Ignorance is Strength

     The Republican Party has been at war with science for years now, and though some of the reasons for it are transparent, their other reasons are worse.
     The attack upon climate science of course is hat-in-hand truckling to the oil and coal industries. The vilification of Darwin is a sop to religion. But that’s not the half of it.
     Science, as generally misunderstood, has two primary meanings. One is the technical armament that produced rocket engines, jet planes, bombs, and, all right, medicines that can cure cancer – all the gleaming tubes, silicon chips and fantastically expensive machines that produced modern life.
     But underlying that, science is a way of thinking: a testing of reality so that facts can be ascertained, and then a submission of those facts to humanity, so that someone, anywhere, can disprove the fact, if he can.
     The purpose of scientific journals is not for scientists to accumulate chits in a game of advancement, but to lay out the data so that others can replicate or disprove it. A scientific article is an invitation to refutation.
     It’s this way of thinking that the Republicans abhor, and attack, to the debasement of science, our country, and to thought itself.
     In attacking science, Republicans state outright that scientists whose observations lead to conclusions at odds with the goals of The Party have some insidious, secret agenda – generally, to weaken America and the capitalists who give so generously to the Republican Party.
     Actually, it’s the Republican attack upon science that is weakening America.
     The same thing happened in the old Soviet Union, when Stalin’s anointed biologist, Trofim Lysenko, decreed that acquired characteristics could be inherited. Lysenko decreed this to prove his master’s diktat that Russia could build a New Soviet Man.
     This set back Russian biology for two generations.
     There is very little difference between Lysenko’s truckling to Stalin and the Republican Party’s truckling to ignorance for the advancement of The Party. Nor is there much difference between the Republicans’ jeremiads and the Germans’ attacks, 75 years ago, against “Jewish science,” as opposed to “German science.” The only real difference is whether one truckles to one ignorant master or to ignorance in general.
     There is such a thing as objective truth: a truth that holds good no matter what you think of it. For instance, large masses have gravity, and attract other masses. Continental drift happens, and causes earthquakes. Planets travel in elliptical orbits around the sun. Penicillin kills germs that can kill you, but the germs can evolve to adapt to penicillin, and kill you anyway.
     To declare, as leading Republicans do today, that climate scientists have a secret agenda to undermine American business, and that biologists have a secret agenda to undermine the Truths of Religion, is Soviet thought. It’s an obsessive thought, which is not really thought at all.
     Here I should add that my own trade, journalism, participates in this.
     Journalists, back when they were trained, were told to report “both sides of the story,” as though every story has two, and only two sides.
     But it is simply not the case that evolutionary biology – which explains why disease germs can become drug-resistant – has “another side” to it, and that this other side is that all beings, including microbes, were born instantaneously some 6,000 years ago, all perfect, all according to God’s plan.
     The Republican Party’s attack upon science is an attack upon thought. It will cost America dearly in the long run, and already has cost us. It is a virulent attack upon reality. It is Big Brother. It is a declaration that truth no longer matters: what matters is The Party.

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