Politics & Policy

When Liberals Ignore Science

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Media are largely silent about their fear of vaccination and their belief in astrology and UFOs.

The New York Times claims that the vaccine controversy we’re all talking about raises important questions about “how to approach matters that have largely been settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by conservatives.”

Well, here’s another question: How do we deal with the false perception that liberals are more inclined to trust science than conservatives? Also, how do we approach the media’s fondness for focusing on the unscientific views of some conservatives but ignoring the irrational — and oftentimes more consequential — beliefs of their fellow liberals?

Though outing GOP candidates as skeptics of science may confirm the secular liberal’s own sense of intellectual superiority, it usually has nothing to do with policy. However, if you walk around believing that pesticides are killing your children or that fracking will ignite your drinking water, or if you hyperventilate about the threat of the ocean’s consuming your city, you have a viewpoint that not only conflicts with science but undermines progress. So how do we approach matters that have been settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by liberals?

Take vaccines. There is little proof that conservatives are any less inclined to vaccinate their children than anyone else. If we’re interested in politicizing the controversy, though, there is a good case to be made for the opposite.

For starters, polls show that Millennials (most of whom lean liberal) are far more skeptical about vaccines than are older Americans. You’ll notice that laws with easier loophole exemptions from vaccination are most often found in blue states, where we also find the most outbreaks. You may also notice that leading anti-vaxxers, such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., are writing in the mainstream Rolling Stone, not National Review. As the New York Times itself already reported, half the children attending schools in Marin County, Calif., go unvaccinated by their enlightened parents. Unvaccinated children are clustered all over liberal counties in California. None of this is particularly surprising. Modern environmentalism perpetuates myths about the inorganic world and the evils of big pharma. Its adherents are just as likely to be in conflict with settled science as anyone else.

The perception that one political group is less science-savvy than another is predominately driven by the unwillingness of many conservatives to accept alarmism about global warming and the policies purportedly meant to mitigate it. But when it comes to climate change, volumes could be written about the ill-conceived, unscientific, over-the-top predictions made by activists and politicians. We could start with our own Malthusian science czar, John Holdren, who once predicted that climate change would cause the deaths of a billion people by 2020 and that sea levels would rise by 13 feet. In 2009, James Hansen, one of the nation’s most respected climate scientists, told President Barack Obama that we have “only four years left to save the earth.” In 1988, he predicted that parts of Manhattan would be underwater by 2008. If you don’t like high-speed rail, California governor Jerry Brown will let you know that Los Angeles International Airport is going to be underwater. And so on and on and on.

Undermining the future of genetically modifying crops — a process that, in one form or another, humans have been engaged in for about 10,000 years — probably hurts society (the poor, in particular) more than any global-warming denial ever could. Across the world, almost every respected scientific organization that’s taken a look at independent studies has found that GMOs are just as safe as any other food. There is no discernible health difference between conventional food and organic food. There is a difference, though, in productivity, in environmental impact, and in the ability of the world’s poor to enjoy more-healthful high-caloric diets for a lot less money.

Yet while Republicans are evenly divided on whether genetically modified foods are unsafe, Democrats believe so by a 26-point margin. Liberals across the United States — New York, California, Oregon, and Massachusetts recently — have been pushing for labeling foods to create the perception that something is wrong with them. Science disagrees.

Hydraulic fracturing is as safe as any other means of extracting fossil fuels. It creates hundreds of thousands of jobs. It provides cheaper energy for millions of Americans. It has less of an environmental impact than other processes. It means less dependency on foreign oil. It helped the economy work its way out of a recession. So 62 percent of Republicans support science, and 59 percent of Democrats oppose it. Numerous scientific studies — one funded by the National Science Foundation, which debunked the purported link between groundwater pollution and fracking — have assured us that there’s nothing to fear.

It doesn’t end there. What are we to make of people who mock religion as imaginary but believe an astrological sign should determine whom you date or are concerned that they will be whisked away in a flying saucer? According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, 48 percent of adults in the United States believe that alien spacecraft are observing our planet right now. Among those who do believe extraterrestrials are hanging around, 69 percent are Democrats. Democrats are also significantly likelier than Republicans to believe in fortunetelling and about twice as likely to believe in astrology. I won’t even get into 9/11 truthers.

For many conservatives, resolving issues of faith and science can be tricky. What excuse do Democrats have? Maybe someone at the New York Times can find out.

— David Harsanyi is a senior editor at the Federalist and the author of The People Have Spoken (and They Are Wrong): The Case against DemocracyFollow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi. © 2015 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

David Harsanyi — David Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Broward’s Cowards

It is impossible to imagine circumstances under which Broward County sheriff Scott Israel could attempt to perform his duties with the confidence of the public. He should resign immediately, and if, as he promises, he refuses to go quietly, then he should be shown the door by the people he professes to ... Read More
Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

CNN’s Shameful Town Hall

CNN recently hosted an anti-gun town hall featuring a number of grieving children and parents from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who aimed their ire at the National Rifle Association, politicians peripherally associated with the NRA, and anyone who didn’t say exactly what they wanted to hear. ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More