Stupid and Science

April 30, 2016

The Curator offered up Steve Benen’s piece for The MaddowBlog, Paul Ryan’s Curious Case against Expertise on April 27. And MRW posted It’s the Stupid, Stupid! on April 24, focusing on Donald Trump’s stupid statements. (He keeps promising he’ll get “presidential” soon, whatever that means, then not, then, etc.)

Stupid among national Republicans did not begin in 2015-16. In 2012 former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum want on a rant about college and elites. Here’s Rick Santorum’s Anti-College Rant, Charles Blow’s January 2012 take-down for the New York Times. Then there is Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), offering up a snowball in the Senate chamber, to disprove climate change.

Senator Inhofe has also claimed climate change is impossible because G-d, stating:

Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that “as long as the earth remains there will be springtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night.” My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.

Then there is Florida, where the streets of Miami Beach flood regularly—and significantly—and In Florida, Officials Ban Term ‘Climate Change’. (The piece, for, the Miami Herald, is written by Tristram Korten.) To be clear, while all around them, Floridians face the effects of climate change, state officials deny its existence.

For a scholarly look at this subject, read The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney. It’s a fine read, and still makes sense 10+ years after it was first published.

Mr. Mooney’s thesis focuses on regulatory upset. We live among tens of millions of people, many of whom are plenty powerful, who simply don’t want anyone else telling them what they can and cannot do. And, frankly, science does tell us, ultimately, what we can and cannot do. We push limits, but science is an “IS” which limits us.

I think something else is at work here, too, and I think it has developed as science issues have come to the fore. Tens of millions of people lack basic knowledge about so, so much, including science, and are painfully insecure about that lack of knowledge. Into the void come politicians panderers, happy to do whatever it takes to make voters feel good about themselves. The dynamic is simple: I make you feel good about yourself, and you vote for me.

That this dumbing down for votes comes from the party which claims ownership of the “personal responsibility” mantra, and has most loudly attacked the “everybody gets a trophy” notion, fascinates me. Playing to those who know very little, and telling them their opinions really do matter, is the antithesis of personal responsibility, and it amounts to handing everyone a knowledge trophy, with or without a passing grade.

I claim no special knowledge about lots of things, especially in the science realm. Call me a blockhead and I will not argue with you for even a moment. But I know what I don’t know, and that’s what matters. I am happy to leave to scientists matters scientific, and expect and demand that they do their jobs. Science matters too much!


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