We are at war. I do not refer to the war in Afghanastan (though that too) but rather to the war between the religious right, Republicans, the 1% and various anti-science forces on one hand and everybody else on the other. Indeed, it is standard political wisdom that Fundamentalist Christians and Republicans constitute an overlapping (and where not overlapping, highly cooperative) group standing in opposition to science.
Well, actually, no. New research released literally moments ago suggests that things are a bit more complicated than this. It turns out that generally speaking, religious people in the US feel that he US is not spending enough on alternative energy while at the same time we are spending enough on defense. Have a look at the following image, depicting the results of a new poll by JZ Analytics and commissioned by ScienceDebate Dot Org:
Here, we see that in answer to the question of whether or not a science debate on issues of health care, climate change,e nergy, etc. should occur, the vast majority of people, regardless of religious affiliation, feel that such a debate should happen . In fact, one could argue that only a very small percentage of people, for some reason or another, think that it should not. The number of people who seem to think that a science debate should not happen is in the same order of magnitude of those who believe in Bigfoot, Atlantic, or Alien Abduction. I’m not saying they are the same exact people, of course. I’m just sayin’
When we look at party affiliation, we see that Democrats strongly agree with the idea of the debate in higher proportion than do Republicans, but similar, and very large majorities do in fact want the debate to happen:
Similar results pertain to related questions, such as, “should policy be based on the best available science, vs. personal opinions or beliefs.”
That is all rather astonishing until you realize that it makes no sense for the 1% or big business to be “against” science. They rely on science. They get rich off of science. They own science, in a way. But, they don’t want the people making science policy, so they made up this anti-science movement and have somehow gotten the press to comply with their strategy.
The most important finding of this survey may, however, may be about something else. This is the spending priorities of various groups. When people are asked to rank what we should spend our tax dollars on, the first thing most peole say is paying down the federal deficit; 62% of respondents think we don’t spend enough on that. Next comes developing alternative energy. The number of people who think we are spending too much on science and math education and scientific research is tiny, with a large majority of people saying that we are spending enough or not enough on those areas.
Interestingly, a very large number of people, about 32%, claim we are spending too much on space exploration. This is a bit like asking people how much we spend on aid to foreign countries; most people have no idea how much we actually do spend, or on the percentage of our budget allocated to those areas, or in the case of space exploration, how integrated much of that is with Earth-based science on one hand and defense on the other. (In other words, most people probably consider the entirety of NASA’s budget as “space exploration” but think that mainly means “going to mars” when it actually means, in large part “looking at the earth.”)
The most important finding of the survey is probably this one:
Eighty-one percent of Republicans … said it is inappropriate for elected officials to hold back or interfere with scientific reports that conflict with their own views, along with just seventy-five percent of Democrats.