Evolution in the News - May 2012
by Do-While Jones

Distrust of Science

A misleading report says conservatives don’t believe in science.

This news item caught our eye:

Just over 34 percent of conservatives had confidence in science as an institution in 2010, representing a long-term decline from 48 percent in 1974, according to a paper being published today in American Sociological Review.

That represents a dramatic shift for conservatives, who in 1974 were more likely than liberals or moderates (all categories based on self-identification) to express confidence in science. While the confidence levels of other groups in science have been relatively stable, the conservative drop now means that group is the least likely to have confidence in science. 1

This would seem to indicate that most self-identified conservatives don’t believe in science. That’s not really true. It would be more accurate to say conservatives are “the least likely to have confidence in reports about science by mainstream journalists.” If you actually read the article in the American Sociological Review, you will immediately see that the title is, “Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere: A Study of Public Trust in the United States, 1974 to 2010.” It isn’t about real science. The article is about how liberal journalists try to use pseudo-science to advance a political agenda.

Media Distrust

Conservatives don’t have confidence in the mainstream (liberal) news media for good reason. They know from personal experience how the media distorts the news to advance their political agenda. Conservatives don’t believe journalists who tell them things they know not to be true. Conservatives know that journalists say the conservatives are racist, bigoted homophobes who want to pollute the air and water. Since journalists lie about those things, how can they believe anything else liberal journalists say? Conservatives know that conservatives do trust science, and are offended by biased liberal reporting that says they don’t.

Biased Definitions

Conservatives know that liberal journalists say, “science” when they really mean “evolution” or “climate change.” Consider this article in the most recent American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) newsletter.

Oklahoma Anti-Science Legislation Fails Again.

After two anti-evolution bills, HB 1551 and SB 1742, died in committee, the same language appeared as an amendment to another bill, HB 2341, which would have extended a deadline for local school districts to meet standards for media, equipment and textbooks. The deadline for the legislature to consider that bill has now passed. Whether further amendments of this nature will appear in other bills, however, remains to be seen. The Oklahoma legislative session is scheduled to end on May 25 (more background appears here). 2

The title says, “Anti-Science Legislation” but the bill doesn’t prohibit the teaching of chemistry, math, or physics. It is anti-evolution legislation, not anti-science legislation; but liberals would like you to believe they are the same thing.

The link at the end of the AAAS article goes to an article title, “Antiscience effort falters in Oklahoma” written by the left-wing political pressure group we wrote about in a recent newsletter (the NCSE). 3

The Oklahoma legislation seeks to improve science education by making sure that students are fully informed about the pros and cons of the theory of evolution, but is called “anti-science.”

Facts and Opinions

Opinions are conclusions based on facts—but if the facts are known to be wrong, the conclusions can’t be trusted.

Conservatives don’t trust the opinions of liberal journalists because the opinions are often based on “facts” that conservatives know to be false. It doesn’t matter if the liberal journalists are honestly mistaken, or consciously lying. They have lost all credibility.

Here’s a recent example: Rush Limbaugh made some remarks about a woman named Sandra Fluke. Opinions may vary about whether or not these remarks were accurate or justified—that’s not the issue. Liberal commentators are certainly free to disagree with what Rush thinks. We aren’t taking any position as to whether what he said was right or wrong. We are only interested in how the liberal media reported what he said.

Conservatives who listened to the Rush Limbaugh program know what he said, and they know what liberal commentators said he said, and don’t believe that Limbaugh’s comments were reported accurately. Believing that Limbaugh’s comments were reported inaccurately, why would conservatives believe anything else those liberal journalists say?

Of course, it is true that what Rush said, and how he said it, could be interpreted differently by different people. The liberal journalists were (rightly or wrongly) reporting their opinion about what Rush said. Fair enough. They are entitled to express their opinions.

The liberal journalists also encouraged advertisers to boycott the Rush Limbaugh show. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

But then MSNBC identified many advertisers who had pulled their ads (including NBC). Conservatives who listen to Rush Limbaugh knew this was false because they heard for themselves that some of those advertisers were still advertising during the Rush Limbaugh program. (NBC ran 3 ads for the premier of Fashion Star the next day.) Who should the conservatives believe—the journalists or their own ears? The list of advertisers who had pulled their advertising was factually incorrect. Opinions based on incorrect facts are not valid.

Just before this newsletter went to press, there was an article about the boycott in a radio industry trade journal. It said,

Cumulus carries Rush Limbaugh 38 markets and blames 1% of the 3.5% drop in revenue for the quarter on the Rush boycott. 4

So, the truth is that Rush lost 1% of his sponsorship because of the boycott. It isn’t surprising that conservatives didn’t notice that 1 out of 100 commercials on the Rush Limbaugh program were missing. But the 1% decrease wasn’t the tremendous backlash the journalists reported, either. The journalists were guilty of exaggerating the boycott, especially in light of the fact that Rush only lost 1% during a miserable quarter when all the other Cumulus radio programs combined lost 2.5%.

Who Do You Distrust?

Let’s make this perfectly clear. Conservatives don’t distrust science—they distrust what journalists say about science because journalists have lost credibility by reporting “facts” conservatives know from personal experience to be false. Furthermore, the theory of evolution is a philosophical explanation of how life began and diversified—not real science.

Conservatives don’t question Newton’s laws of motion, or Maxwell’s equations, or the chemical reactions that power rockets. They question speculation about evolution and climate change when reported as “science” by people with an obvious political agenda and disregard for the truth.

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1 Scott Jaschik, March 29, 2012 - 3:00am, “Conservative Distrust of Science”, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/03/29/study-tracks-erosion-conservative-confidence-science
2 AAAS Policy Alert -- May 9, 2012
3 Disclosure, February 2012, “Is the Battle Over?”
4 Radio Ink Magazine, 7 May 2012, “Cumulus lost millions on Rush Limbaugh boycott”, http://www.radioink.com/Article.asp?id=2451234&spid=24698