No-one is more surprised than me by the vocal, negative reaction we’re seeing among conservatives actually offended by the charge that their candidates, especially Rick Perry, are “anti-science.” I rather thought this would be a point of pride; isn’t “mainstream science” an “elitist” liberal construct? In any event, the counter-offensive, supplied by the National Review‘s Rich Lowry, goes amiss:
Perry’s offenses against science consist of his statements on evolution and global warming, areas where “the science” is routinely used to try to force assent to far-reaching philosophical or policy judgments unsupported by the evidence.
Apparently, the right bristles at the science of evolution only in an attempt to avoid these philosophical judgments, and “preserve a role for God in creation.” But this desire stems from a misunderstanding of what evolution actually *is* — a misunderstanding of the right’s own creation. Evolution makes no claims about the actual event of creation in the first instance. To the extent that Lowry correctly divines Perry’s basis for distrusting evolutionary science, then, Perry is erroneously conflating evolution with abiogenesis, compounding the ignorance of his actions with a foundational ignorance in his premises. I’m not sure how we should take any comfort from that.
And, regardless of whether the nation could “survive” another anti-science president, the error is in Perry’s case far from harmless. As he proudly proclaims, Texas teaches evolution and creationism in its public schools, and creationism does, by its very existence, “criticize the scientific method.” It undermines it by drawing the Scientific Revolution’s most basic premises into doubt, meaning whatever scientific good is done in Texas through grants like the Emerging Technology Fund occur despite — not because of — Texas’ educational policy.
Finally, teaching creationism in public schools is illegal. Perry’s beliefs will either cause his state to continue to break the law, or cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation. Let’s assume supporting creationism is somehow not anti-science. It’s still illegal, and a damn expensive way to make a point. Isn’t that enough?
[About the picture: hipsters on dinosaurs. No, I could not resist. Could you?]