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ETpro's avatar

Where will the GOP's disdain of science lead the USA?

Asked by ETpro (34425points) March 30th, 2012

Unless the changes underway in the GOP lead to its ultimate implosion, it’s safe to say that the party will continue for many years to come to exert a substantial deal of influence over US politics and thus policy. A new study shows that trust in science has fallen to an all-time low within the ranks of the new GOP. Only 35% of Republicans now say they have a great deal of trust in science. That is down 28 points from the mid-1970s. In a world that is increasingly dominated by technological advancement, what does it imply when one of the two major US political party’s increasingly becomes dominated by Luddites?

Can science do something to redeem its reputation with the GOP, or are the religious right and corporatist apologists who have become so dominant in modern Republican politics so immune to evidence that any effort exerted by the reality based community is irrelevant?

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44 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

Are they defining science the same way we do when they answer these polling questions? Most Republicans got to their doctors for medical help, how can they be so negative about science? I question scientific claims and studies also at times, but obviously I would not say I have a disdain for science. Are there answers what they think they are supposed to say? What they have been taught to say? Do they associate science with liberalsm and they are just distancing themselves verbally, outwardly?

Blackberry's avatar

It’s already lead the USA: Reality TV and the peeople who look up to those “celebrities”.

ragingloli's avatar

I say it is an effect of the horrible education. People fear what they do not understand.

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie I have two thoughts on that.
First, science leads to critical thinking, questioning, and change; all things that make it harder to subjugate people. Therefore, science is bad because it disturbs the status quo.

The second thought is that Man is not supposed to even think about trying to do anything God does, like understand how the universe works.

Buti think @ragingloli also makes a valid point. Many people are afraid of computers too.

zenvelo's avatar

An example of what happens is evident in the story of the South Carolina Sea Monster which turned out to be a sturgeon. Many people seem to think it is a biblical sea monster similar to the one that swallowed Job, and that calling it a sturgeon is scientific liberalism trying to deny the Bible and Creationism.

Republican disbelief in science is leading us to a place where the US will be put in the remedial classroom when the world discusses the future.

tom_g's avatar

There are plenty of other jobs we can take that don’t involve too much science or book learnin’.

Seriously though – how much of this is a direct result of vicious campaigns against the science of climate change or evolution?

Dutchess_III's avatar

What age group has the most voting power? I think the mid generation (like mine) and on down don’t like the idea of a candidate dragging religion around with them. But…does the older generation have the most voting power?

rojo's avatar

“Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans”. – Hitchhikers Guide…
Could become a conservative mantra.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv The second thought is that Man is not supposed to even think about trying to do anything God does, like understand how the universe works.

I have never heard that before. Not stated like that. So if God created the universe, we are not supposed to try to understand anything in the universe? Or, just very specific things? The religious right seems to pick out very specific things usually. That is why this whole rejection of science I find confusing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

It just blows my mind that anyone could “reject science.” What the hell does that mean? Is it pertaining specifically to the evolution/creation debate, or ALL science?

jerv's avatar

@JLeslie That is why I feel the first thought is more valid, if for no reason other than it’s more pensive. Not all Conservatives are Bible-thumpers, but the desire to maintain status quo is a defining trait.

@Dutchess_III My take is that they are against anything that might prove them wrong or otherwise conflict with their dogma.

JLeslie's avatar

@jerv Funny, the statament I made, that God is the Creator of Universe (that is in Jewish prayers, not sure how it is worded in other religions) is how I argue for evolution and other points of contention in science with the religious. That God created the universe and everything needed for what the universe and earth has become. It does not mean he magically pops all plants, humans, animals, etc on the earth at once, or without a development process. This is why to me god and science easily coexist.

Jaxk's avatar

I read through the actual study just to get a few details. I found a few pertinent facts that seem relevant. The historical level of trust for the 3 groups analyzed (conservative, liberal, and moderate) are graphed in table 1. It shows that moderates have less trust in science and the conservative view has declined to the level of moderates. Interesting. So, conservatives now have the same level of trust as moderates but liberals have a much higher level.

