Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Party of Ignorance

Paul Krugman notes examples of how the Republican party seeks to suppress evidence that contradicts its beliefs in The New York Times.

Last week Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, gave what his office told us would be a major policy speech. And we should be grateful for the heads-up about the speech’s majorness. Otherwise, a read of the speech might have suggested that he was offering nothing more than a meager, warmed-over selection of stale ideas.

To be sure, Mr. Cantor tried to sound interested in serious policy discussion. But he didn’t succeed — and that was no accident. For these days his party dislikes the whole idea of applying critical thinking and evidence to policy questions. And no, that’s not a caricature: Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach “critical thinking skills,” because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Krugman's other examples of GOP denial:
  • Cantor called for an end to federal funding of social science research.
  • Opposition to funding comparative medical effectiveness research.
  • Opposition to funding research on the effects of climate change.
  • Suppression of the Congressional Research Service study showing that tax cuts for the wealthy are unrelated to economic growth.
Krugman neglected to mention the GOP's support for voter identification legislation despite a complete lack of evidence for the widespread in-person voter fraud the legislation was designed to prevent.

Krugman concludes:

O.K., at this point the conventions of punditry call for saying something to demonstrate my evenhandedness, something along the lines of “Democrats do it too.” But while Democrats, being human, often read evidence selectively and choose to believe things that make them comfortable, there really isn’t anything equivalent to Republicans’ active hostility to collecting evidence in the first place.
The truth is that America’s partisan divide runs much deeper than even pessimists are usually willing to admit; the parties aren’t just divided on values and policy views, they’re divided over epistemology. One side believes, at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts; the other believes in suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs.

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