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Rachel calls bull-pucky

Phil Plait is a Rachel Maddow fanboi and I can’t say I blame him. Though Rachel is fallible and has made mistakes before, more often than not, she hits the proverbial nail on the head, so when she gave her commentary on Climategate, the ACORN “scandal,” and other right-wing, anti-reality nonsense, Phil couldn’t resist linking to her video (and commenting on it…worth a read)… and I couldn’t resist watching it.

Another dead-on hammer-strike.

Phil rightly comments that the far right doesn’t have the copyright on nonsense, but the Republican “unholy alliance” it has formed with fundamentalist religion has led it to its pervasive anti-reality stance.

He concludes with this…

Global warming is real. Evolution is real. Vaccines do not cause autism. Homeopathy doesn’t work. These are facts, and they don’t care whether or not denialists spin, fold, and mutilate them. Until we face up to reality, however, they will spin, fold, and mutilate us.

I’ll drink to that.

Tom Tomorrow rounds up the crazy

Tom Tomorrow rounds up some denialist, right-wing, anti-science, creationist crazy… all in one comic.

This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow

Satire is a beautiful thing

Amazingly enough, there are still people who claim to understand the science behind global warming, yet make the mistake of thinking localized cold temperatures, such as the recent snowstorms in the Eastern United States, are somehow a refutation of global warming. It’s almost as if they don’t understand the meaning of the key word “global.”

Jon Stewart captures it (and mocks it) perfectly in this Daily Show clip.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Unusually Large Snowstorm

That bit makes fun of the “local versus global” aspect of global warming denialism and it is amusing, but at its heart is a serious issue… the denialist combination of ignorance and arrogance fueled by political and/or religious ideology. It’s a combination that inspires deniers to manufacture evidence, take evidence out of context, twist and distort evidence, and cherry pick evidence in their attempts to bolster their cause.

What makes it worse is that the denialist propaganda seems to be having its intended effect. Despite overwhelming evidence showing that our planet is warming faster than what natural cycles would indicate and that the warming is strongly affected by human activity, fewer and fewer people accept the science. What makes the denialist position so successful? Is it because their “evidence” is valid? …because their position is somehow warranted? Or is it, perhaps, that climate science is complicated… and therefore boring to a lot of people? Could it be that it takes too much effort to research the basics in order to gain a modicum of understanding of the science? …that real science is hard?

Here’s a hint. It’s not because denialist “evidence” is valid (and yes, the scare quotes are warranted).

Certainly, it’s far, far easier to look out the window at an above-average snowfall and conclude that no warming is occurring… and if that nicely-boxed conclusion is spruced up by your strongly-held ideology or by a level of (perhaps understandable) apathy that makes you susceptible to the loud voices of denialism, then it’s fairly easy to consider the matter closed and ignore any further evidence to the contrary.

That’s the scary result of politics trying to invalidate science… or religion trying to invalidate science. People get bad information and then they get the idea that there’s a controversy (where none should exist), or they start to think that scientists are full of crap, or that a biologist is the same as an astrophysicist (ie… a scientist is a scientist is a scientist), or that politicians have some sort of special “in” when it comes to the truth. People start to think that the scientific process is broken, or that a single mistake invalidates years (or even decades) of research, or that a scientist in a bitchy mood indicates that scientists are corrupt, or that scientists should be automatons who never get cranky when quote-mined by some junk-science-peddling politician.

The denialists’ position against global warming science is political, pure and simple. It can be summarized by the idea that, because the fix would be a hassle (or expensive), they want nothing to do with it. On that foundation is built their structure of misinformation… with twists, distortions, and lies… that only continues to stand because they yell loudly, they yell repeatedly, and they yell authoritatively. They do it with a self-righteous arrogance, implying that anyone who disagrees is not only wrong, but unpatriotic and stupid… perhaps socialist, too. They set up towering straw men to burn to the ground with their trite arguments, paying no mind to whether the argument is scientifically valid.

Despite all the denialists’ blustering, the thing they lack is truth. Perhaps truth isn’t important to them as long as they get their way, but truth is the intended destination of science.

