— by Aliela Fleisig
The 18th century was defined, in many ways, by the Enlightenment, a philosophical movement based on the idea that reason, rational discourse and the advancement of knowledge, were the critical pillars of modern life. The leaders of the movement inspired the thinking of Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin; its tenets can be found in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. But more than 200 years later, those basic tenets – the very notion that facts and evidence matter – are being rejected, wholesale, by the 21st-century Republican Party.
The contempt with which the party views reason is staggering. Republicans have become proudly and unquestionably anti-science. (It is their litmus test, though they would probably reject the science behind litmus paper.) With the exception of Jon Huntsman, who polls about as well as Darwin would in a Republican primary, the Republican presidential candidates have either denied the existence of climate change, denied that it has been caused – and can be reversed – by man, or apologized for once holding a different view. They have come to this conclusion not because the science is inconclusive, but because they believe, as a matter of principle, that scientific evidence is no evidence at all.
More after the jump.
She quoted candidates Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) and Texas Governor Rick Perry rejecting the proven theory of evolution, and criticized one of Representative Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) many disproven claims:
[Bachmann] has embraced the idea that the HPV vaccine can cause mental retardation, although not a single piece of medical evidence backs up her claim. How, then, did she come to that conclusion? That’s simple: A woman came up to her at a debate and told her so. Scientific evidence is anathema; superstitious and anecdotal asides, on the other hand, deserve to be repeated and amplified on a national stage, the consequences, in this case to countless women and girls, be damned.
Republicans even promote economic policies that have repeatedly been shown false by economists on all points of the political spectrum, writes vanden Heuvel:
There’s Herman Cain’s much-discussed 9-9-9 plan, for example, which has been eviscerated by independents, conservative and progressive economists alike, but which Cain continues to champion. Why? Because, he argues, the skeptics haven’t read his analysis yet – as if he is entitled not just to his own facts but to his own math…
Perry now fancies himself a flat-taxer, a position that might as well make him a flat-earther. A flat tax is, in his mind, a job creation proposal. In a reality based on reason and logic, it is a ticket straight back to recession. He might be giving – or getting – lessons from his fellow Republican, Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who after boldly lying about Planned Parenthood on the floor of the Senate had his press flack explain that his remarks were not intended to be a factual statement. What then, one wonders, were they intended to be?
Vanden Heuvel concluded:
It seems worth reminding the candidates that these debates have been settled, many for decades, some for centuries and that the year is 2011, not 1611. In the coming decades, science – and a respect for science – will prove crucial to confronting our greatest global challenges, whether that means reducing our carbon footprint to combat climate change, finding new treatments and new cures to the diseases that ail us, or developing new innovations that can lift hundreds of millions out of poverty. We cannot afford to ignore the power of science or the problems we will need it to solve. Nor can we afford to make decisions about our economy, and our future, without reason or sound evidence. It’s time to take back the Enlightenment.