CaI just finished reading physicist Lisa Randall’s interesting book on particle physics and cosmology: ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door‘ and I realized how far the GOP has moved since Eisenhower’s day in becoming anti-science. Eisenhower not only made sure there was massive funding for science but passed the National Defense Education Act in 1957 to ensure strong science teaching in schools and universities. Can you imagine today’s GOP doing that? There would be uproar from the Base.
I thought that if over 50% of Republican voters don’t accept evolution, how much more disturbed they would be by sub-atomic physics, by quantum theory or by what we have discovered about the universe. I have a Hubble Telescope deep field photo on my wall here that looks back 13 billion years in time. Yet 40% of Republican voters think the universe is only 6000 years old.
I know the situation in a lot of countries in the world, and I can’t think of one where one of the major parties is so anti-science. In the world we face, one of climate change, of incredible potential from our understanding of DNA, of particle physics whatever, to have a whole major political party cut off from understanding of science is potentially catastrophic.
And we also see the effect on political discourse. If you don’t accept scientific method, you don’t accept Nate Silver’s election prediction method (which of course might have been wrong but they didn’t challenge its methodology but its conclusions), but you also don’t understand how the economy works, how policy works, you can’t use data effectively to overcome your prejudices, or anything else much.
And if you don’t understand things systemically, then paranoia, demonizing the other side, and blame is your only resort, as we are seeing in the GOP blaming everyone but themselves for losing the election. But this is far more serious….this is about a world view that constantly risks being delusional, being plan wrong about reality. About how you want the world to be, how you think it used to be when it was never like you think it was. This isn’t conservatism, this is psychotic and profoundly anti-scientific. Not to say science is always right; the search to disprove or improve on our existing knowledge and theories is never ending. Yes science is just a theory or set of theories, which is why it is rigorous and scientific method is so powerful.
And here before you very eyes is evidence the universe is over 13 billion years old: Hubble Deep Field South: the light from these galaxies has taken 13 billion years to reach the camera in the Hubble Telescope. Wow…now that is a source of awe, of spiritual wonder.