The consensus as I've experienced as a researcher is that (1) ignorant political attacks will not affect our ability to get work done, and (2) it is not our job to help the public understand our work. I think both claims are wrong, and potentially dangerous to the future of science.
In the 6th century BC, the shrewd general and philosopher developed his influential military strategy against the backdrop of China's "Warring States" era. It is, unfortunately, more applicable than ever.
The culture of anti-science is creating an alternative universe of meaning in which scientific practices and findings, which tend to subvert fundamentalist social and cultural and political principles, are suspect and/or dismissed.
Perhaps conservatives realize that their attractiveness is dependent on ignorance at many levels: ignorance of the Constitution; ignorance of the importance of science; ignorance of their own ignorance.
As the power of science increases, certain segments of the population cling to religion and popular myths in order to defend against reason and expertise. They are now quickly becoming corporate pawns.
The Inquisitions were infamous for their intolerance and hostility to science. Six centuries later, we still have wannabe inquisitors among us, and they are growing their ranks through the support of like-minded candidates.
Palin's popularity in segments of society indicates that a portion of the voting population has come to disdain science, objective truth and the benefits resulting from our waning period of enlightenment.
The biggest obstacle to enacting health reform in our time may not be an unenlightened populace, whose notions are so misguided that the very things they are opposing aren't even on the table from the beginning.