Krugman: Republicans Against Science – A Terrifying Prospect

October 3, 2011


Reporting from Derry, N.H.—

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry may have backed down on tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, but he’s doubling down on his skepticism of climate-change science.

At a New Hampshire town-hall style meeting, his first of the campaign, the Texas governor sparred Friday evening with a questioner who tried to pin him down on the issue.  The man, whom Perry addressed as “Mike,” began by noting a 2011 report from a panel of experts chosen by the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that climate change is occurring and “is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities.”  The man noted that Perry had ducked—twice–when asked at the Reagan Library debate this month to name the scientists he found most credible on the subject.

“Great,” replied Perry, strolling with a hand-held microphone in front of a crowd at the Adams Memorial Opera House in Derry, N.H.  “I’m ready for you this time.”

Perry said that “just within the last couple of weeks, a renowned Nobel laureate” had said that it was “not correct” to say that there was “incontrovertible” evidence that global warming is man’s fault.  “There are scientists all across this country who are saying that,” Perry said, adding to that his own conclusion that climate change science “frankly is not proven.”

Paul Krugman in the NYTimes:

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.”
So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

Now, we don’t know who will win next year’s presidential election. But the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.

7 Responses to “Krugman: Republicans Against Science – A Terrifying Prospect”

  1. America is fucked and by extension so are the rest of us. It already has all the hallmarks of a slide into fascism. When you’re fleeing the round-ups drop me a line, you can have the spare room at my house for as long as you need. If the European experience is anything to go by it’ll take about 8 years and 60 million corpses +/- 10 million from inception to destruction of the dictatorship.

  2. sinchiroca Says:

    I’m not alarmed by the idiocies of Mr. Perry, Ms. Bachmann, Ms. Palin, et al. Yes, it’s dismaying that such craziness can get any political purchase, but I remain confident that the American people — as a whole — aren’t that stupid. I confess, I have been overly optimistic in the past: I was sure that Mr. Bush would lose in 2004. But we have to be very careful about separating the news from the data. The news is all sensationalism and little content; they prefer the outrageous things that grab eyeballs, not the substance of the issues.

    If you look at polling data — not individual polls about individual politicians, but deeper polls about attitudes — you’ll see that Americans as a group are pretty well grounded. They did, after all, choose Mr. Obama over Mr. McCain, who was definitely the more moderate of the Republican possibilities.

    The Tea Party fanatics to whom Mr. Perry et al cater are quite skilled at grabbing attention, but they have little electoral heft. They are very strong in the primary process because they’re so fanatic, but in general elections they regularly get their butts kicked. Moreover, all the polls show a steady decline in the overall appeal of the Tea Party movement. In the early days its attraction stemmed largely from its vagueness. As it has gotten down to brass tacks, however, its inanities have become clear and people are shying away from it.

    At its peak, the Tea Party movement enjoyed the support of perhaps 25% of the electorate. That number has steadily fallen and now, IIRC, runs at about 15%. I check poll results from places like the Pew Center every few months, and the numbers wiggle up and down with the news cycle, but the general trend has definitely been downward.

    Remember, too, that a strong majority of Americans support positions directly contradicted by the Republicans. For example, something like 2/3s of Americans believe that taxes should be raised for the wealthy, yet the Republicans all adamantly reject this proposition. A political party that rejects something that two-thirds of the public supports is not going to do well in next year’s elections.

  3. Sinchiroca Two words, Gay marriage. Karl Rove made this, the non-issue of all non-issues, a winner for George Bush so anything is possible. You’re talking about reason and people don’t behave reasonably at elections. Not just Americans, everywhere you can be pretty sure the herd mentality will take over.

    • sinchiroca Says:

      Although this point doesn’t directly address your observation, you might want to look at some of the polling numbers on the issue of gay marriage:

      These show that support for gay marriage has now become the majority view in America.

      On the larger issue, I agree that voters can be pretty stupid. After all, they elected George Bush not once but twice, and he was surely the worst president in American history. Perhaps we can give them a pass on that idiotic decision by noting that they allowed themselves to be terrorized by the terrorists after 9/11. Still, I think that the Jeffersonian view that, in the long run, the people as a whole make better decisions than any other system.

  4. It would seem polls are one thing but when it comes to a ballot things change. There are some numbers to contradict those poll numbers outlined here in a short video clip with Rachael Maddow;

    The video link is about halfway down the page.

    I am sure you and Jefferson are right. In the long run. Under normal circumstances. We are so far away from normal circumstances we can’t even see it from here. It’s at times like this, as after 9/11, when a fearful electorate can be driven into making bad choices. And you can bet the GOP’s nuttier wing will do it’s best to make sure people are scared.

    I am maybe just being a pessimists but I’m old enough to know that when there are socio-economic earthquakes systems collapse fast.

  5. sinchiroca Says:

    Well, I confess that I’m an optimist, so we’ll just have to see. Let’s hope I turn out to be right! 😉

  6. […] a dramatic contrast between his position and the waffling, flip flops, and science denial of the GOP presidential field, President Obama has, for the first time in many months, forcefully underlined his commitment to […]

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