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Republicans Vs. Science

by JoAnna Wendel | University of Oregon

F Posted in: News and Politics, Voices P Posted on: September 6, 2011
Joanna-Wendel JoAnna Wendel
There has always been tension between scientists and non-scientists. Unfortunately for both parties, the universe is a big, complicated place that can’t be explained to its fullest extent in a sound-bite – which is what most people would prefer. I was blessed with a passionate interest in science and the ability to sit, listen, and tease out the important facts so I can understand things like evolution and Global Warming, but not everyone is like me. Most of us rely on our trusted leaders, who are there to represent us and explain things to us – whether it be climate change or the economy.
Unfortunately for an American who calls himself or herself a Republican, the leading candidates in the 2012 Presidential race denounce basic scientific facts. It’s not just the politicians – Rush Limbaugh, a well-loved right wing radio show host and symbol of the Right, is often known for bashing scientific research. And when a Republican actually agrees with scientists, like Jon Huntsman or Mitt Romney, he gets disowned and ridiculed by his own party and pundits.

Recently some comments have come from the mouths of two top Republican presidential candidates, comments that show that these candidates have no respect or belief in science, comments that frankly make me doubt their logical skills.

The first comment came from Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and leading Republican candidate in the presidential race. Just recently on his campaign tour a young boy asked Perry a question about evolution, and Perry responded, “That is one theory that is out there – and it’s got some gaps in it.” He went to say that creationism was another theory, and that if the boy was smart, he’d choose the right one. That was the nice way of saying that Rick Perry does not agree with straight fact – that evolution is true, it happens, and we can see it happening in real time.

The next came from Michelle Bachmann, Representative of Minnesota, who is most commonly known as Mini Sarah Palin. Bachmann said that the hurricane and earthquake were supposedly God “speaking to us,” specifically telling American politicians to cut spending. Later she claimed to be speaking only in metaphor, although it was a pretty strange metaphor to say that God was killing Americans so that politicians would cut spending.

On Fox News, commentator Charles Payne interviewed Bill Nye the Science Guy, trying to get down to the bottom of things regarding Global Warming. Payne was expecting, hoping, yearning for Nye to go on about the apocalyptic world we’re heading into, but Nye explained things like a scientist – yes, Irene and other intense storms are products of Global Warming, and we don’t know if things will continue this way because we need more evidence, and of course we haven’t seen an extreme change in climate because a few years is nothing in geologic time. Payne made a feeble attempt to bring racism into the issue, and then concluded the interview by saying that he was more confused than when they started.

Beyond the political figures are pundits and commentators like Rush Limbaugh, who believes that man-made global warming is a hoax. He practically preaches that we shouldn’t trust science or scientists.

And when a Republican like Mitt Romney expresses his trust in scientists, he is instantly denounced by pundits, who say he should just drop out of the race right now, calling him “radical.”All this boils down to something I’ve been wondering – how can someone who refuses to accept basic facts of science even begin to understand the intricacies of how to run a country? How can he or she understand the delicate nature of the stock market, or the economy, or international relations? In this day and age, cojones are valued over intellect and anyone who “seems” smart is labeled elitist.The Republican war against science is one of the scariest things I can think of about the radical side of the Right. According to a Yale studyconducted in 2010, public distrust of science has gone up significantly. Only about half of Americans believe that humans cause Global Warming (as opposed to the vast majority of scientists) and only 34% of Americans actually think that scientists agree that the Earth is warming.Most scientific research depends on government funding. What is going to happen when an entire political party tells its constituents to distrust that very science?

JoAnna Wendel JoAnna Wendel JoAnna Wendel is a NGJ Voices Contributor and a sophomore at the University of Oregon. She is currently seeking a degree in Biology while minoring in Communication Studies. She is the science blogger and columnist for the Oregon Daily Emerald, and hopes to make a career by mixing science, culture, and journalism.

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