My Litmus Test

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.


  1. I have just about stopped watching the news, when republicans and right wing media scientists place a pan of water on the stove blow bubbles in it with a straw and tell you it’s boiling just like it would if you would have turned on the burner, there is little hope for science of any kind left in the right wing fundlementalests republican party. Not a group I want to be associated with.

  2. I share so many of your views and this article is filled with, not only your viewpoints but, simple statments of fact. Years ago, a psychic in Las Vegas told me she believed God created us (“us”, not man) in his image and she believed that image to be intelligence. I agree with her and this also opened my mind to answers I found confusing in my beliefs of a spiritual being and scientific evolution. There is no specific description of this being created in his image – except in the minds of men centuries ago who created the Bible filled with only their views. My Athiest friend explained that they are not against God, religion or the Bible; they simply believe in nature and evolution regarding the creation of life. They also have their own form of prayer and spirituality. The on-going battle by Republicans to move this country back 50 years; removing rights of women, minorities, same-sex couples, religious differences, and their list goes on and on, is fruitless in it’s quest for control. If I have a litmus test, it consists of looking for logic, common sense and, above all else, love and acceptance of fellow man. I have wondered for many years how, during the worst of times, the greatest of disasters, people seek help from and endanger themselves to give help to total strangers no matter their skin color, language, religion, sexural preference, etc., they just do what needs to be done.

  3. For most of the past decade the Republican party and its associated groups (Tea Party) have demonized and degraded science and scientists to promote their own agenda. It will be to our economic and societal peril if we continue down this path. Our future, especially as we transition from the industrial to the technological age, depends on science to a great extent.

  4. Somehow the ignorant and bigoted wing (i.e. the base) of the Republican party is in full control of the party now.
    This “Tea Party” insanity can do great harm to our country. People laughed off the ignorance of Hitler until it was too
    It is high time for the responsible folks who still consider themselves to be Republicans to STAND UP.
    They really need to say NO…YOU WILL NOT DO THIS TO MY PARTY.
    You will NOT do this to my country.
    Simple minded theocrats did NOT build this nation.
    In that light, IF Sen Dick Lugar has the high level of integrity we thought he had, he should be the first to stand up and
    say NO MORE. He should urge his people to actively work AGAINST the Tea Party Crazies.
    He should actively work for the defeat of the Tea Party Senate Candidate.
    And he should start right now.

  5. Won’t belong before we again persecute women for witchcraft. As to women, would “Binders” (of Women) correspond to “Harem’s”? Or is “Binders” be a Mormon thing closely associated with polygamy.

    On a serious note:

    After watching both presidential debates, it’s quite clear that Romney has no idea about Foreign Policy. He wants to assemble the world’s largest military (perhaps he thinks he’s creating jobs this way). I foresee that a Republican Administration will be perceived (by the rest of the world) as arrogant, current friendly nations will abandon us over time and we will stand alone in future conflicts.

    As to the work force, Romney has proved in the past that he knows how to ship jobs to Asia. I don’t for one-minute think he will take “China” to task, as he put it. It would appear obvious that he has too many financial commitments in that area.

    A book exists called “The Betrayal of the American Dream”, one crucial question in this book is; “Do we want to continue purchasing inexpensively manufactured products from Asian factories or do we want to pay a real living wage to American workers in American factories”. I really like the Apple products I use; however it irks me that on the reverse side of the device it states. Designed in California and assembled in China. I would prefer it to say, designed and manufactured in the “United States of America” yes the price would increase, but like everything else “If you want it, you’ll pay for it”.

  6. It was all they had at the time, and it worked! (Think “Bush Years”) It began in the pulpits of many Southern churches, and it spread like wildfire. Preachers preached it! Separation of church and state went right out that stained-glass window. They wrapped themselves in the flag and thumped their Bibles, preaching against nature, evolution, climate change, women’s rights, and more! It was all they had at the time, church-goers bought it, and it worked!

  7. A Republican neighbor, a fairly scientific, church-going guy, once asked me if I believed in evolution or creationism.

    I told him I believed in evolution and that God created it. He didn’t ask me any more questions about it.

  8. I remember when the Republican Party had a liberal wing—Ottinger and Rockefeler from New York come to mind. (Of course Rockefeller usher in the life sentences for drugs.) Nixon saw opportunity in the South. LBJ had predicted the split, when he signed the Civil Rights Act. He said something to the effect that the Democratic Party had lost the South for a generation. Before that, the Democratic Party had coddled segregationists. Then Nixon (yes, it seems always to go back to him) struck. Accommodation of an irrational group—bigots—went more egregiously into the realm of sheer insanity. And as the people on the far right demean science, they and those close to them go to modern hospitals (if they have money or insurance or do so at public expense) for treatments developed based on theories of evolution taught in schools with core principles based on science.

  9. You have got to be flipping kidding me. I appreciate once again trying to jam a square peg of subjectivity into an objectively round hole. I do.

    First off, evolution isn’t on the national ticket. Climate change is, and you don’t have to be a scientist to recognize it for the ecozeitgeist that it is. 40 years ago we had global cooling, 30 years ago we had acid rain, 20 years ago we had the ozone layer, 10 years ago we had global warming, and now we have climate change. More importantly, not a single reader of this blog can defend their own stance or is even willing to show a minimal amount of familiarity with what’s going on. Weak sauce, as the kids would say last year.

    I mean, we had our President in the first campaign openly acknowledge that he was going to institute policies that were detrimental to the economy and the American people, in the interest of “fairness.” What does that say about people still willing to support him? Fool me once…

  10. That is a particularly bombastic claim about the readers of this blog. I can defend my stance on climate change, and I do have at least a passing familiarity with what is involved, but would writing it all out even interest you?

    I have been on both sides of this fence, and it doesn’t take being a climatologist, a meteorologist, or even an old farmer to observe that something ain’t the way it’s always been ’round here.

    Now, agreed that assessment is “subjective”, but I really don’t believe that an objective survey of my stance would cause you anything more than the usual indifference for someone who doesn’t share your particular world view.

    So, I’m off for the weekend! Woo-hoo!

  11. Fair enough, I apologize if I tip-toed across the line. Call it the ignorance of youth but I’ve always enjoyed having my views challenged and debating my positions. It occurs to me that people so passionate about what they believe in would support their viewpoints in the face of opposition. Otherwise how do you learn anything? Short of just hearing things we find pleasing which serve to reinforce our inside-these-four-walls thinking, what’s the point?

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