The second thing I thought was significant was the way they measure the level of trust. Apparently they provide the name of an organization and ask for your level of trust in it. They don’t provide the list of organizations, which is quite surprising for a scientific study (and lowers my level of trust in this report). They do however talk quite a bit about the EPA as a scientific body and I have to assume they use that organization as one of their levels of trust. It is not surprising at all that conservatives and Moderates alike, would have a low level of trust in the EPA (a political body).

There are many connections between science and politics. It is difficult to discern whether politics will influence science or if science will influence politics. When they are joined at the hip neither is pure.

ragingloli's avatar

“Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and… know nothing but the word of God.” – Martin Luther, founder of protestant christianity

phaedryx's avatar

I’m afraid I’m with Jaxk on this one. This is the data their claim is base on?

The GSS asked respondents the following question: “I am going to name some institutions in this country. As far as the people running these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them [the Scientific Community]?” Respondents were then given the choice to respond “a great deal,” “only some,” or “hardly any”

From that data you could assert that self-identified conservatives have become less confident in how certain (unnamed) institutions are run, but I don’t think you can assert, from this data, that conservatives “don’t trust science”. Or, even further, the assertion of this question that the “GOP disdains science.”

Suppose I’m a Libertarian (I identify myself as conservative) and somebody asks me how much confidence I have in the EPA? I respond that I have hardly any confidence in that institution. Can you conclude that I don’t believe in science? That the GOP disdains science?

Edit: I was going to go on a rant about social science, but instead I’ll say this: do a better study, have some other scientists replicate the study and get the same results, and then I’ll have confidence in your assertion.

tedd's avatar

I don’t need a report to tell me Republicans don’t trust in science. Anti-evolution, anti-climate change, anti-education, anti-new energy tech….. Their entire national platform right now is based on fueling ignorance, and then anger at the things the ignorant don’t understand.

It’s really a shame, they used to be such a sensible party…. sadly they let the religious right influence them too much. Case in point, Rick Santorum is a legitimate candidate for president in this century rather than the 17th…. and Mitt Romney is still wrapping up the election based largely due to the Republican bases discomfort with his religion and past comments relating to all of the things the Republicans have turned against in the last 30ish years.

flutherother's avatar

It would be a mistake to ignore science or treat it with disdain but what do we mean by trusting science?

Brian1946's avatar

Perhaps I’m oversimplifying here, but I’m too booked to write anything more detailed: I think Conservatives generally support science, as long as it doesn’t interfere with corporate profits or religious dogma.

Dutchess_III's avatar

^^^^^^ right-o!

Linda_Owl's avatar

I think the Republican’s distrust of Science will strangle technological advances, ruin engineering programs, derail medical advances & push the US to the very back of the line behind European countries & Asian countries. The religious fundamentalists / evangelicals are so focused on making Christianity the focal point of the US, that they have already gotten Creationism included in a great many schools (science teachers have been fighting a losing battle in TX to try to keep Creationism out of TX schools). Our civilization is technologically advanced & we must keep science at the forefront of our education system, but the ‘Bible Belt’ is slowly but surely tightening around our necks & we are all going to pay for it.

ETpro's avatar

@All. Thanks for the great feedback. I will do my best to respond to each of you, but the hour is late tonight and there are so many competing demands on my time that it will have to wait till tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’d like to enter this into evidence.

mattbrowne's avatar

In an alternate universe I foresee GOP’s grandchildren applying to Ivy League universities in Shanghai and Bangalore years after Harvard, Princeton and Stanford had to be downsized and converted into community colleges.

Jaxk's avatar

As I pointed out earlier, the measurement used is whether people have confidence in organizations that purport to be science. The EPA, Food and Drug admin, and so on. The connection between these agencies and government is not clear nor is it clear whether some of these are political or scientific. When you have conflicting information, supposedly from scientific organization, which ever side you choose to believe, you are skeptical of the other. Saccharin for example has been declared as carcinogenic. But then again maybe not. How can you help but be skeptical, when you find out that it takes 1800 diet drinks per day, to become a problem. Hell, anything in those quantities would be bad.

