When it comes to various constituencies, we can think of plenty of groups that generally shy away from the Republican Party: African Americans, Latinos, students, unmarried women, etc.
But let’s not overlook an underappreciated group: scientists. A few years ago, the Pew Research Center found that only 6% of self-identified scientist say they tend to support Republican candidates.
Asked to explain why, Brigham Young University scientist Barry Bickmore, a onetime Republican convention delegate, recently told the Salt Lake Tribune, “Scientists just don’t get those people,” referencing Republicans who adhere to party orthodoxy on climate change, evolution, and other hot-button issues. “They [in the GOP] are driving us away, people like me.”
In a piece that caused a bit of a stir this week, Mischa Fisher made the case that folks like Bickmore, and the vast majority of scientists who’ve abandoned the GOP in droves, have it all wrong. Fisher thinks the “common perception in the media, electorate, and research community” is mistaken and “overblown,” in part because some Republicans are pro-science, and in part because Fisher believes there are “left-wing ideologues also frequently espouse an irrational fear of nuclear power, genetic modification, and industrial and agricultural chemistry.”
Republicans, Fisher added, “are no more uniquely ‘anti-science’ than any other demographic or political group.”
Sean McElwee published a compelling response.
There is a real dichotomy between those who support science and those who don’t – and those who don’t are generally on the Republican side. One hundred and thirty-one members of the Republican caucus deny the science behind climate change. A disturbing 17 of those Republican members are on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. […]The false equivalence that blames both parties for the cuts to science funding, the lack of research and our inadequate response to global warming will only make it harder to shame the party responsible for its intransigence. The idea that Republicans are anti-science isn’t a caricature. It’s a sad fact.
This doesn’t seem like an especially tough call. As nice as it was for George W. Bush to take a passing interest in a mission to Mars, the truth is, Republicans neglect science when they’re not actively opposed to it.
Long-time readers may recall us having this conversation before, several years ago, and what was true then remains true now: the Republican mainstream rejects scientific evidence on everything from global warming to stem-cell research to evolutionary biology to sex-ed.
GOP assaults on science were so intense during the Bush era a friend of mine wrote a best-seller on the subject.
Matters have not improved since. Republicans are still opposed to climate science and still even questioning evolutionary biology. Marco Rubio struggled with a question about the age of Earth, and Paul Broun believes cosmology, biology, and geology are, quite literally, “lies straight from the pit of Hell” – and Republicans put him on the House Science Committee.
In this case, the “common perception” is correct. When it comes to science and politics, there’s a meaningful difference between the parties.