Reality has never been a particular concern of science denialists. Creationists are not interested in learning the facts of evolution anymore than the deniers of human aided climate change want to understand how our species’ byproducts effect the planet’s carbon cycle. “The human eye is too complex to have evolved,” they claim. So you turn on the television and call up your dvr’d copy of Cosmos, or pull a popular science book on evolution off the shelf, or if comfortable enough with the subject, just explain the fascinating way that natural selection crafted light sensitive spots on cells, step by step through out the long history of life on Earth, into the complex varieties of eyes found in nature today with your own words. And if you can actually get them to pay attention and follow along, the vast majority of the time the result is the same. They look you in the eye and say, “the human eye is too complex to have evolved.”
Most climate change deniers share this trait with evolution deniers; an ideological basis to their belief on the issue. The scientific evidence for both issues is overwhelming. The consensus is in, and any actual debate within the scientific community is on specific mechanisms and matters of degree. How much warmer is the climate going to get? How much can we limit the damage if we act now? Is there anyway to stop it now that we have started it? What other natural causes drove evolution other than natural selection? What role did gene transfers play early on in the history of life? The questions are endless, and the deniers are quick to use this legitimate scientific debate to try to make the public believe the consensus is much weaker than it is in truth. Stephen J Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium and the scientific debate surrounding it has been pulled out of context and used by creationists to paint evolution as a theory in crisis for decades. They do not care about the context because they do not care about the science. Their ideology tells them that God created us all six thousand years ago, or that men have dominion on Earth and God would never let us unbalance the cycles, or whatever their own particular reason for turning their backs on evidence, reason, and logic happens to be, and that is all that they care about the issue. The evidence against them becomes a conspiracy. The existence of a scientific consensus turns them into a persecuted minority. It becomes more than a question of scientific literacy. Suddenly it is a plot by the atheists to turn their children away from Christ. A trick by the secular left to convince people that we are only animals to change the nation’s sexual morality. An attempt by the Muslim in the White House to get us more dependent on oil from the Middle East by making the practically infinite reserves in our country untouchable. Or the final ploy of the pinko, socialist, homosexual hippies seeking to end the American way of life by forcing men to emasculate themselves and perform such humiliating actions as conserving, recycling, and driving a compact electric car instead of a manly Hummer 3, factory modified to burn coal.
Ideology before reality unfortunately has become a trend. Perhaps it always was so, at least for a certain segment of the population. I would love to yearn for a time past where people studied the evidence and reached rational conclusions on issues, using their new found knowledge to update their ideological worldview, rather than the tragic mirror image that seems so common today, but I question if any such time actually existed. If there is any sort of silver lining to this cloud that interferes with rational policy debate, it would be the unintentional comedy that results when people hostile to science try to claim a scientific basis for their ideological beliefs. Listening to a young earth creationist explain how the scientific evidence really does support a global flood a few thousand years in the past is practically identical to hearing a satirist skewer the same beliefs. There is a reason Poe has a law. The denialist doesn’t care if the scientifically literate thinks his arguments are insane. They only have to make sense to him, because scientific arguments are just accessories to the ideological certainty.
Today we will travel to the Kentucky state legislature to learn a bit about the climate on other planets in our solar system. Why Kentucky? Because it may be the only place in the nation where this specific fact can be learned. No university or high school teaches this bit of trivia, yet here in the Kentucky state Senate, Sen. Brandon Smith is straight up schooling people during a hearing on climate change:
“As you (Energy & Environment Cabinet official) sit there in your chair with your data, we sit up here in ours with our data and our constituents and stuff behind us. I don’t want to get into the debate about climate change, but I will simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There are no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.”
There is nothing at all I could possibly add to that. That is a State Senator. An elected official. As Ed Brayton points out in his post:
Smith has been elected to the Kentucky House four times and the Kentucky Senate twice.
That, my friends, is weapon grade idiocy.