With Republicans fighting the very existence of global warming , pushing to end the teaching of evolution in our schools and curriculum, and even banning research on stem cells, they have been aptly described as the "anti-science" party. This is a label that was fairly earned with Presidential candidates like Michele Bachmman issuing statements like "Carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas; it is a harmless gas … And yet we’re being told that we have to reduce this natural substance and reduce the American standard of living to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occurring in the Earth.”
Republicans like Sarah Palin will go further and try to question science altogether saying “These global warming studies [are] a bunch of snake oil science.” Republicans like former Senator Todd Akin who has denied science at every turn, will often make up his own findings with grotesque and inaccurate assumptions like his famous comments on rape "First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
The Republican Party has been an opponent of science ever since it has contradicted their party platform. However, Democrats are not free from their own baseless assertions that fly in the face of science. In fact, some of the most passionate grassroots movements in the Democratic Party oppose findings made by scientists and work to discredit their notions as "corrupt" or as Sarah Palin eloquently put it "snake oil science."
GMO Bans and Labeling
On June 30th, 107 Nobel laureates signed a latter urging Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Nobel laureate Randy Schekman, a cell biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, told The Washington Post, “I find it surprising that groups that are very supportive of science when it comes to global climate change, or even, for the most part, in the appreciation of the value of vaccination in preventing human disease, yet can be so dismissive of the general views of scientists when it comes to something as important as the world’s agricultural future.”
For the answer on GMOs, a good place to start would be what science has said about these bio-engineered organisms. Scientific and regulatory agencies around the world have repeatedly and consistently found crops and foods improved through biotechnology to be as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production. There has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption. Their environmental impacts have been shown repeatedly to be less damaging to the environment, and a boon to global biodiversity.
Not only have GMOs increased the safety and quality of some foods, GMOs have led to way to fight global hunger. Norman Borlaug or as you may know him as "The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives" is one of only seven people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Why? Borlaug led the induction of high-yielding crops to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. Within in a year Mexico became a net exporter of wheat, and Pakistan and India more than doubled their wheat yields. It was an agricultural revolution that changed farming as we know it and allowed nations that were heavily dependent on foreign aid and food security programs from the West to now have the ability to feed themselves.
Democrats have led the way in states like Washington and Vermont to label GMO foods which is both difficult to do and counter-productive to healthy living. Liberal organizations such as Greenpeace have painted Monsanto as an evil corporation, hell-bent on using GMOs to control the population. By instilling a fear of GMOs among their base, they have rejected science and put life-saving technology at risk.
It is unclear if the anti-vaccine movement has a political leaning. Liberals and conservatives do disagree on where exactly the anti-vaccine movement is centered, with both groups more likely to ascribe anti-vaccine politics to the other side. By a 15-point margin, liberals think conservatives are more anti-vaccine; conservatives say the same thing about liberals by the same margin. A 2009 Pew Research survey, which indicated that Democrats and Republicans appear to support child vaccination equally (71 percent of both favor it). Both parties agree with vaccinations overall, but 30% of each party have their reservations about it.
There are even some prominent Democrats like Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin who is working to keep its state's "philosophical" exemption clause for vaccines. Scientists warn about these exemptions because if the 30% who do not believe in vaccines were allowed to opt-out of mandatory vaccines diseases like polio, measles, and even whooping cough could begin to rise again and lead to an epidemic. Vaccines work best when every single child gets the vaccine at an early age to prevent the spread of the disease in the first place.
Of course, there are more prominent Republicans who speak out against vaccines like Donald Trump who tweeted last March "Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes - AUTISM. Many such cases!" Democrats have claimed that comparing them to the Republicans in terms of anti-science, is a false equivalency. Trump with his 3rd grade vocabulary and the phrase "AUTISM. Many such cases!" gives them some ground to make that claim. However, even though Trump's comments are bombastic, Governor Shumlin is pushing for the same legislation exemption that Trump is. The point is that the Democrats are not free from the label of anti-science if they continue to align closer to these science deniers than they do with the scientists themselves.
Nearly 1,000 children a day are now dying because of climate change according to Climate Vulnerability Monitor, a study commission by the U.N General Assembly. They believe that climate change is costing the world economy $1.2 trillion a year and responsible for 400,000 deaths annually. One of the leading causes of climate change detailed in the report is our dependency on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas that contribute greatly to respiratory problems and deaths world wide. One major solution detailed in the report is a substantial and unprecedented increase of alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and yes nuclear power.
There are many myths about nuclear power from safety, to cyber security threats, to the actual impact of nuclear waste. However, when we are forced to look at the deaths associated with nuclear power it is negligible compared to the deaths caused by poor air quality and climate change that coal and gas have helped cause. In fact, there are more recorded deaths from wind energy in terms of construction and installation then there have been from nuclear energy. There are obviously major risks with nuclear energy, but with climate change threatening the existence of humanity, it is important to look at this readily available technology that places like France have relied on for more than 75% of their electricity for nearly 40 years now.
Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign issued a sweeping plan to combat climate change that was closer to a wet-dream for environmentalists then an actual plan. Bernie pushed to reduce emissions by 40%, a ban on oil drilling offshore and in the Arctic, and a total phaseout of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. However, the major flaw in Bernie's plan is calling for a total phaseout of nuclear energy. A recent modeling report by Third Way, a centrist think tank, showed that shuttered American nuclear plants would likely be replaced by natural gas—increasing net emissions.
Michael Shellenberger, one of the founders of the“ecomodernist” philosophy, stated that “under Sanders’ proposal to not re-license nuclear plants, U.S. carbon emissions would increase by a minimum of 2 billion tons, about the same amount as the U.S. produces each year making electricity.” Though Sanders says he would replace that nuclear with solar and wind, Shellenberger notes that “as long as there is any fossil fuel on the grid, lost nuclear power is always replaced by fossil fuels. Even if it is nominally replaced by renewable power, a kilowatt-hour of renewable electricity that replaces lost nuclear electricity is a kilowatt-hour that is not available to displace coal and gas from the grid."
It is fair to say that Republicans are more anti-science then the Democrats. Rejection of evolution is the rejection of everything that makes biology make sense. Rejection of the impacts of global warming threaten our existence while lining the pockets of industries that are hurting the planet. Republicans have denied science when it threatens their agenda, but we shouldn't ignore when the Democrats do the same thing. Negative positions on vaccines, GMOs, and nuclear power contradict the science community's findings and we shouldn't trust our leaders more than the people who are actually doing the work.