The GOP’s Denial of Science Primed Them for the Illogic of Trump

Jul 1, 2016

By Phil Plait

Part of the problem with being a vocal advocate for critical thinking is deciding just which facet of nonsense to spend time fighting. The forces of anti-reality present a huge number of fronts, making triage a necessity.

As an astronomer I of course have certain pet projects; I’ve taken on astrology, Moon landing deniers, cosmic doomsday promulgators, and geocentrists. But a background in science allows me to broaden that approach, and I will happily help shoulder the load to debunk the claims of climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, homeopaths, and young-Earth creationists.

Some of these present a more pressing need than others, of course. Astrology is a minor issue compared with, say, someone who supports abstinence-only education.

But they’re all there, all the time, creating a background buzz of hogwash, an atmosphere of denial of science, evidence, and rational thinking … and that can have devastating consequences.

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8 comments on “The GOP’s Denial of Science Primed Them for the Illogic of Trump

  • “We’ve arranged a global civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”
    ― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

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  • @OP – Some of these present a more pressing need than others, of course. Astrology is a minor issue compared with, say, someone who supports abstinence-only education.

    That depends on the geographical location and the political and legal set up. – Sex and relationship education (SRE) is compulsory from age 11 onwards. It involves teaching children about reproduction, sexuality and sexual health. It doesn’t promote early sexual activity or any particular sexual orientation.

    Some parts of sex and relationship education are compulsory – these are part of the national curriculum for science. Parents can withdraw their children from all other parts of sex and relationship education if they want.

    In health education in the UK, the idiot MP David Tredinnick (a member of the parliamentary science committee – who fortunately failed in his bid to become its chairman) is actively promoting astrology as a solution the the problems of understaffing and under funding of NHS medical services!

    I know what would solve crisis in the NHS, says Tory MP: astrology
    David Tredinnick, the MP for Bosworth in Leicestershire, predicts that if doctors look to the stars they will find ways to treat patients and take huge pressure off the NHS

    A Tory MP has claimed NHS over-crowding could be solved by doctors using astrology to treat patients.

    David Tredinnick said consulting the stars would “take huge pressure off doctors” and predicts astrology will “have a role to play in healthcare.”

    The MP for Bosworth in Leicestershire also admitted he had prepared astrological charts for fellow MPs.

    In an interview with this month’s Astrological Journal, the controversial MP said: “There would be a huge row over resources.

    “However, I do believe that astrology and complementary medicine would help take the huge pressure off doctors.

    His is classic indulgence in psychological projection!

    Tredinnick: “The opposition (to astrology) is based on what I call the SIP formula – superstition, ignorance, and prejudice

    For some reason, his constituents keep re-electing this muppet!

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  • @OP – Make America think AGAIN?

    Or in the case of some backwaters, still besotted with the delusional religion their colonising ancestors imported with them: – Begin educating in the initial stages of rational thinking, despite the push-back from the puppets hosts of god-delusions!

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  • “Stupid” is not a nice word, and you can substitute exploited or uneducated if you wish. They are uneducated, for the most part, and here are two articles that can back it up. The red states are filled with uneducated people and are being exploited. The stupid (uneducated, if you prefer) majority. That is a phrase that Mailer coined and it is what the GOP feeds on: they pray, Trump and his ilk literally pray, that more than fifty percent of the electorate remains stupid! There are other factors but that is the main one, the one that explains why masses of people vote against their own interests.

    Read, please.

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  • Speaking of education and the election, I had no idea it was quite this bad. Is it like this in England too? No real progressive voices on these networks. No real outspoken critics. All controlled by the corporate executives on top. Awful. No real reporting, as Ashley Banfield courageously says in the video (who was fired along with all the rest), just coverage. No way to know what’s going on unless you really dig, and how many of us are going to do that? The corporate media is hurting us. The corporations are like a huge suction tube, and we will destroy the environment, wage more wars and so on.
    (Hillary is better than Trump, but with the paucity of real journalism on TV it’s hard for many people to know the difference between one thing and the other.) Amy Goodman from Democracy Now and ex-MSNBC journalists tell the hard truth about what they should be covering and about the corporate owned media which controls what we see and hear!
    Watch this. It’s frightening.

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  • Its not like this here, Dan. Its not good but its not as scary as this.

    We have stricter media monopoly legislation and both the BBC and Channel 4 are public service activities funded by license and adverts respectively.

    The BBC gets it wrong by creating false balances as a cover for fairness and also being too sensitive to politician threats of defunding. I did hear however a BBC review of their own performance on balance and the use of facts and statistics. The report said that they had failed to clarify the truth of statistics certainly in the hands of less trained journalists who settled too often for “on the one hand, on the other” and that training was needing to help point up the truth of the situation.

    Comedians (of a John Oliver type) occupy an important role in presenting disdain for politicians and business folk and these often have high profile if non news slots.

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  • Phil

    Yes, John Oliver plays an important role as do novelists (although their influence and prestige has diminished since Hemingway’s time) and filmmakers, etc.; and we have (or had) Jon Stewart and a few others. But that’s not enough; Oliver and Stewart et al are comedians. The corporate owned media. Very serious problem. And Sanders was so right: we need campaign finance reform. One thing that really bugs me, Phil, is that a fair amount of young people who supported Bernie (something like twenty percent) are supporting Johnson, a truly evil man. He supports policies that Sanders vehemently opposes. That is a reflection, to a large degree, of the paucity of real journalism on television and other factors: ignorance, laziness (conservatism) indoctrination – factors that are a reflection of misinformation, and aggravated by the low-level, corporate-owned media.

    The good news is that Hillary, according to Nate Silver at, is doing very well. Silver is a genius pollster and statistician. He is the definitive pollster and was wrong in a prediction only once. Not a bad record. You are familiar with him, right? Check out the site.

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  • Dan,

    Oliver is connecting with 4.6 million viewers per week (Maher, 4.0 million).

    I think we have a huge problem of engagement with the young. I am increasingly suspecting a failure of the sense of danger to their political choices. And paradoxically a new kind of passive self-centred-ness that buys being left in peace by not offending others.

    Satire breaks through and always has. Those pamphleteers that I love used it often.

    Comedy per se counts for nothing, but satire, ridicule, outrage at the stupid is powerful stuff… Anger is an emotion that can really get things done.

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