When all is said and done, it’s hard to figure out if the regulation is the result of science or if the science is biased to support the regulation. Depending on the issue, it can go either way.

rojo's avatar

Did not Bushs’ Stranglehold on stem cell research put us behind the most of the rest of the world in this field? As I recall, and no disrespect meant, but even Mexico was ahead of us in this field as of three years ago. I do not know where we are not.
And if you look at solar panels and wind energy you will find that the major advances are coming from Europe and Asia, not the US.
This, and more of the same, is what we have to look forward to.

jerv's avatar

@rojo But so long as we have the highest healthcare costs (though not quality) in the world, at least we’ll be number one in something vaguely related to science.

rojo's avatar

@jerv and don’t forget, we’re No. 1 in prison population!

ETpro's avatar

@Jaxk Wanting regulators to prove something is a carcinogen is backwards. The manufacturer should prove it is not. The FDA just demonstrated scientific integrity today when they refused to ban BPA. The EPA had asked for a ban because of consumer fears bisphenol A, but the FDA scientists said there was insufficient evidence on which to act.

PurpleClouds's avatar

I think the lack of trust is not so much in science as in the scientific community. There is a tremendous amount of politics involved in what is published as “science.” This community pushes people to frown on their neighbors who smoke, but at the same time advertise prescription drugs which have horrible side effects never bothering to even be truthful about how many people die during the trials, much less the unethical ways peoples are manipulated and used for them.

Also, it’s funny to hear FDA and integrity in the same sentence.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@PurpleClouds Could you be a little more specific? Generally scientists don’t do things for political reasons (with some exceptions, such as the space race and the arms race.) On the other hand, many big pharmas have politicians in their pocket.

tedd's avatar

My mother works for a company that does testing on food/medicines/medical products for the government… And I can tell you for fact that the FCC/FDA/etc.. have most definitely kept us safe from some pretty nasty sh*t. I won’t say they’re without flaw, everything has flaw… But for example..

There was this medical/surgical “glue” that they were using to seal wounds. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, basically superglueing shut surgical wounds or bad injuries (especially in combat zones). Europe, Russia, China, etc…. they rushed this stuff through in about 2 years… the FDA held it up on studies for almost a decade. Come to find out at the end of the decade.. the stuff causes cancer at extremely high rates.

Jaxk's avatar


There’s no question that FDA does some good stuff. Everything however is a trade off. It would be interesting to know if the lack of that ‘glue’ cost any lives. while they were taking the extra time to suture the wounds, the next guy in line bled to death. I have no idea if that happened but what I do know is that everything causes cancer, it just depends on the quantity. I heard on the news this morning that women’s high heel shoes, cause cancer. WTF.

phaedryx's avatar

@rojo I’m going to play scientist here and ask for some evidence behind your claims.

It’s my understanding that the restrictions were on embryonic stem cell research, which forced researchers to focus on adult stem cells, which turned out to be superior. (This is based on a fluther chat I had with one of the “dr”‘s here on fluther who had done a lot of stem cell research. Does anyone remember which one?) I’d be really surprised if we were behind Mexico.

Also, I’m not familiar with the renewable energy industry. What are some of the major advancements that are coming from Europe and Asia?

tedd's avatar

@Jaxk Triage-surgery-“glue” is already available to our men in uniform in combat areas. This version that was being tested was for civilian use in hospitals and over the counter for personal-emergency use… So more than likely, the testing didn’t cost many (if any) lives.

tedd's avatar

@phaedryx The “adult-stem-cells” are not superior, they are virtually the same…. We just found ways to harvest them other than embryonic stem cells. Which is nice, now we have multiple sources.. but it did put us way behind in actually using them.

As for renewable energy, the major driving forces for the industry right now are Chinese and European subsidies. In fact you hear about the US solar companies going down (the obvious one being Solyndra)... Solyndra didn’t go down because of an inferior product or business model, it went down because China subsidizes it’s entire solar sector. Even if the companies lose every penny they are given, the government there gives them more to keep them afloat…. So companies that have superior technology even (First Solar) are struggling to survive because of the glut coming from China. The technology continually improving has been based on the wealth of subsidies they’ve been receiving (mostly from Europe).. That’s why right now solar power is almost as cheap as fossil-fuel power.

