09/09/2010 07:16 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nature Editorial Slams GOP for Anti-Science Tendencies

There is no getting around the fact that the U.S. Republican Party simply hates science.  It didn’t used to be that way.  But it is now, and the timing of a recent uptick in this phenomenon couldn't be worse.  

“The anti-science strain pervading the right wing in the United States is the last thing the country needs in a time of economic challenge.”

That is the subtitle of an excellent editorial today in the journal Nature, “Science Scorned”, which discusses how dangerous this trend is, pointing out that:

There is a growing anti-science streak on the American right that could have tangible societal and political impacts on many fronts — including regulation of environmental and other issues and stem-cell research.

Nowhere is the right wing’s anti-science stance more starkly apparent than on the issue of climate change, as Nature notes:

Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. [Rush] Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”, has called climate-change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world.

Nature is a highly respected journal, and it is encouraging to see the editors take a strong stand against the GOP’s betrayal of science and reason. Science should never be confused with politics, but the recent antics of the Republican Party leave no alternative but to acknowledge that the Right's attack on science must be addressed directly by the scientific community. 

Author Chris Mooney dove into this topic in great depth in his New York Times bestselling book The Republican War On Science, and other outlets have contributed more recent commentary on this scary trend as well.  

RL Miller posted an excellent blog recently on Grist titled “Stupid goes viral: The Climate Zombies of the new GOP.”  And Grist’s own David Roberts expanded on that piece to make abundantly clear the fact that the anti-science crusade launched by the GOP is not happening in isolation, but rather as part of a larger GOP effort to undermine public confidence in respected institutions, from academia to media, government to science. 

But GetEnergySmartNow! notes that, at least for now, the general public still holds science and scientists in high regard, referring to a 2009 Pew Research poll. 

That confidence must remain if the U.S. is ever going to address global warming in a meaningful way.

It is troubling that the contemporary state of American political discourse obliges people who know better to stifle themselves on this issue [climate change]. So long as segments of the American political elite feed voters cynical lines on global warming, and large numbers of voters believe them, America will continue to get the political leadership it deserves, and face the serious consequences of inaction.

Unfortunately, the biggest loser in the 2010 elections might not be the Democratic Party, but science itself.