The scientific process is self-correcting. Mistakes are sometimes made, but through the process, those mistakes are found and corrected. Science moves on, leaving behind an understanding of our world that is just a little bit better than before. That’s what science does. It moves. It progresses. It refuses to settle. It refuses to stop.

…and all the denialist blustering in the world won’t keep it from moving ahead.

The ignorance is astounding

I managed to get on the mailing list of Worldview Weekend, which tends to be one of the largest repositories on the internet for right-wing, religious, conspiracy-theory crazies. I leave myself on the list for entertainment purposes and I’ve yet to be disappointed. Unfortunately, it’s a little scary, too, because I know there are people who actually believe what’s being presented on the site.

This week, Phyllis Schlafly decided that she was going to take on the role of climatologist in a piece titled Global Warming Is Frozen Over, with predictable results. Here’s her opening salvo.

Whether or not the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2, there’s no denying that January put into a deep freeze the claims of crisis by global warming alarmists. Frigid temperatures destroyed fruit and coral in Florida, and snow fell on Al Gore’s palatial home in normally warmer Tennessee.

What I find most significant is that she thoroughly discredits herself in her first sentence by demonstrating a significant lack of understanding about global warming. She’s not the only one, though, as I’ve seen similar claims made by people all over the internet and even among my friends on Facebook. It’s as if Schlafly (and the others) completely overlook the meaning of the word “global” in “global warming.” They also tend to misunderstand (or ignore?) the difference between “climate” and “weather.” In addition, from what I’ve generally seen, they also have a very thin grasp on science in general… especially when science points to something that contradicts their firmly entrenched political or religious ideology.

Schlafly goes on to bring up the CRU email “scandal” (Climategate) which is essentially a manufactured controversy, calling the CRU an “official collaborator” with the IPCC. She says…

Those disclosures told the world about some scientists’ willingness to suppress climate-change data and rig the process in order to pretend there is consensus among scientists about global warming, to ostracize contrary views, and to promote their globalist agenda.

As anyone who’s honestly followed the incident knows, the CRU emails did no such thing. The inclusion of “globalist agenda” is also discrediting and points to her conspiracy-theory leanings, something which will no doubt endear her to global warming denialists everywhere.

In her rant, Schlafly says that lowering our level of emissions to the level that Obama has proposed will also lower our standard of living to 19th century levels, that Scott Brown’s election in Massachusetts “repudiated cap-and-trade,” and that Osama Bin Laden has blamed the United States for not stopping global warming (as if the notion that Bin Laden accepting global warming somehow means it’s not true). She also includes lengthy quotes from Czech Republic president Vaclav Klaus as if he is some sort of leading climatologist when it seems, based on the included quotes, that he’s basing his analysis on political ideology instead of on science.

Of course, no Worldview Times rant on global warming would be complete without a reference to Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth and, for an added bonus, Schlafly includes a slam on The Story of Stuff, a video that promotes conservation, albeit in polemic way.

In her conclusion, Schlafly says that what we need to do to solve unemployment and poverty is to increase our use of energy (which is Schlafly’s way of saying “burn more fossil fuels”). Think I’m kidding?

The main cause of unemployment and poverty is the lack of enough energy. Rather than expanding government to limit energy, we should be increasing the use of energy to eradicate hardship.

In the immortal words of Wikipedia… Citation needed.

Consistency is irrelevant to denialism

I follow the Skeptical Science blog and I took special interest to today’s post by John Cook about a debate featuring Ian Plimer and Christopher Monckton versus Barry Brooks and Graham Readfern. I’ve only heard Monckton speak before and he has shown himself to be mostly full of schlock conspiracy theories, smoothly twisting (or fabricating) facts to make his climate change denialist points.

However, aside from the debate summary, what I found interesting was one of the statements in Cook’s conclusion, which fits the denial-o-sphere so exceptionally well. Cook was explaining that, though Plimer and Monckton were both deniers, they reached their conclusions through contradictory points, one basing his conclusion (basically) on the idea that our climate is sensitive and the other basing his conclusion on the idea that it’s not sensitive. Both speakers got applause from the deniers in the audience when presenting their contradictory arguments.

