claim there is no difference in the two parties, or that they are simply, “two sides of the same coin,” is simply ridiculous, and flies in the face of reality.

  19. tomh claims: “The two bills that have become law, in Louisiana and Tennessee, were sponsored and passed by Republicans.”

    In 2008, the year Louisiana overwhelmingly passed the LSEA, both houses of the legislature were majority Democrat.

  20. DickVanstone

    tomh: In reality we have Citizens United, which makes politicians beholden to the wealthy. Places of power are given to those in their respective party who raise the most money, not seniority like previously.

    To ignore the reality that money has and continues to corrupt our government is ridiculous.

    At least we get to vote for whom the rich rent out to write legislation beneficial to themselves, and detrimental to the rest of us. Yay, democracy!

  21. The old saying ‘all politics are local’ certainly applies to creationist bills introduced in state legislatures during the past six years. I try to keep up with such bills and as Tomh stated all bills during that time were authored and supported by Republicans. Sure, some Democrats voted for the bills, but the overwhelming support came from the Republicans. Most of the bills have been in conservative states where Republicans dominate.

  22. Not receiving an adequate science education is not the same as being positively anti-science. In the original paper (which I scanned), level of education is the best indicator of misunderstanding astronomy. Few Republicans are HS drop-outs or grew up in inner city ghettos.