It is said that conservatives tend to be anti-science, with the Bush administration serving as a prime example. The evidence adduced usually comes down to three things: opposition on moral grounds to unrestricted embryonic stem cell research, support (mainly by evangelicals) for the theory of intelligent design, and skepticism about the inevitable catastrophic impact of global warming, said to be wholly or largely anthropogenic in origin.
Before condemning conservatives for their irrational opposition to “established” scientific truths, one would do well to pause and examine the record of liberals and leftists with respect to propounding and believing scientific nonsense. The following list of absurdities, masquerading as scientific certainties, which people on the Left have believed over the past 100 years will illustrate my point:
1. The theory, first propounded by Sigmund Freud, that mental disorders which are not somatic in origin are caused mainly by the desire on the part of a child to kill its parent of the same sex and to have exclusive sexual rights to its parent of the opposite sex
2. The widely held conviction that the scientific laws of history were discovered by Karl Marx and that these laws constitute a Master Theory explaining the evolution of every important aspect of human society, including politics, economics, and culture
3. The belief that intelligence is either a meaningless term or, to the extent that it is meaningful, determined entirely by one’s environment
4. The notion, first propounded in 1969 by biologist Paul Ehrlich, that the “population explosion” would doom the human race to massive starvation (hundreds of millions of deaths in the 1970s and 1980s and the 50% probability that Great Britain would be no more by the year 2000)—a prediction that has been spectacularly refuted in all its particulars without, however, diminishing the reputation of Ehrlich among his many progressive followers
5. The belief, repeatedly expressed at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, that the disease would sweep through the heterosexual community in this country and claim tens of millions of lives (actual numbers: about 17,800 people in this country died of AIDS in 2009)
6. The fear that biologically engineered foods, sometimes referred to as “Frankenfoods,” pose a serious threat to the human race, despite the consensus among the overwhelming majority of agronomists that such fear is groundless
7. The fear that irradiating foods to kill their bacteria somehow makes these foods dangerous to consume
8. The belief, despite all evidence to the contrary, that vaccines are dangerous and are responsible for the increase in childhood autism
9. The fear that man-made pesticides, particularly DDT, are so harmful to the environment that we were justified in not using them even if it means the deaths of millions of children in Africa from malaria
10. The belief, based on postmodern revelation, that scientific truths are merely social constructs and not actually descriptions of reality, despite the obvious fact that these so-called constructs have given rise to technologies (e.g., email, telephones, and automobiles) that confirm these truths beautifully
11. The theory, propounded by radical feminists, and widely subscribed to in academia, that gender differences are not inherent but (like science itself) merely social constructs, despite the overwhelming evidence in human history and of current research pointing to profound and unalterable differences
None of the above absurdities have ever been taken seriously by those “easily manipulated and ignorant right-wing simpletons” in flyover country. Over the years, they have been largely the province of self-styled progressives, people whose prejudices and ideologies often come to us dressed up as science, but who, like most of us, believe what they want to believe, regardless of the evidence of the real world.
Robert Kantor, TAC Associate June 18, 2015