Cook says:

In a sense, their combined approach perfectly encapsulates the way skeptic arguments are used to mislead. Layering argument upon argument, regardless of whether they display any internal consistency, isn’t about furthering scientific understanding but proving the preconceived notion that humans can’t be causing global warming. Two skeptic arguments can contradict each other, even on the same debating stage, so long as the common enemy of man-made global warming is refuted

Replace the topic of “global warming” with the topic of “evolution” and his conclusion is just as valid. To the deniers, consistency… or scientific evidence… or reality… isn’t important. What is important to them is to mislead… to twist the argument any way they can… to repeatedly bring up claims, regardless of whether the claims have long since been refuted… to use emotional or political arguments that have nothing to do with the science… to distort, cherry pick, and fabricate evidence in whatever way possible in their attempts to inject unwarranted doubt into the issue.

Why? Because they so want reality to conform to their pre-conceived political, ideological, or religious notions that they’re willing to use virtually any means at their disposal to keep their fortresses of self-delusion from tumbling down. I’ve seen that in action. I’ve heard deniers admit as much. What makes it worse is that they vigorously spread their misinformation, drag others down with them, and hobble any notion of having an intellectually honest discourse.

…because honesty… like consistency… like truth… is irrelevant to them.

If it’s cold, it’s evidence!

I find it noteworthy that the global warming deniers, many of whom were touting the recent cold snap in the USA as evidence against global warming, are strangely silent about the recent warm temperatures we’ve been having. In Pennsylvania, it was about 60 degrees this morning, which is pretty high for this time of year… not unheard of, but definitely high. The entire past week has been warmer than usual, actually.

Now, those who understand anything about climate change understand that local temperature variances really say nothing about global climate change (hence the word "global"), but the deniers latch onto this sort of thing and wave it around as if it somehow validates their conspiracy theories. The caveat is that they only do it when it suits their purposes. If there is contradicting "evidence," it is ignored.

Evolution deniers do the same thing… tout irrelevant things as evidence in support of their delusion, but ignore (or deny) evidence that refutes it. Anti-vaxxers do it, too… as do moon hoaxers, flat earthers, 9/11 truthers, and Obama birthers. It’s a common theme among conspiracy theorists.

And all that is fine… unless they have any political clout.

Sadly, that seems to be the case in some instances.

Those stupid scientists!

Calamities of Nature - Hot Debate From Calamities of Nature comes this comic (the image here is just the first panel). I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I’ve heard a similar argument made by Sam Harris concerning the word “elite” in a Newsweek essay about Sarah Palin and politics last year. Not exactly the same argument, but related.

The comic brings up a valid point (though highly simplified to fit into three panels) and I’ve commented on it before… with no small amount of disdain. The point is relevant to more than the topic addressed and I’ve encountered the same seeming inconsistency-of-thought regarding evolution, the age of the Earth, cosmology, and a few other science-related topics.

It’s an attitude that science is great… unless it conflicts with your political or religious ideology… that it’s better, in that case, to trust someone who’s not too educated, not too intelligent, not too well informed, not too “elite”… rather than someone who is highly trained in the related field.

Here’s the excerpt from Sam Harris’s article (to save you the time of searching the Newsweek article for it):

Ask yourself: how has “elitism” become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn’t seem too intelligent or well educated.

It’s a huge problem in this country today.

Steven Newton on Science Denialism

Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse links to an editorial by Steven Newton, a project director for the National Center for Science Education. The editorial is posted on Huffington Post, which, as Rosenhouse points out, is "not usually the go-to place for intelligent commentary on scientific issues," but in this case, Steven Newton represents the NCSE and does it quite well.

Some excerpts:

From evolution to global warming to vaccines, science is under assault from denialists–those who dismiss well-tested scientific knowledge as merely one of many competing ideologies. Science denial goes beyond skeptical questioning to attack the legitimacy of science itself.


Science requires conclusions about how nature works to be rooted in evidence-based testing. Sometimes progress is slow. But through a difficult and often frustrating process, we learn more about the world.

Science denialism works differently. Creationists are unmoved by the wealth of fossil, molecular, and anatomical evidence for evolution. Global-warming denialists are unimpressed by mountains of climate data. Denialists ignore overwhelming evidence, focusing instead on a few hoaxes, such as Piltdown Man, or a few stolen e-mails. For denialists, opinion polls and talk radio are more important than thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles.


