Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Republicans Against Science

From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman on the GOP war against reality:

To see what Mr. Huntsman means, consider recent statements by the two men who actually are serious contenders for the G.O.P. nomination: Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.

Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples’ attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

That’s a remarkable statement — or maybe the right adjective is “vile.”

The second part of Mr. Perry’s statement is, as it happens, just false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming — which includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences — is getting stronger, not weaker, as the evidence for climate change just keeps mounting.

More here.

I've been wondering for some years what a rational response to all this ought to be. I mean, Democrats and liberals love to argue, but when people start bringing obvious bullshit into the debate, the argument's effectively over. There is no way to persuade people who aren't in touch with reality. No way to have a serious discussion when the conversation keeps drifting into demonstrably false information--indeed, I have no doubt in my mind that many conservatives actually know what the truth is, but use these popular lies simply to eradicate discussion, clearing the way for demagoguery; it's a cheap way to "win" a debate.

Thought experiment:

You're having a talk with some friends about, say, how to fight hunger and poverty. It's a good discussion, lots of ideas bouncing around, and everybody seems serious about the topic. Suddenly, one of them says that we ought to hire a hundred wizards who would cast spells to magically create food, clothing, and shelter for the poor. Everybody laughs at first, but the guy persists. Slowly, it dawns on you that this guy really means it. Then, amazingly, a couple of his friends take his side. They seem serious, too.

What was only moments ago a great exercise in democracy, a rousing discussion among citizens on an important issue, is now a fucking joke. Of course, you can walk away, now wise to the fact that some of your friends just aren't worth it in as much as political discussion goes, and try to find better conversation partners. I mean, that's life: people are often full of shit. But our leaders really ought not to do such a thing. They are, after all, our leaders and such debate matters greatly in terms of how public policy affects people's lives.

So let us add to our thought experiment the limiting factor that you can't walk away. You have to try to win this debate that has been hopelessly sabotaged by assholes. What do you do?

Here's my answer. The wizard faction has behaved in a reprehensible manner. They have literally destroyed a good conversation on an important topic. You can't disprove a notion that is already false. You can't treat their words as though they have any merit at face value. Instead, you should treat their words for what they are, an aggressive and hostile act designed to confuse and conceal accurate information. That is, these people are being big douche bags.

I say, call bullshit on that. Chastise for irresponsibility. Do not in any way behave as though they have a point even worth addressing. The wizard proposal is only worth a "fuck you." It's only worth "How dare you pull this crap? How dare you just fucking destroy a good conversation? Go fuck yourselves, assholes. I'm not in any way going to entertain such fairy tale horse shit, and your head zips up the back if you think I ever will. Fuck you, assholes. I'm only going to talk about reality, and I don't give a shit how you interpret Harry Potter or the Bible or the National Review. Just fuck off, you retarded pieces of shit."

This is essentially what the entire Democratic Party would be doing if they had big dicks.