Both U.S. Political Parties Oppose Science

This is a subject we’ve written about before — the last time was Is Your Political Party Really Pro-Science?, in which we said:

[I]t’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 [Which Political Party Is Anti-Science?]:

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.

With that introduction — which will upset most of our readers — we bring you the latest on this subject. It’s from the blog of Reason Magazine, which has no traditional political bias because they’re mostly Libertarian. Their article, from a couple of weeks ago, is Are Republicans or Democrats More Anti-Science? Here are some excerpts, omitting links to the polls they reference, and with bold font added by us:

It’s popular to portray the GOP as the anti-science party and Democrats as the sane, “party of science” alternative. And only 6 percent of scientists identified as Republicans, according to a 2009 Pew Research poll, which seems to be the most recent one on the topic. But the truth is that when science and politics meet, the result often isn’t pretty, regardless of partisan affiliation.

Then we’ve given some examples of what they’re talking about. Let’s read on:

Reason TV asked locals in Venice, California about their thoughts on various scientific policy questions and compared their answers to public opinion poll data. We found that many people favored mandatory labeling of food that contains DNA, the stuff of life contained in just about every morsel of fruit, vegetable, grain, or meat humans consume. Yet a recent survey out of the University of Florida found that 80 percent of respondents favor mandatory DNA labeling, only slightly below the 85 percent that favor labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). While Republicans are divided evenly on the GMO question, Democrats rate them unsafe by a 26-point margin, despite almost 2,000 studies spanning a decade saying otherwise.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Almost everyone wants mandatory DNA labeling. We continue:

Republicans are more skeptical of the theory of evolution, though by a surprisingly slim margin with 39 percent of them rejecting it as compared to 30 percent of Democrats.

Interesting. We thought the gap was far wider than that. Here’s more:

When it comes to other scientific matters, the waters are even muddier. For instance, Democrats and Republicans believe in the false link between vaccines and autism at roughly equal levels.

We didn’t know that either. Moving along:

The big science policy issue of the day, though, seems to be global warming. Sixty-four percent of Democrats believe in man-made global warming, while only 22 percent of Republicans do. But when it comes to realistic solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Democrats still aren’t always science-minded.

That’s a point we’ve discussed before. They give some specifics about attitudes toward solutions:

Only 45 percent of Democrats support expanding the use of nuclear energy, as compared to 62 percent of Republicans, despite the fact that except for Chernobyl, not a single person, including nuclear workers, has ever died due to a commercial nuclear reactor accident.

They also discuss the benefits and low risks of fracking, to which there is a lot of opposition, but we’re not given any partisan opinions about that. The article concludes with this:

So maybe it’s not that Republicans are dumber than Democrats when it comes to science, or the other way around, but that both sides have blind spots when data-based evidence contradicts their political preferences.

So there you are, dear reader. If you’re feeling a bit less self-righteous about your party affiliation, then your Curmudgeon is pleased.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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25 responses to “Both U.S. Political Parties Oppose Science

  1. Yes, the human condition of ignorance, does not discriminate.


    How convenient to dismiss deaths at Fukushima!

  3. As is abundantly clear both parties have abandoned reason in favor of larger paychecks … for themselves. Thus, a new political party, a democratic socialist party, is needed to represent the poor, the middle class and workers. Now wouldn’t that be refreshing, the power that the framers of the Constitution feared (Hint: democracy) would finally rear its ugly head!

  4. “Only 45 percent of Democrats support expanding the use of nuclear energy, as compared to 62 percent of Republicans, despite the fact that except for Chernobyl, not a single person, including nuclear workers, has ever died due to a commercial nuclear reactor accident.”
    So much for Reason Magazine being not biased.
    In the area of Sellafield, England cancer rates were significantly higher than elsewhere.

    “If you’re feeling a bit less self-righteous about your party affiliation, then your Curmudgeon is pleased.”
    Why would I? I am not affiliated to the Democrats and certainly not to right winged Hillary Clinton, let alone her conservative running mate.
    That said I am seriously considering quitting my own party

    for becoming increasingly unscientific. That process began a few years ago. See, my dear SC, unlike you I take the Enlightenment Values not only seriously when I blog, but also when I vote.

  5. Oh come on Curmy, the serious anti-science problem is not that the general public doesn’t know much, but that prominent Republicans have gone into full blown anti-science denial on global warming because they have sold out to energy companies, and everyone, including you, knows that full well.

  6. American corporations have themselves to blame for the lack of trust by the American public regarding GMO’s. Let’s face it, they haven’t exactly been forthcoming in the past regarding health and safety issues so you can understand the public’s skepticism regarding new technology.

    As to the American public being science ignorant so what else is new? Most people can’t spell “DNA” never mind understand it. This has been one of the biggest failings of American education and I see little else inspiring change short of the interest in the tech industry. I mean after all, don’t we all need the latest smart phone so we can play Pokémon?

  7. I’m less concerned about what Democrats think than I am about what their leadership thinks – it would be most helpful if we had something that could restrict the data to that.

    (Anti-vaccination sentiment appeals to counter-cultural types on both sides of the aisle, and pretty well always has. It really is the least discriminating of the idiocies, politically, even moreso than the moon landing hoaxers.)

  8. As sturgeon said…95% of everything is crap!! And that holds for everything. Just as 95% of the people don’t want anyone in the gov’mint smarter then they are or aren’t! Remember science requires thinking, and we know over 85% of this country don’t do that well!

  9. michaelfugate

    A better metric would be the evaluation of party platforms.

  10. Our Curmudgeon pens an introduction

    which will upset most of our readers

    That’s not a bug, but a feature. If we wanted to hang out in a vacuous internet echo-chamber, we wouldn’t be here 🙂

  11. despite the fact that except for Chernobyl, not a single person, including nuclear workers, has ever died due to a commercial nuclear reactor accident.