Understanding science has never been more important than it is today. Critical issues such as climate change and the threat of newly evolved flu strains demand greater scientific literacy among the public and politicians. As long as scientists must squander their time defending their work from denialism, we will fall behind on our fundamental responsibilities.

Check out the full piece. Newton makes some great points about denialism, things I’ve seen happen over and over. What makes it increasingly frustrating is that the denialists themselves can’t recognize what they’re doing. They think they’re actually being scientific. They think they’re rational. They think they have actual damning evidence.

They’re not, they aren’t, and they don’t.

Teaching ignorance and bigotry

In the comments section of an American Spectator article about Wikipedia, while there are some good, valid warnings against using Wikipedia as a reputable source for everything, there are some pretty amazing comments…. and by “amazing,” I mean “hyperbolic, right-wing, anti-science, anti-intellectual” comments. Though the article is related to the issue of climate change, that’s not where I want to focus, but I did want to convey the source for this post.

One of the commenters, Margie, responding to a long display of denier talking-points and conspiracy theories, posted that her advice, as a solution, was home-schooling. Here’s her initial comment [sic].

My advise? Home school your children. You have to re educate them anyway when they come home from public school anyway if you want them to learn the truth. The truth being that our founding Fathers were not racists, that God created man, that 2 +2 really does equal 4.. that man really cannot control the environment but God does in His loving kindness since the very beginning of this wonderful planet He has given us, that abstinence really does work, that homosexuality is really sin and God did not make us that way.. and I am sure I am missing some other things too.

Home school if you can!

What she is suggesting is to teach ignorance… to teach willful ignorance of reality… to teach that it’s better to not question, to be satisfied with not knowing, to be bigoted and intolerant, and to believe despite a complete lack of evidence. I’ll grant her the 2 + 2 = 4 part and perhaps the founding fathers part (though I’m not sure the relevance), but aside from that, she’s suggesting we keep children ignorant. Worse, actually… that we keep them misinformed with falsehoods and fantasies.

There is a response by William to her post.

If you want to advise people about schooling, it would be a good idea to learn how to spell “advice”.

Did you know that the bible forbids you to eat weasels?

Though I generally find spelling corrections in comment threads to be a bit obnoxious, in this case it was somewhat relevant. The “weasel” comment was amusing, and if you check his website, it makes sense why he included it. The verse to which he refers is Leviticus 11:29-30, which states (in the King James translation):

29 These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind,

30 And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole.

Of course, Margie responds to William’s comment with…

Picky, picky, picky. Typical Leftist picking on the spelling. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t home schooled..ha!

Judging from your website I’d say you definitely weren’t. An atheist, are you?

Now that would be the real issue here, wouldn’t it?

Another sign that you weren’t home schooled is that you don’t know your Bible. It forbids no such thing, as God declared to call nothing unclean as far as animals, to eat! (Acts 10:13).

If you don’t know God, you know nothing.

Even if you do know how to spell.

It’s a disturbing response, but not surprising, given her previous comment (and the venue). First, he’s automatically a “Leftist.” Then she continues by stating that she’s deduced he’s a scientist (based on his website… it’s true), he’s not homeschooled (also probably true) and he’s an atheist (also true). None of that is an issue except, based on the rest of her comment style, it’s a pretty safe bet that she means it all as a bad thing. Of course, the cherry on top is that she says that his atheism is the “real issue here.” I beg to differ and think it’s more likely her love of ignorance and her belief in ancient mythology that is the “real issue here”… the issue being the quality of education.

Of course, according to Margie, not knowing your bible is also a sign that you’re not homeschooled. Since she wasn’t homeschooled, either, it makes sense that the verse she lists doesn’t say what she thinks it says. Acts 10:13 says (again King James)…

13 And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.

Perhaps she meant to add verses 14 and 15, but it’s hard to say.

14 But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.

15 And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.

That seems a bit contradictory to the Leviticus passage, but perhaps God changed his mind… and in context, it doesn’t seem to be particularly supportive of her claim, anyway.