Nullo's avatar

Might have something to do with the way that the news media tends to spin science news for drama, an example of which @Jaxk pointed out.
Though really, I don’t see how a person could “trust in science.” Science isn’t a person or an organization or anything with any kind of motivation beyond “What’s under that rock?” Trust dovetails with self-interest, and science does not. Applied science, yes, but they didn’t say applied science.
Perhaps they meant “scientific organizations?” If so, then I direct the ladies and gentlemen of the jury to the fallacy known as the Argument from Authority. Just because they’re scientific organizations doesn’t mean that they don’t have agendas. Most organizations – and the people who run them – do.

My own attitude towards psychology is similar, following a complete reclassification of my ADD ADHD AD/HD – Inattentive. Call me when you lot have stopped revising the DSM. I’ve got more important things going on.

@zenvelo Job wasn’t ever eaten by a sea monster. Also, that story simply underscores the fact that that religious types simply draw from a larger pool – they demonstrate the same curiosity – and critical thinking, I must say – that drives scientific research. I would go so far as to say that the people being ridiculed in the article are more open-minded, seeing the possibility for an as-yet unknown creature to present itself. After all, isn’t the ocean supposed to be vastly mysterious? And aren’t sturgeons particularly odd-looking?

@tedd And now people with moral qualms about curing diseases with the corpses of unborn babies can have their cake and eat it, too! Be happy! Where do you get “anti-education,” anyway? Are you sure that you’re not building something else into a straw man?

jerv's avatar

@Nullo I think that the way Texas has edited the textbooks in their schools and some of the sketchy things Creationists have done to circumvent logic feed into the “anti-education” thing. Besides, there are many scientists who resolve conflicts more logically; for instance, Creation took seven days, but a smart Christian will remember that what an omnipotent being considers “a day” may not be the 24-hour construct us humans currently use. But reconciling the differences takes more effort than dismissing facts in favor of dogma, so….

The fact that non-Christians know more about the Bible than many Christians doesn’t help; you’d think they would at least educate themselves about their own faith.

Nullo's avatar

@jerv That’s not “anti-education,” though. That’s just a disagreement over what is true.
I, too, used to go with the long-day hypothesis. Then I realized that the Bible typically means “day” when it says “day,” the only exception coming to mind being explicitly stated as being such. An omnipotent God could have it either way – or both ways, I suspect.
I find it probable that God does most of His existing outside (alongside?) of space-time, as it make omniscience easier. If this is the case, the thousand-year day is almost certainly hyperbole and can in fact be taken to mean an indefinitely long time.

It is unfortunate that more Christians aren’t familiar with the Bible, but understandable. Though I don’t buy that ALL Christians, or even most, are that lousy about their Bible-knowledge. There’s lots going on, you don’t have time for your devotions, and it’s not like the Bible’s going to go anywhere. There’s time later.
Non-Christians who go to the trouble mostly bother so that they can be better at attacking Christianity, a task apparently vital to their continued functioning.

jerv's avatar

@Nullo Given that many religions (not just Christianity) vehemently oppose even the hint of the idea of the thought of the concept that their religion does not contain 100% of The Truth and that therefore anything that either contradicts said religion or requires that you do a little thinking about how that particular fact and religion can coexist.

There is a reason I said “many”, as there are some Christians that are particularly astute, and certain sects/denominations that fare better. As for non-Christians learning the Bible merely for attacking Christians, you should know that many of the Atheists/Agnostics, most of the Satanists, and nearly all of the Wiccans I know (three groups highly likely to want to attack Christianity) arrived at their non-Christian faith or lack thereof because of the Bible.

Then again, most of them tend to also be some sort of book-nerd anyways; if they didn’t know all about the Bible, they probably would’ve taught themselves Klingon, memorized Lord of the Rings verbatim, and then read A Brief History of Time to find places where Dr Hawking screwed up. In fact, I have some friends that did all that in addition to learning comparative theology.

phaedryx's avatar

Aside: @Dr_C was the flutherite I was trying to remember who knew so much about stem cell research (it’s been fascinating to talk to him about it). We are doing some amazing things.

majorrich's avatar

You mean to tell us the world isn’t flat?! Preposterous! Must be the bath salts.

ETpro's avatar

@majorrich You mean to tell me bath salts weren’t made to be smoked?

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