Friday, March 19, 2010

Conservatives & Science: “Choosing” Which “Facts” to Believe

Global warming is now on trial in the conservative community—actually, I should be more precise in saying climate scientists are now on trial in the conservative community. And the kangaroo court of conservative opinion, from the lowliest unscientific hicks like Sarah Palin to no less than George Will, has found them guilty before the trial even starts.

The key fact to remember here is their motivation: global warming is an inconvenient fact which will necessitate Americans change their decades-old energy-guzzling ways.

It will also change which businesses are profitable. Like the Pony Express, the coal and oil companies will become obsolete. Unlike the owners of the Pony Express, however, they can see alternative energy companies coming, and are doing everything in their power to discredit climate science.

Such groups as Information Council for the Environment, the Heartland Institute, and The Advancement of Sound Science Center, with high-sounding names but which are fronts for Exxon, the Western Fuels Association, National Coal Association and Edison Electric Institute, have done their best to make suspect the science.

It hasn’t worked, so they're trying a new tactic: if you can’t find a way to discredit the science, find a way to discredit the scientists. By any means necessary.

The larger question here is what conservatives think of science. What it comes down to is they believe science, but only when convenient or it supports their worldview. The “hard” sciences, like physics, engineering, chemistry and astronomy, are no problem. But others, like biology, psychology, and especially climatology, are open to scorn and ridicule.

Why? Because they discover things conservatives don’t like, like homosexuality is a genetic rather than a learned trait. Like evolution. And, like climate science.

By picking and choosing what they acknowledge as fact, conservatives are rapidly destroying the value of science in our culture.

Maybe some people are okay with that. I’m not. Only believing what you agree with is intellectually dishonest, and will irreparably damage our society.

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