The biggest feel-good fallacy perpetuated by some in science media today is that "the right", whoever they are, is anti-science, while "the left", whoever they are, is pro-science.
It's exactly the opposite. The right historically has been more pro-science than anyone since World War II, they just recently adopted more positions labeled anti-science as science academia skewed left. 40 years ago conservatives were the most pro-science of any group and 40 years ago there was also political parity in science academia; science was a politically agnostic endeavor for the common good, only the humanities had been hijacked by partisans.
Today, science academia has 16% conservative people and it's even less in the social fields and the humanities. As that skew increased, it became easier to demonize The Other and then the echo chamber magnified it. Journalism, which is ordinarily a defensive mechanism because journalists love to examine and debunk popular arguments, instead became the first segment of science to give up and become cheerleaders for progressive causes positioned with science framing, so it was no help.
Virtually all you hear during an election year is that same argument; the right must be anti-science because 49% of them don't accept evolution, while only 41% of the left do. Why is the anti-science divide between 41% and 49%, when those both are quite high? Because that line was manufactured by science media to label the right "anti-science", it has nothing to do with reason or reality. Climate change is also framed in an odd way. 14% of Democrats deny climate change while 40% of Republicans do. There is just one problem with those statistics; Democrats had the same level of acceptance for any term you used to say the environment is bad and man is killing it. It made no difference whether it was a correct science term or not, they agreed it was a crisis, be it 'climate change' or 'global warming' or 'dihydrogen monoxide'(1). Republicans, meanwhile, dropped in acceptance when the scientifically incorrect term 'global warming' was used and agreement went up when the more accurate term 'climate change' was stated. Republicans were far more skeptical and scientifically literate, which is what we say everyone should be.
Today, some in science media are desperately scrambling to make the climate an issue in the upcoming American election, so they can still trumpet how anti-science the right is. There are two reasons climate is getting little respect and won't in this election: First, America is already getting cleaner, without any more draconian laws. Overall CO2 emissions are down near early 1990s levels and coal emissions have been punted back to early 1980s levels. Second, no one believes climate is really part of the Democratic party platform either. During the first few days of the Democratic National Convention, over 80 speeches, climate change got mentioned once, even though it is officially in their party platform. Meanwhile, Jerusalem was wiped off the map as the capital of Israel and God was removed entirely and yet both of those got mentioned dozens of times during the convention.
Basically, no one believes that the Democratic platform is the platform, since the president said it was not and claimed he had to intervene personally to change it to what it should be. Even Democrats don't believe it, so why should we believe the Republican platform is their platform? Yet all we hear from activists in science media is that the Republican platform is against the science of global warming. In reality, they mentioned it as many times as Democrats, and those same people will say that putting in God is just a wink-wink thing for the base, elites in power don't believe it.
But elites among Democrats are anti-science too. 53 out of 55 anti-science "Frankenfood" politicians lobbying the FDA for warning labels on a national level are Democrats,(2) despite 15 years of studies and real-world use showing no harm.
And among the masses, the problem is even worse. The right is far more scientifically literate at the consumer level. More Republicans than Democrats know (3):
The benefits of science exceed the harms
Not all radioactivity is man-made and hurts us
Not all chemicals harm us
Not all pesticides cause cancer
Fathers determine the gender of a baby
Meanwhile, more Democrats than Republicans believe:
Astrology is scientific
Lasers are made from sound waves
Genetically modified foods are harmful
Vaccines are harmful
Organic food is more nutritional than conventional
Yet efforts to spin the right as being more anti-science go on. Prof. Steven Salzberg, writing at Forbes, thinks the problem is that science questions are not framed enough against Republicans. He takes to task the recent Science Debate questions, believing they were not designed to properly show the differences between Romney and Obama. He makes specific note of leaving out questions on evolution, the same knock on them I had in 2008.
