The Anti-Science Left vs. the Anti-Science Right

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


Today, Chris Mooney takes on the idea that both liberals and conservatives are equally anti-science. He admits that some anti-science views are more common on the left than on the right, and he specifically mentions attitudes toward GM foods, nuclear power, vaccines, and the biological basis of human behavior. But since I think he buries the lead a bit, I want to put it front and center. Here’s the big difference between the two sides:

What’s striking about each of these cases is that on the left, you fail to see a mainstreaming of anti-science views. Indeed, the Obama administration is very pro-nuclear! And that’s typical: What you get on the left is a heck of a lot of dissension and pushback against those who are making scientifically questionable claims—and, as has clearly occurred in the vaccine case, the ultimate banishment of these bad ideas from intellectually serious company.

And what that means is that anti-science doesn’t shape policy in the same way on the left.

Exactly. There are certainly areas where lefty activists are at odds with the mainstream of scientific opinion. For the most part, though, there’s very little pandering to these groups. There are plenty of liberals who side with the science community and push back hard against the activists. You find very little of that on the right.

What’s even more important is that these views very seldom affect public policy until and unless they get widespread support from mainstream scientists. Last year, even a petition that did nothing more than ask the FDA to require labeling of GM foods—just about the mildest anti-GM position possible—was able to muster the support of less than a quarter of the Democratic caucus in Congress. For better or worse, this kind of stuff simply doesn’t get much political traction until the scientific community is on board with it.

There are other differences too, but this is the big one. Lots of people are going to disagree with the scientific consensus on lots of different subjects. But only one party has decided to turn it into a war.

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you'll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Or at least we hope. It’s fall fundraising time, and we’re trying to raise $250,000 to help fund Mother Jones’ journalism during a shorter than normal three-week push.

If you’re reading this, a fundraising pitch at the bottom of an article, you must find our team’s reporting valuable and we hope you’ll consider supporting it with a donation of any amount right now if you can.

It’s really that simple. But if you’d like to read a bit more, our membership lead, Brian Hiatt, has a post for you highlighting some of our newsroom's impressive, impactful work of late—including two big investigations in just one day and covering voting rights the way it needs to be done—that we hope you’ll agree is worth supporting.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate