Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Science and the Religious Right

This week on the Point of Inquiry podcast Chris Mooney interviews author Peter Montgomery. The discussion is long so I felt compelled to transcribe the following exchange which I think neatly sums up their respective positions.

Chris Mooney: I wrote a book called the Republican War on Science and it had this section on the religious right messing with science. And so what turns out is that if you take away their god-inspired moralistic language about sex, abortion, or whatever, then they make up phony scientific arguments that are secular. So suddenly adult stem cells are better than embryonic stem cells, and they've got phony science on that. Or, condoms don't actually work, and they've got phony science on that. Or, abstinence education DOES work, phony science, here it comes. Or what are the other ones? It goes on and on. Abortion causes breast cancer, abortion causes mental illness. They start makin' all this stuff up. But REALLY it's the religion driving the policy view.

Peter Montgomery: Well that's right but the thing about the fact that they feel compelled to make up phony science, I think it's a good thing because that science can be exposed and challenged as bogus and phony and as no real basis for policy and that's what our side has to do better. If it's just about disputing their theology then you kind of get stuck on who's got god right. And there's really no way to know who's got god right. But it is a lot easier to know who's got science right. And even though they have a tremendous propaganda machine that backs a lot of these bogus scientific claims, those are things that we can engage on, we can challenge them and we can martial the consensus support of the scientific community to challenge those claims.

Listen to the entire discussion here.

While Peter Montgomery was making this point I immediately thought of the incessant denial of anthropogenic global warming among some very vocal conservatives. From my perspective, the best part of this debate is when conservatives fund scientific assessments of climate change and find exactly the same conclusions as have been reported over and over by federally funded researchers. The climate is changing and human generated carbon dioxide is largely to blame.  This recently happened to the Koch brothers. The satisfaction in seeing real science vindicated is priceless. 

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