    You’re funny the way you exclude the 31 that died from the Chernobyl accident and the estimated 4000 that will die from cancer in the years ahead due to radiation exposure.Other than that minor blip we have an industry with a perfect safety record, It’s not like we eve had an accident in the US right? Three Mile Island was just an aberration with its 300 estimated cancer deaths. I’m sure the cancer victims felt perfectly safe.

    Radiation can cause cancer is kind of standard science, I read it somewhere in Brookhaven National Lab pamphlet as a kid.

  12. There is no question that there have been problems with nuclear power but try not to forget that other power generation methods are not benign. Thermal plants put bad stuff into the atmosphere and dams are destructive to the countryside. No single power soure that is in widespread current use is free from risk. We need to accept new generation stations based on the criteria of what is “least bad” as long as we have an expanding population and infrastructure. France provides a huge percentage of its electric power from nuclear generation stations and I haven’t heard of any serious accidents occuring there. Let’s not get stampeded into avoiding nuclear power by the spectacular nature of its accidents. Thermal plants, which cause lung trouble and global warming, are the soure of problems that are less obvious but they are no less harmful.

  13. Let me just say, without getting into a digital brawl with others here, that in my opinion science education in this country really sucks.

    It’s dreadful in the public schools, where it’s taught out of textbooks whose contents are determined by what Texas (no friend to science in general) and other “adoption states” want. It’s even worse in so-called “Christian” schools, which tend to be hotbeds of creationism. And the quality of science education among the home-schools varies literally from household to household but isn’t improved by the lack of lab facilities to do actual hands-on work. And everywhere, it’s overshadowed both by the urge to teach only what’s considered “useful” and (particularly on the left) a suspicion of science as tied to sinister corporations and the military.

    So frankly, I’d be amazed if either party were really strongly pro-science. It’s just that right now Republicans are brandishing the bigger bullhorn, accent on the bull. Even though shocking numbers of Democrats doubt evolution, I can’t think of any Democratic presidential candidate since William Jennings Bryan who was openly anti-evolution. On the other hand, Ronald Reagan expressed skepticism about the theory, going so far as to claim that modern research was raising doubts about it. And more recently, there’s this regarding that party’s 2012 primary contenders.

  14. We may indeed have bipartisan science illiteracy, but it seems as though more Republicans actually take pride in their ignorance — it’s like a label of their partisan purity.

    Alas, I say this as a person who has voted Republican more than not. This election is certainly changing me, however.

  15. You can’t claim Chernobyl as a “commercial” power generation facility. It was purely and simply a fast breeder reactor for making plutonium for nuclear weapons, and lacked all the safety features designed for containment.

    And if you want to start counting deaths, we must include all the coal miners who have died in mining accidents as well as from black lung disease, not to mention all the lives that have been shortened by exposure to years of pollution. We could go on and on, but Curmy’s blog is not the place to argue such things.

  16. I am least impressed by the whole DNA labeling thing. How that equates to “anti-science” is beyond me. All that shows is that people are stupid. Tell me something I didn’t know.

  17. And there is the dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) thing.

  18. And if you want to start counting deaths, we must include all the coal miners who have died in mining accidents as well as from black lung disease, not to mention all the lives that have been shortened by exposure to years of pollution.

    No one believing in climate change for one moment would argue substituting coal for nuclear energy, not that this is the place to argue such things. I think more germane to the Curmudgeon’s original argument about the two parties having low information voters is that fact you won’t hear this debated at all during the campaign and one party is still refusing to even acknowledge climate change. Instead for our voter entertainment we will get three months of what essentially amounts to feces flinging.

  19. Cognitive dissonance?

  20. @Erik John Bertel

    one party is still refusing to even acknowledge climate change

    That’s precisely the point, as others here have indicated. There are low-information voters all over the US political spectrum (and we might start trying to find out why they’re so deprived of information; hello, the educational system in Red states), but the two main parties themselves could hardly be more different in their attitude toward science. Not that the Dems are perfect in this respect, far from it (the Obama administration seems to have done RETRACTED all about the abuse of antibiotics in agriculture), but at least they’re not pandering to climate denialists, creationists, etc.

  21. The abuse of antibiotics is another extremely important issue which we don’t often mention here. The science is beyond doubt. But the politics will not let it be acted on. Farmers and ranchers and agricultural industries are not going to let it be.

  22. I think it would be a mistake for one political party to champion the issue of the astounding overuse of antibiotics in the poultry and livestock industries. We don’t want the same political polarization that happened with global warming happening with antibiotic overuse.

    Overuse of antibiotics in humans is measured in milliliters; overuse in agriculture is measured in 55-gallon drums. Literally. The ag industry says this doesn’t really matter, since they are only using antibiotics that are no longer important for human health. The scary thing is, though, that there’s evidence that bacteria in livestock are developing resistance to other antibiotics in addition to the ones that they are being fed.

    There was an excellent Frontline episode dealing with this on PBS last year. (At least, I saw it last year; it may have been a re-run.)

  23. BTW, antibiotic resistance is a good topic for discussion here; after all, it’s all about evolution.

  24. @TomS and retiredsciguy

    BTW, antibiotic resistance is a good topic for discussion here

    Too damn’ right. It’s a good topic for discussion anywhere. Of course, the problem is a direct product of the free market: the only way for it to be solved is for Ebil Gubment to step in, and the Obama Administration has, like its predecessors, been too milksop to take action.

  25. michaelfugate

    Just look at the “health” supplement industry and its lack of standards and championing by Orrin Hatch…