04.14.10

Let the Snob Do It

Posted in Why the World Doesn't Need US at 3:11 pm by George Smith

One of the phenoms of modern journalism is that of the non-scientist reporter who gets to explain stuff about science the rest of us are deemed just too dim to fathom.

They’re ‘explainers’ and it’s not surprising to see how clownish they are at real explaining, although the grand places which employ them pretend not to notice.

Today’s case study is someone named Michael Specter.

This is how CNN describes him:

Michael Specter is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of “Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet and Threatens our Lives.” TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” hosts talks on many subjects and makes them available through its Web site …

Wow! The New Yorker! Effin-ay! Specter talks on many subjects and makes them available through his website! That certainly is something not too many people can do!

This is how Specter kicks off his bit at CNN:

American denialism threatens many areas of scientific progress, including the widespread fear of vaccines and the useless trust placed in the vast majority of dietary supplements quickly come to mind.

That’s his lede. Really.

Yes, growing American denialism is a threat. And what does our swell from the New Yorker want to talk about?

The stubborn denial of evolution? The GOP disbelief in global warming, a rejection of fact so profound and rabid it threatens to overturn any rational progress toward mitigating the problem for future generations.

No. Too obvious and dull. Let’s do dietary supplements!

“Nowhere has the screaming been louder, however, than in the fight over how we grow our food,” Specter continues. “If you are brave enough to set a Google Alert for the phrases ‘genetically modified food’ and ‘organic food,’ you will quickly see what I mean.”

DD knows much about denialism. There’s the creationist biochemistry prof from his school, Michael Behe, someone who has so contributed to screwing up national debate on the subject that university’s biology department has to have a disclaimer on its website about him.

There are the Bruce Ivins deniers. Despite the hard work of scientists in the service of the FBI, they still believe the anthrax was made elsewhere than at Fort Detrick. And that it was weaponized.

No amount of exposition, no reading of facts, dissuades them.

And just last week, although it wasn’t science, DD dealt with a Lehigh Valley rock band named Poker Face, one with a website that exists merely to rant about “Jew-suits”, “Zionazis” and how Hitler’s WWII concentration camps weren’t extermination camps, but work camps. They were really big supporters of Republican Ron Paul.

Of course, the most damaging denials are over climate and evolution. And these denialists are the exclusive property of the GOP.

“Denialists replace the open-minded skepticism of science with the inflexible certainty of ideological commitment,” writes Specter.

“It isn’t hard to find evidence: the ruinous attempts to wish away the human impact on climate change, for example. The signature denialists of our time, of course, are those who refuse to acknowledge the indisputable facts of evolution.”

Well, there you go. Specter has mentioned it! Remarkable! But there’s something big missing. Can you spot it?

Yes, I know you can. Nowhere does Specter mention that it’s the Republican Party which is the formost hater of science in the United States!

And there is no mention of the development of the strongly held belief within the GOP that ‘science’ is a political instrument or ideology of the opposition, one to be vigorously defended against wherever it is seen. It is the party of anti-enlightenment, the party of those who have contempt for science because science is a characteristic of the hated ‘elites.’

The GOP is the big tent for heevahavas and it couldn’t be plainer than the nose on your face. And you can’t have a responsibly run country, one that meets its commitments to the world, one that stands for something, when such people control national policy.

In fairness to Specter, perhaps he has written about this in his book and I have just not seen it.

Still — scan that column. After skipping all the real obvious stuff about American denialism on this high-rent real estate, look at what our swell has to say: The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is supporting scientists who are “engineering vitamins and micronutrients into cassava.”

“Who could be opposed to that?” he asks.

Good job. Atta boy!

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