Weird Science

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Daniel Sarewitz looks at the gap in political ID among scientists, only 6 percent of whom ID as Republican, according to a recent survey:

The results of climate science, delivered by scientists who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are used over a period of decades to advance a political agenda that happens to align precisely with the ideological preferences of Democrats. Coincidence--or causation? Now this would be a good case for Mythbusters. 

During the Bush administration, Democrats discovered that they could score political points by accusing Bush of being anti-science. In the process, they seem to have convinced themselves that they are the keepers of the Enlightenment spirit, and that those who disagree with them on issues like climate change are fundamentally irrational. Meanwhile, many Republicans have come to believe that mainstream science is corrupted by ideology and amounts to no more than politics by another name. 

Attracted to fringe scientists like the small and vocal group of climate skeptics, Republicans appear to be alienated from a mainstream scientific community that by and large doesn't share their political beliefs. The climate debacle is only the most conspicuous example of these debilitating tendencies, which play out in issues as diverse as nuclear waste disposal, protection of endangered species, and regulation of pharmaceuticals.

I don't know. I think this is also a reflection of the fact that American conservatism is increasingly a movement of white Christian populism. And specifically, a kind of white Christian populism with deep roots in the South. Science is very much the preserve of the institutions of higher education where "the elites" plot the subjugation of the common man. Moreover, a trust in science necessitates a trust in "expertise,"  and a skepticism of "common sense."  That basically runs counter to everything Sarah Palin represents.

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