The Sciences

GOP senior officials quietly trying to restore science to their agenda

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitOct 4, 2011 11:00 AM


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If you've read this blog for more than a few nanoseconds, you know how incensed I am over the blatantly antiscience trend in the Republican leadership. As I have pointed out before, supporting the reality of global warming or evolution is akin to political suicide if you are a candidate for office in the GOP. The attacks on science by the far right are not new, but the openness and outspoken nature of it are fairly recent. Even Newt Gingrich, who used to a be a strong supporter of science, is making Michele Bachmann-level misstatements about it. So I was very glad to read an article at the National Journal saying that older leaders of the Republican party are trying to re-establish the role of science in the GOP:

But quietly, many acknowledge a deepening GOP schism over the issue, as many moderates grow increasingly disturbed by their party’s denial of proven science. A number of influential Republicans who have left the battlefield of electoral politics are now taking action in an effort to change the GOP’s stance.

And we're not talking about lightweights, either. People like former (under Bush I) Secretary of State George Shultz, who said this:

"My own opinion is that this [climate change] problem is very real," Shultz told National Journal. "I recognize there’s a lot of people pooh-poohing it. Whether they like the science or not, there’s a huge problem coming at us. There’s a huge melt coming in the Arctic regions. There’s melting taking place." Of Republicans like [Presidential candidate Rick] Perry who deny climate science, he said, "They’re entitled to their opinion, but they’re not entitled to the facts."

Oh my. That is very heartening to hear. Of course, they have an uphill battle ahead of them. And by uphill, I mean like climbing out of the event horizon of a black hole, given how loud the antiscience noise is. The article acknowledges this, saying these leaders have kept quiet

in part because acknowledging climate change puts them out of sync with the tea party base that has so energized their party, and because climate-change legislation stands no chance of passing Congress in the current political environment.

The far-right Tea Party is mired in a radical religious agenda, and has become the de facto voice of the GOP. I have serious doubts that the more moderate wing of the Republican leadership can do much about it; that whirlwind has been sown, and they are now reaping it... as are we all. Once an audience is whipped into a frenzy that is not based on reason, corralling it will be nearly impossible. Just look at the editorial climate scientist Michael Mann wrote for the Vail Daily, defending his research against oft-repeated falsehoods about it -- which sometimes come from people as lofty as Congressmen in the House of Representatives. That kind of stuff won't stop overnight, or even in the next few years. It's a foregone conclusion antiscience will play its role in the 2012 election, too. So while I'm glad to hear that some members of the Republican Party are fighting to get their party back, I despair of their chances of actually doing it.

Tip o' the beaker to Steve Silberman (via JenLucPiquant), and reddit.

Related posts: - Erasing false balance: the right is more antiscience than the left - Republican candidates, global warming, evolution, and reality - The increasingly antiscience Republican candidates - Michele Bachmann needs to check her ID - Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity - Antiscience party

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