I haven’t been very kind to single-issue voters who impose a “litmus test” in order to determine who they’ll support. So it pains me to admit that I seem to have developed one myself.
I simply will not ever vote for a candidate who rejects science and the scientific method.
In my defense, I think the acceptance of science–including recognition of the importance of the theory of evolution and the implications of global climate change, to cite just two examples–is a “marker” for an individual’s entire worldview. Someone who fails to understand the difference between a scientific theory–a construct based upon mountains of empirical data and subject to falsification–and “I have a theory, aka a wild-ass guess”–is simply not equipped to deal with the world as it is. He or she brings an intellectual bow and arrow to a nuclear conflict.
I believe that ideology should give way to evidence. When the evidence is mixed, it’s understandable that people will apply their own interpretations to it, seeing it through their preferred lens; when it is overwhelming, a failure to conform one’s theoretical preconceptions to that reality is a sign of dangerous rigidity–even, in extreme cases, mental illness.
People who reject science end up believing that women’s bodies can reject a “genuine” rapist’s sperm. They convince themselves that abortion causes breast cancer. They confuse climate with weather. They are convinced that homosexuality is a behavioral choice. In multiple ways, they fail to honor demonstrated facts. (They also tend to be the same folks who reject history in favor of a mythological “Christian Nation” past–after all, if you can ignore overwhelming scientific consensus in favor of an “inerrant” bible, you can certainly rewrite America’s past.)
There is a clear partisan divide at work: A 2007 Gallup poll found that 68% of Republicans do not believe in evolution. That compared with 37% of independents and 40% of Democrats. (Pretty pathetic numbers overall, but much worse among Republicans.) The best predictor of belief in creationism and rejection of science was weekly church attendance.
Let me be clear: I can respect a candidate who opposes abortion on deeply-felt moral grounds (although not the anti-woman, anti-contraception “personhood” theocrats). I can vote for a candidate whose preferred policy to combat climate change differs from mine. I can respect a candidate who is not yet ready to endorse same-sex marriage if that candidate is otherwise willing to extend civil rights to GLBT folks, although I will only vote for such a candidate when his opponent is worse. I cannot, however, respect a candidate who rejects science and reason. And I will never cast a vote for such a candidate.
If that is a litmus test–if that makes me a “single-issue” voter–so be it.