Michele Bachmann's easily one of the GOP's most prominent candidates. She also has scientific views from the 15th century, claiming both earthquake '11 and Irene were divine warnings. That's insane. She's not alone. And that's absolutely terrifying.
Let me be clear up front. To be a Republican is not to be a philistine, or against science by default. There are conservatives across every field of every science, and I mean no indictment against them, because there's no grounds for one. There are plenty of doctors and scientists who also vote GOP. But as an institution, the Republican Party of today is determined to subvert the progress of science, to subordinate it to the interest of shareholders instead of the brilliance of researchers.
Bachmann's disaster bleating was frantic and crazy, yes:
"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?'"
But it's also vehemently anti-scientific. Hurricanes and earthquakes are phenomena of the natural world. We don't always predict them correctly, but we sure as hell understand why they happen. And it isn't to terrify Congress.
Michele's anti-empirical claims — that's she'll magically make gas cost $US2 a gallon, that global warming is based on "manufactured science", "all voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax", that "carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas", her Dark Ages, fingers-in-ears opposition to evolution — aren't the exception. Bachmann isn't a beastly deviant — she's just a well-pedicured emblem of Republican anti-scientism.
Bachmann's easy to eviscerate — and laugh off — on The Daily Show, but it's also the case, almost without exception, across the fleet of 2012 GOP contenders. fellow Republican contenders are just as dead set against science. Perry, Romney, Santorum, Bachmann, Gingrich, Paul, Cain — almost all denounce climate change, the existence of the EPA, and the veracity of evolution. Perry's described climate change as a fraud perpetrated by "a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data". Santorum says pinning warming on humankind is "patently absurd". Paul's stated he doesn't "accept evolution as a theory". Bachmann, Paul, and Santorum all openly support creationism in schools, with Romney and Gingrich taking ambiguous hybrid views on evolution. If one of them is elected president next year — and that could certainly happen, with much of the country soured on Obama — anti-scientific policies could make the hop from debate podiums to legislation.
One of the two viable political parties in the United States has an institutional agenda against scientific fact. That's very bad.
The GOP's refusal to believe the world's smartest people isn't accidental. It's smart strategy. As the party of business, the GOP has to oppose scientific findings that threaten business. That means denying climate change — because the reform to fix it would cost corporations money. That means pushing for the abolition of the EPA — because environmental regulations cost corporations money. In order to fight for a society in which smokestacks flow freely and all slimy shit in christendom can be dumped into lakes, the science that says these things are bad and dangerous has to be suppressed. Or at least opposed and dismissed. It's a typical tactic across the GOP gamut, to wave off science as silly, contrived, made-up, voodoo and various other demeaning adjectives. It's been this way for decades, but with the infiltration of Tea Party loons like Bachmann, the blinders are strapped on extra tight—and non-business worm-cans like creationism are popped open too.
By not having to take an issue seriously, the GOP can remain unengaged with the empirical world. It doesn't have to refute decades of research, scientific journals, virtually all of western academia, and other trivialities. It can just say, Oh whatever, that's a laugh! and move on.
The NYT's Paul Krugman notes that the problem's gotten so bad, even some Republicans are admitting it. Jon Huntsman doesn't have a chance in hell of being our next president, but he had the balls to not tow the GOP's oil-coated line of ignorance; he's not afraid to acknowledge that evolution is real, that global warming is scientific fact.
According to Gallup, he's now polling at 1 per cent.