In fact, there’s nothing about most of her claims that is supported by anything factual. She simply spouts unsubstantiated religious platitudes as if they are self-evident truths… in support of something that would be horrendously damaging to the intellectual stability (and development) of our country. In addition, she insinuates that being a scientist (and an atheist, though that’s not necessarily related) is somehow an indication of a poor education. That is a clear, cut and dry example of anti-intellectualism… the idea that the more education and training you receive, the less credible you become.

Margie displays a perfect example of the right-wing attitude that “well-educated” equals “untrustworthy.” She holds to her anti-education position by clinging to her religion’s dogma with pit-bull tenacity, evidence be damned, and decries anyone who doesn’t follow in her self-righteously pious footsteps as the “real issue here.”

Her attitude is one that, sadly, must be constantly challenged in this country. It’s an attitude that, unchecked, would lead us toward a theocracy full of ignorance, something that our founding fathers (something about which Margie makes a knowledge claim) would definitely have not wanted. Our purely secular Constitution is perfect evidence of that.

Of course, not all religious people are ignorant or bigoted or anti-intellectual… but the ones like Margie are. Unfortunately, they’re also loud and plentiful enough that their message tends to spread like wildfire, infecting the public discourse with disinformation, pseudo-science, blatant falsehoods, and vitriolic, spiteful indignation. Rational discussions and open, honest debates are nearly impossible in the environment they create. It’s frustrating. It’s sad. It’s pathetic.

But sadly, like Margie, it’s reality.

Climate Literacy Primer Follow-up

My post about a climate literacy brochure from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration drew a lengthy response from Tom, which he posted on his Facebook account. He also provided a link in the comments section of my post (to view his response, you need a Facebook account, but do not need to have him on your friends list). The response only briefly addresses my post, but addresses some of Tom’s concerns about climate change. I felt it warranted a follow-up for a number of reasons, but I will spare my readers a point-by-point analysis, since most of the science-related points that Tom makes are easily addressed with a bit of modest research.

(Note that, since Tom’s Facebook profile is public, I felt it not inappropriate to post excerpts from his response for the purposes of this follow-up. Please read his entire response to get the full context and meaning of the included excerpts. This follow-up post was made here because I generally keep my Facebook account free from political and religious material.)

Tom questions my motivating principles because my “About” page says that this blog was created as a “way to take action against the flood of religious fundamentalism that has been slowly taking control of the United States of America.” I’m not sure how that would invalidate science, but further in the about page, the stated method of taking action is “by promoting rational thought and honest, intellectual questioning.” Promoting science, which I do here on a regular basis, is an effective way of promoting rational thought.

Tom breaks down the climate issue as follows:

Unfortunately, the debate over anthropological global warming (AGW) is no longer a purely scientific endeavor. It cannot be, since the potential consequences are global and political. One side argues that if we do nothing, we are doomed. They want governments to take action through policy and regulation. The other side argues that to take action is a veiled attempt to further the reach of government power into private enterprise and personal freedom, which will stifle economic growth, creativity and human dignity.

I would further his first statement and say that the “debate” over climate change (for so long as there has actually been debate) has never been purely scientific. The science itself has been and remains scientific (if you will pardon the redundancy), but the debate started because of politics. There is very little scientific disagreement over the conclusions of climate change science, despite the claims of deniers. Tom brings up the Global Warming Petition Project (also known as the Oregon Petition) and the Heidelberg Appeal as evidence of scientific disagreement, but used for that purpose, both documents are questionable at best.

The last sentence in the above quoted paragraph, summarizing Tom’s position, is the one I find most telling. It has the very strong appearance of promoting a political conspiracy theory. Indeed, much of Tom’s response is an admission that he looks at climate change science, not through an objective, scientific lens, but through a political one. I don’t think that can be stated strongly enough.

Tom is rejecting scientific facts because of his political ideology.

Here’s an excerpt from his post explaining why he is motivated to challenge the science behind Anthropological Global Warming (please read the whole post for context, though this excerpt stands on its own fairly well).

