So here’s a headline from today’s New York Times that will make your post-chimpanzee brain feel sad:
Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets
GOOD GOD WHY!? DOES IT NEVER END!? Sigh. Well, let’s see if the reporting was okay. (Spoiler: Not really.)
Nothing about this most recent story will surprise anyone with half a brain, which, in a way, is what makes the reporter’s treatment of the subject so frustrating. Remember all those (primarily) Southern smarty pants-es who hated evolution and wanted to “teach the controversy” around the issue by including the children’s fairy tale of intelligent design in the public school curriculum? Of course you do, because you — like me — mocked them for being backwards ignorami who literally didn’t understand what the word “science” meant.
Those intellectual giants are back, and this time they’re attempting to attack Climate Change using the same strategies — namely by playing the victim and by attempting to muddy the water with “differing” views. These two strategies often overlap, as is perfectly illustrated by John G West, of the fundamentalist Discovery Institute in Seattle. Leslie Kaufman, the Times reporter, quotes him as saying:
“There is a lot of similar dogmatism on [the climate change] issue,” he said, “with scientists being persecuted for findings that are not in keeping with the orthodoxy. We think analyzing and evaluating scientific evidence is a good thing, whether that is about global warming or evolution.” [emphasis added.]
West’s bizarre allegations make it seem as though there is a Science Mafia, hellbent on enforcing set-in-stone “orthodoxy.” That makes sense, I guess, because if there’s one group of people opposed to rigorous examination of held beliefs, it’s scientists. Yes, it is often science, not religion, who desperately clings to out-dated or unprovable positions as though their very institutional survival depends on it.
Kaufman does an adequate job of presenting figures from the scientific community who rightly call out this fundamentalist nonsense for what it is, but Kaufman also includes anti-science voices without clearly labeling them as such. For instance, we’re told that the Discovery Institue is a:
group that advocates intelligent design and has led the campaign for teaching critiques of evolution in the schools.
But we’re not told about the group’s so-called “Wedge” strategy, outlined in this paper from 1996 which contains the following bullet point (page 4 of the PDF) under the heading “Goals”:
“To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”
Those are the people who are challenging the legitimate scientific community and being presented by Kaufman as critics who claim “science is overstepping its bounds.” Well, yes, they are that, but they’re also religious fundamentalists with absolutely no scientific qualifications and no reason to be treated as authorities on the subject. Treating them with respect and presenting their views “objectively” is a professional nicety, but it only serves their purpose: To create more controversy and more doubt among the public.
I’ve written about the right-wing attempts to stir up controversy about Climate Change before, and Kaufman’s article is far superior to the Washington Post’s dismal failure I wrote about in November. But that said, one of the major reasons that only 36% of Americans “believe” in Climate Change — a statistic that this country would look upon with shame, if we were capable of it — is because fundamentalist positions are reported on as though they are legitimate sources of criticism. They are not. And the more their views are treated with kid gloves, the more accepted these institutions will become.
At least once a day I’m reminded of the following Simpsons quote, but this post deserves it as much as any ever will:
Mayor Quimby: Are these morons getting dumber or just louder?
Mayor’s Assistant: Dumber, sir.