The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

March 4, 2013

Party of stupid will likely stay that way

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wants Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.”

Not likely.

As long as the GOP is wedded to a crackpot ideology that elevates evangelical religion and free-market economics, the stupid hits will keep on coming.

In Oklahoma, a right-wing state representative, proposed a bill that would forbid teachers from penalizing students who turn in papers challenging accepted scientific theories, such as evolution and climate change, according to an article on the Mother Jones website. The bill touts “academic freedom” that basically allows kids to ignore science and write about what they learn in Sunday school.

In Texas, Republican state legislators want to gut their flagship research institution, the University of Texas, and require professors to concentrate solely on teaching. The university receives almost one billion in research dollars each year.

Who would conduct the research?

Presumably that would be private companies that are more interested in profits than science. It could mean money to Big Oil to study climate change, which would render the research compromised and useless.

The stupid party (no need to use the quote marks) is ingrained in the GOP because ideology can’t let science in.  What counters the right-wing sacraments is simply ignored or altered while the Democrats embrace science. To Democrats, there is a right and wrong, not right and left. If science favors a more liberal viewpoint, it’s because Democrats accept where the facts lead.

This is a problem for someone like Daniel Sarewitz. In the journal Nature, Sarewitz wrote in January that science is becoming politicized because more scientists vote for and support Democrats. He said one way to undermine government science funding is for Republicans to see science as a Democratic special interest.

In other words, in order for science to get funding, its practitioners have to dumb down their research to appeal to the stupid party. But why would scientists do this? They know the Democratic party is pro-science and the Republicans are anti-intellectual. The country’s top Democrat, President Obama, is solidly pro-science in the nation’s pursuit of policies.

Besides biology (evolution) and physics (climate change), Sarewitz talks mostly about the social sciences, those concerned with human nature.

Republicans are vehemently against funding social sciences. In fact, Rep. Eric Cantor is threatening to shut off social science funding. Why the hostility? Because research after research shows a scientific foundation for such GOP boogeymen as abortion, contraception and homosexuality.

Better to be ignorant than be shown up.

In 2012, 68 Nobel laureates signed a letter endorsing Obama’s science policies. How could they endorse any GOP science position, which is more accurately described as anti-science position?

If scientists would cave into Sarewitz’s false equivalency (that is, Democratic policies are on an equal footing with the GOP’s scatterbrained tactics), nothing would change. Republicans would just double-down to protect their beliefs at the expense of science.

It’s like conservative pundits lecturing Obama to work with Republicans.

It’s pointless. It’s like an adult giving in to a child in the hopes the child will become more mature when, in fact, such enabling makes the child less mature. Scientists know who is on their side.

The stupid party would rather dig in its heels on its unproven accusations that pass for science and whine about not getting votes from intelligent people who see a demonstrably false political dogma as a threat to the nation and, yes, to the scientific establishment.

Stephen Dick is an editor for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind. Contact him at steve.dick@heraldbulletin.com.

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