The conclusions of Biffa, Mann, et al, the CRU are championed by the IPCC which is an arm of the United Nations. The UN has clearly revealed its stripes as a bureaucracy which advocates and actively works for a global government. An unelected body, their veiled objective is redistribution of wealth and the demise of the United States as a leader in business, finance and innovation – all the while suckling off the teat of tax-payers. The technocrats behind AGW find their only solution in more government, more regulation, more taxation, taking away decision-making from business and private citizens.

If that doesn’t sound like conspiracy theory propaganda, I don’t know what does, but more importantly, it shows that the motivation for attempting to discredit climate change science does not come from finding objective flaws in the related science. It comes from political ideology. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors.

I find it very similar to “debates” about evolution. Since intelligent design creationists cannot accept evolution because of their biblical predispositions, they will come up with all kinds of arguments against evolution, none of which hold water. Not only that, but the arguments get recycled ad nauseum. See the Discovery Institute website or Answers in Genesis for plenty of examples.

It seems that climate change deniers have adopted the same strategy. Since they don’t want to accept the scientific research due to their ideological predispositions, they manufacture objections… manufacture controversies… manufacture scientific “flaws” in ongoing research… and accuse climate scientists of all kinds of shenanigans.

Tom mentions the standard canards such as Mann’s “hockey stick,” the medieval warming period, urban temperature stations, the CRU emails, sediment cores, and my favorite, Antarctic sea ice. All of these objections have either been shown irrelevant, understood and accounted for, and/or actually in support of climate change science. Most of the objections have been addressed long ago, but climate change deniers repeatedly trot them out to advance what seems to be a purely political agenda.

Tom continues with the political argument.

And those environmentalists who align themselves with draconian measures to stop so-called AGW, and handing over decisions to the UN – they show their illegitimacy when they reject nuclear power as a solution to reducing industrial and residential CO2 output. “Clean energy” – windmills, solar, geothermal – does not have near the efficiency or output to replace carbon-based energy sources. Clearly one of the objectives of the fanatical environmentalists is to return our standard of living to the pre-industrial era.

I’ve already said that none of the political issues invalidate the facts, but I think here, Tom is addressing a hypocrisy (with a dose of conspiracy thrown in) that he sees in those who accept the science. I haven’t heard others objecting to nuclear power, so I can’t comment on that other than to say that I have no problem with it. It’s clean, efficient, and provides a stable power base for our electrical grid all across the country. I do, however, find it somewhat amusing that he concludes that the objective of “fanatical environmentalists is to return our standard of living to the pre-industrial era.” …as if that’s the only alternative to inaction.

In his conclusion, Tom sets up some ecologically-friendly straw men to knock down, saying that deniers are painted as “indiscriminate environmental rapists” and that I claim that deniers are “religious fundamentalists hell-bent on extracting wealth from the environment.” I have no idea how he inferred that from my post, since the only mention of religion at all was in the following paragraph (and since I don’t believe it to be the case, anyway):

The fruits of science are all around us, yet the state of science literacy in our country is horrifyingly low. Not only do we have people who don’t understand science or how it works, but we have the much more harmful group of people who think they understand how science works and who think they have an understanding of scientific issues, but are hopelessly lost in an ideological quagmire created by politics, religion, or other insidious cultural influences.

One of my contentions about climate change deniers is that (I have found) most of them are either politically right-wing and/or very religious (not, as claimed, “religious fundamentalists hell-bent on extracting wealth from the environment”). Tom epitomizes this in his response by not only admitting that his rejection of climate science is based on political ideology, but by quoting bible passages in his conclusion in order to knock down the aforementioned straw men.

Tom’s concluding sentence:

I find the irony that the subject piece which has stirred my rebuttal is so entirely tone-deaf to its own strains of fundamentalism as it tries to teach us lesser vassals how we must think, and render homage to our more educated peers.

If my attempts to promote a scientific, reality-based, rational way of thinking are considered fundamentalist, so be it. Teaching people how to think (as opposed to what to think) is something this country could use. However, a blind appeal to authority is never warranted and I have not (nor have I ever) suggested that it should be.

If people choose which facts to believe based upon political ideology or religious dogma, they are abdicating an intellectual responsibility… and this country, this world, is weakened as a result.

I think a quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan would be a fitting conclusion.

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”