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Political Science

by James Lileks

The president of the United States can’t figure out an iPhone. Millions of Americans use iPhones every day, but when confronted with this elemental, intuitive device, he stabbed it with his finger, dashed it to the ground, and shouted witchcraft!

Well, no. An aide on the campaign trail handed him an iPhone to make a call, and he couldn’t figure it out. He explained he was a BlackBerry guy — which nowadays is like saying you really miss the graphical purity of Windows 95 — and then blamed his inability to make the call on the owner’s cell-phone plan. Possibly. When I try to call the Kremlin to reassure them of my flexibility about matters of crucial national security, I get an alert that says “International rates may apply.”

At least he tried! Mitt Romney is a 19th-century robber-baron throwback who has his aides transcribe ticker-tape messages onto foolscap, you know. Perhaps you recall a kerfuffle when he expressed amazement at a touch screen in a sub-sandwich shop — proof he was out of touch with the needs of out-of-work Americans who stare longingly at the extra mayo button and realize they can’t afford the 15-cent charge. Actually, he was using the shop’s technological ingenuity as a comparison with government, whose sole achievement in gesture-based interfaces is the hand of a TSA agent interrogating your groinal department, but never mind. Democrats are hip and all about the Forward! stuff. Conservatives hate science.

We know this because Albert Brooks said so. The night of Romney’s acceptance speech, the actor wrote a tweet: “World’s oceans very excited tonight, If Romney elected they will take over the earth.” Then he sat back, looked at the line, sighed, thought, “Let future generations know that comedians warned them against the inundation of Nebraska,” and hit send. More in sorrow than in anger, really.

It’s something all smart people know: Republicans hate science like chimps hate fire. Republicans regularly gather outside of research institutions with pitchforks, demanding that the eggheads stop trying to prove the existence of theoretical subatomic particles. If God wanted us to know them He would have made them the size of marbles. Stop thinking and explaining things! Look what happened after the invention of the telegraph — it’s been nothing but porn ever since!

Right. Well, here’s what they mean by science:

Using taxpayer money to experiment on human embryos, which would lead to an instant cure for diseases suffered by the relatives of people who make speeches at political rallies. Y’see, many on the right — hereafter, idiots — believe their imaginary Sky-Father put teensy-weensy “souls” into the cells, and this idea is so offensive they must be required to pay for the procedure, as an example to all.

Global warming. Many conservatives believe the Earth might be warming but our contribution is disputable and it’s not worth bankrupting the entire Western economy to preserve two feet of beachfront in Miami. The long-term rhythms of that enormous ancient nuclear reactor up there in the sky might have an effect, if you want to get technical, and it’s unwise to extrapolate rigid theses from anomalous events, unless you think the Dust Bowl was caused by Republican opposition to the New Deal. Anyway, half the scientists in the grand “consensus” are lefty dorks in sandals and black socks who might not hug trees, but they’ve held hands with a branch or two in their day.

Response: The coal industry paid you off because the executives like to pass around snuff films of polar bears falling off melting floes and drowning.

Evolution. Having a discussion in class about the metaphysics of the universe, which is a cover for obstinate Christianist young-Earth doctrine: wrong. Response: You think cavemen rode dinosaurs to work while shouting “Yabba-dabba-doo.” Now, a humanities-class segment on Native American creation stories is different, because they were all spiritual ’n’ stuff.

Genetically modified organisms, created by mad cackling plant vivisectionists. On an aesthetic level, they’re abhorrent; the tongue, after all, can detect the most minute variation in the genome of a carrot. On a health level, well, c’mon: genetically modified. You take the genes of one thing and combine them with the genes of something else, and what do you expect? Okay, right, children, but wheat is totally different.

Related: agricultural chemicals. Helping balky crops with hydromorphic tetradeathazine is bad, but heaping donkey offal around the produce because it’s organic is a healthy choice. Mom-tested and kid-approved!

Nuclear power. Goes without saying. If Fast and Furious had involved the illegal trade in spent nuclear materials, rod-walking them across the border, most of the plants in the country would be shut down.

Irradiated food. This is a safe process that kills the wily E. coli germs so you don’t cramp up with shuddering, gut-gripping pain, spew, and possibly die. But because radiation is involved, the food must be mutated into something unnatural that will produce grotesque Elephant Man–style protuberances, and if we don’t stop it now, 30 years hence the streets will be filled with people who wear sheets and hold signs that say disfigured by hamburgers any help appreciated.

Fracking. Would be perfectly acceptable if it were the only way to get a substance required to make solar panels.

And so on. The Left requires the Right to be stupid and evil in equal portions, and the anti-science rap fits perfectly. There’s probably a smart-phone app that sends you alerts when someone on the right does something that betrays his lack of scientific sophistication.

It would just be hilarious to watch the president try to download it.

– Mr. Lileks blogs at

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