As I criticized then, despite it being such an important topic it formed one of the pillars of the 'Republicans are anti-science' monument erected by corporate-run science blogging, there was no question on evolution asked of the Senators running for president, instead they got a question on fish hatcheries, of all things. Why? The answer is obvious; when running for president, Senator Obama was not going to criticize religion and obviously Science Debate did not want to put him in a position where it hurt his appeal among the 40% of Democrats who flat out deny evolution. They also didn't ask about vaccines and autism either. Why? Because Obama was 'unsure' despite the science being settled since 2001 and highlighting that would annoy all his voters in science. Science Debate was smarter about his Democratic super-majority in science than Obama was; he found that out when he originally settled on anti-vaccine zealot Robert Kennedy, Jr., a rabid anti-vaccine hysteric, to run the EPA and the outcry forced him to look elsewhere.
Romney's stance on evolution is that it is science and that intelligent design is for religious courses, no way to spin that as anti-science, so Salzberg takes another tack; he thinks Romney should have to deny Republican Paul Broun's 'catering to his audience' assertion that the Big Bang and Evolution were created in Hell. Yet nowhere does Salzberg say that Obama should deny Nancy Pelosi's goofy claim that she channels Susan B. Anthony or Barbara Boxer's wacky notion that GMO corn is going to give us all cancer. Why is that? Well, we get a rationalization again. Psychics and astrology are not official parts of the DNC platform, yet I don't see Big Bang denial in the RNC platform either. The reality is that the platforms are meaningless and only invoked when scientists or science writers are trying to shore up their confirmation bias.
The good news for scientists is that no matter who wins, there is no need to worry. If President Obama is reelected, at least his politics are in tune with their beliefs and so his anti-science actions (interfering with government scientists, editing reports to suit his agenda, filtering science through his beliefs) will be more acceptable, when they were not while President George W. Bush was in office. If Governor Romney wins, Republicans have historically funded science more heavily than Democrats, a pattern that continued under Bush, and so scientists can look forward to fewer feel-good programs, like $72 billion to subsidize 'green energy' businesses, and more basic research to actually help solve the problems of the future.
(1) Dihydrogen monoxide is water but when you use any scary-sounding chemical name, the left is against it. Science Left Behind p.121
Anti-GMO Republicans in the House:
Richard Hanna (NY-24)
George Miller (CA-7)
Anti-GMO Democrats in the House:
Peter DeFazio (OR-4)
Dennis Kucinich (OH-10)
Louise Slaughter (NY-28)
Keith Ellison (MN-5)
Raul Grijalva (AZ-7)
Peter Welch (VT-At Large)
Hansen Clarke (MI-13)
Earl Blumenauer (OR-3)
Lloyd Doggett (TX-25)
Anna Eshoo (CA-14)
Sam Farr (CA-17)
Maurice Hinchey (NY-22)
Rush Holt (NJ-12)
Chellie Pingree (ME-1)
Jim McDermott (WA-7)
Madeleine Bordallo (GU-At Large)
James Moran (VA-8)
John Olver (MA-1)
Jared Polis (CO-2)
Charles Rangel (NY-15)
Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1)
Pete Stark (CA-13)
Howard L. Berman (CA-28)
Robert Brady (PA-1)
David Cicilline (RI-1)
Yvette D. Clarke (NY-11)
Steve Cohen (TN-9)
Dianne DeGette (CO-1)
Bob Filner (CA-5)
Barney Frank (MA-4)
Luis Gutierrez (IL-4)
Janice Hahn (CA-36)
Michael Honda (CA-15)
Barbara Lee (CA-9)
Zoe Lofgren (CA-16)
James McGovern (MA-3)
Jan Schakowsky (IL-9)
Jackie Speier (CA-12)
John Tierney (MA-6)
Melvin L. Watt (NC-12)
Lynn Woolsey (CA-6)
Maxine Waters (CA-35)
Grace Napolitano (CA-38)
Anti-GMO Democrats in the Senate:
Barbara Boxer (CA)
Patrick Leahy (VT)
Bernie Sanders (VT)
Daniel Akaka (HI)
Dianne Feinstein (CA)
Ron Wyden (OR)
Mark Begich (AK)
Jon Tester (MT)
Richard Blumenthal (CT)
Jeff Merkley (OR)
Sanders is "Independent" but caucuses with Democrats. As an Independent Democrat-Socialist, he is even more Democrat than Democrats.
(2) Science Left Behind, p. 213
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
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