It’s no secret that conservatives have been stereotyped as being anti-science for years, and, like all stereotypes, there’s a grain of truth.
Nine decades after the Scopes Trial, public schools in Republican-controlled Louisiana and Tennessee teach creationism alongside evolution as if the two are equally valid theories. Despite a clear scientific consensus, one recent Pew poll found that only 46 percent of Republicans believe that there’s “solid evidence the earth is warming.”
Yet, antiscientism sees no party lines. While it’s certainly true that many conservatives need to hit the books on their basic biology, several popular liberal stances are just as factually ignorant. Here’s a list of three:
1. Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking)
For all vitriol environmentalists have spewed about fracking in recent years, many undoubtedly cannot even explain what it is. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as it is more derogatorily shortened, is the simple practice of pumping a mixture of 99 percent water (hence “hydro-”) and 1 percent sand and chemicals onto rocks deep below the earth’s surface to release trapped oil. The fracking fluid of oil and water is then pumped from the ground and refined for consumption.
In this March 29, 2013 photo, a worker helps monitor water pumping pressure and temperature, at the site of a natural gas hydraulic fracturing and extraction operation run by Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., outside Rifle, in western Colorado. Proponents of hydraulic fracturing point to the economic benefits from vast amounts of formerly inaccessible hydrocarbons the process can extract. Opponents point to potential environmental impacts, with some critics acknowledging that some fracking operations are far cleaner than others. Credit: AP
Although the technique has been standard practice for more than 60 years, fracking has ignited the fury of environmentalists recently because of the industry’s shift to horizontal drilling to capture oil in the most hard-to-reach places. Environmentalists worry that fracking fluid can somehow seep into aquifers thousands of feet above shale formations and contaminate drinking water.
While there have been a few isolated instances of such pollution, every known case has been the result of human error and not seeping caused by the technique itself. Even the U.S. Department of Energy admitted in a recent preview of a forthcoming study on fracking at Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale that “nothing of concern has been found thus far.”
Such liberal antiscientism has very real world economic effects, as several states have passed chemical disclosure laws and numerous municipalities have banned fracking altogether. North Dakota, on the other hand, has refused to regulate what’s not broken and is experiencing an economic boom as a result. Currently, the Peace Garden State has the lowest unemployment rate in the Union at 2.6 percent. More states can follow suit by rejecting liberal antiscientism to instead embrace fracking’s economic godsend.
2. Keystone XL Pipeline
The Keystone Pipeline is another energy issue that has spawned environmental ire despite years proving its safety. As it stands today, Keystone extends from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta to the Gulf Coast of Texas, pumping hundreds of thousands of barrels per day for refinement. In 2012, Keystone’s owner TransCanada proposed an expansion cutting through the Great Plains to Nebraska that they dubbed XL.
Environmentalists stage a protest to coincide with a fundraising event by U.S. President Barack Obama on May 13, 2013 in New York City. Hundreds of demonstrators marched to protest the building of oil pipelines and calling for the end of hydraulic fracking for oil and gas. Credit: Getty Images
XL’s expansion would create thousands of jobs directly in its construction and maintenance as well as indirectly through its ripple effects throughout the economy. However, environmentalists have stymied the project by conjuring up every conceivable objection to the project — from potential oil spills to greenhouse gas emissions.
Fortunately, the State Department is not falling for their charade. Last month, the bureau issued its final impact report on the project, concluding that XL would cause no significant environmental damage and create 42,000 jobs.
Despite all the green lights, President Obama has not given final approval of the project yet, giving pause to environmentalists’ false fervor. Surely a former Harvard Professor should see through this antiscientism and do what’s best for American jobs.
3. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Undoubtedly the most infuriating pet issue of the anti-science left is that of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) such as fruits and vegetables commonly sold at grocery stores. While there is at least a hint of a scientific debate about the effects of fracking and Keystone XL, no study whatsoever has ever shown ill effects from human consumption of GMOs. All the fuss about GMOs “playing God with nature” is based in complete and utter fiction.
People hold signs during a demonstration against agribusiness giant Monsanto and genetically modified organisms (GMO) in front of the White House in Washington on May 25, 2013. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Yet, GMO conspiracy theorists nonetheless have been fiercely pushing for companies to label their products as genetically modified — or for governments to force them to do so. While this may seem like an awfully innocuous solution at first glance since the consumer’s choice is ultimately preserved, the labeling movement is rooted in the same flawed logic as creationists that insist on teaching their religious beliefs alongside evolution in public schools. Both camps ultimately want to present consumers with more information so they can make a choice of what to believe (evolution vs. creationism) or consume (GMOs vs. other foods).
Unfortunately this more-information-the-merrier thinking relies on the underlying assumptions that there is a scientific debate. In the case of both evolution and GMOs, there’s a clear consensus. Thus, neither American schoolchildren or the public at large should have their so-called “choice” corrupted by antiscientism.
Sadly, this short list is only a glimpse at the extent liberal antiscientism has reached into popular culture. Are you concerned about overpopulation? Worried that your cell phone could give you cancer? If so, you too have been victim. It’s high time the American public stops being duped by such charlatans on both the left and right.
Casey Given is an editor and political commentator at Young Voices, a startup aimed at promoting Millennials’ policy voice in the media.
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