One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

There’s a children’s jingle/question that keeps popping into my head: “one of these things is not like the other.” It is a common lead-in to exercises encouraging children to distinguish between shapes, colors, etc.

If the Coronavirus has demonstrated anything, it is that Republicans can’t tell one thing from another.

Trump’s inability to tell the difference between science and superstition (let alone fact and fiction) is a given, but when it comes to science, the entire GOP has demonstrated cognitive dissonance and an astonishing capacity for incoherence.

Anyone who has followed what passes for Republican policy these days can give numerous examples of ways the party has rejected science. A May column in the New York Times by Michelle Goldberg was titled “We’re All Casualties of Trump’s War on Coronavirus Science.” She enumerated the multiple attacks on medical science and scientists by Trump and the dimmer bulbs in the GOP’s Congressional delegation.

The column began by referring to a 60 minutes investigation into the abrupt termination of an NIH grant to the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit research organization focused on emerging pandemics.

The reason, as “60 Minutes” reported on Sunday evening, was a conspiracy theory spread by Representative Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who in March wore a gas mask on the House floor to mock concern about the new coronavirus. On April 14, Gaetz appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show and claimed that the N.I.H. grant went to the Wuhan Institute, which Gaetz intimated might have been the source of the virus — the institute may have “birthed a monster,” in his words.

The first of Gaetz’s claims was flatly false, and the second unlikely; the C.I.A. has reportedly found no evidence of a link between the virus and the Wuhan lab.

True, Trump’s ignorance of and contempt for science has consistently undermined the country’s coronavirus response. But as Goldberg points out, his is just an extreme example of a longstanding anti-science bias on the part of conservatives. Republicans have tried to keep science classes from teaching evolution; they’ve objected to NIH or other government funding for stem cell research; and their dismissal of climate change has been a national embarrassment since well before Trump took the party down crazy lane. Goldberg attributes this hostility to a combination of factors, including populist distrust of experts, religious rejection of information inconsistent with biblical literalism, and efforts by corporations to protect their bottom lines.

Until recently, it seemed as if Trump’s sabotage of efforts to combat climate change would be the most destructive legacy of his disregard for science. But the coronavirus has presented the country with an emergency that only sound science can solve. That means that the Trump administration’s disdain for expertise, its elevation of slavish loyalty over technical competence, has become a more immediate threat.

Since Goldberg’s column, the administration’s response to the pandemic has only gotten worse. But that, ironically, is where the cognitive dissonance comes in.

The President whose Magical Thinking veers from promises that the virus will “just disappear” to suggestions that drinking bleach might protect you (in all fairness, it might; dead people don’t get sick), is counting on real scientists to produce a vaccine. Quickly. There are predictions that announcement of such a breakthrough will be the election’s “October surprise.”

Given the collective brainpower of a GOP base that equates refusal to wear a mask with patriotism, it will be interesting to see the response of those “patriots” to a genuine eventual vaccine. Will the know-nothings of a political party that pooh-poohs climate change and conducts a vendetta against “smarty-pants elitists” (i.e., scientists who actually know what they are talking about) nevertheless line up to take advantage of a product of medical science?

The Neanderthals rejecting science and expertise all seem willing to drive cars and use IPhones and computers and other products of science and technology. When it comes to medical science, most apparently do have doctors–and if TV advertising is any indication, they’re part of a robust market for all sorts of medications.

One of these things is not like the other……


  1. An October vaccine will likely be as real as free covid testing for everyone (especially if Jared has a hand in it). No, if there’s an October Surprise coming from the short-fingered vulgarian, it’s more likely to be his version of the Reichstag fire.

  2. I’d like to blame everything on Trump but the rejection of the authority of science began centuries before Trump. Trump is just ignorantly attacking science because much of his “base” deliberately distorted somethings heard from some moronic Sunday school “teachers” and tent preachers.

  3. I simply cannot fathom how Republicans, or what I call the Party of Matt Gaetz, can ever be trusted to run anything ever again. But run Indiana they will. And by run I mean working to make it indistinguishable from a Deep South state. Hopefully, prayerfully, they won’t have the benefit of supermajorities in both houses of the General Assembly.

  4. Having worked locally for Republican City government for 20 years while voting as an Independent; I have viewed the changing political world, which hasn’t yet caught up with world changes in all of the sciences which are simply life itself. One thing on which I would stake my next Social Security check is the FACT that Republicans (not Trump, who isn’t a Republican) fully understand all forms of science enough to know what is needed to protect humans and the environment but “play dumb” to save money to further enrich the already over-rich 1-2% rather than uphold regulations and moving forward to save human lives and the world we live in.

    We can see daily by their actions – and inaction – that “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other” does not apply to any Republican…other than maybe Mitt Romney…because they are all on the same page.

  5. Strangely, the anti-vaxers are generally younger suburban moms, who fear their children will become autistic if they get the vaccines that are required by most school systems in the world. The jacakass who did the study that showed this, faked his data and both he and his “study” have been repudiated by medical scientists the world over. This begs the question why, in spite of all of the evidence refuting this claim, do so many cling to this notion?

    I bring this up to show that not all anti-science rhetoric is coming from the right. It might be a genetic disposition to distrust experts. It is clearly an American trait to be anti-elitist. It is foolhardy, but it is us.

  6. Very creative way to frame the argument, Shiela. I hope to live long enough to enjoy the Broadway satire comedy: Trump. It has potential to be the only widely acclaimed anything about Trump.

  7. making it easy to distinguish between fake and worthy, theres too many of all of put my momey on how any issue gets started. trump isnt a politician,and probably a piece in a game of think tank…republicans are not dummies,and they didnt make the rank unless they submit to alec like rules. the game piece here is mcconnel. his mob,and trump are in a mode to disenfranchise the people,and our rights,needs etc, we have depended on,and now,they show us how they will play the next game.. having a leadership in a capitalistic society,is now a mind game. we have depended maybe too long on what we expect,over what the game is, and the real study of why?.the right wing aganda,take all ya can,while ya can,and after 40 years,(hell of a await eh?) they get a puppet to sign over the goverment to the monied class. very little of this is ever discussed in any media,why? well maybe its everyone who has an investment on the market,or a person of influence, or someone/thing making waves to avoid the conversation. now its hitting us in the face while we wear a mask.. theres every effort to make a flak zone to keep this conversation under some blanket,,(or some think tanks final report,of implementation to) … we dont see that,because its bought and paid for by whoever for their needs..former sen,and reps, lawyers,clinical pros who study minds and rythems,,all making mind games…and they have succeeded in dividing the mass,into groups,opposed to? we ask these quetions here,to have a discussion,and see where and what we have learned,and experienced. being i do not social media,and twit, im not exposed to it. i am however exposed to the working class i associate with. blue collar,and to be real, ignorant… im back at work in road construction in blood red trumpsville…NoDak..4 walls of outta sight from from the real world. a right wing agenda at the capital that kisses each others ass for something,while parroting the issues..the pres wants the kids back at school,no matter the outcome,the bennifits will be denied after july,get back to work, some states insist its not a problem…well, spell it out,die for the economy,the ones mainly effected,minorities,and lower wage,and people of color. well, did i paint a picture of what the rightwing agenda is? capitalistic holocaust eh? and its bargain,to make sure people,like bezos and fink are well padded and making money and power,over the people who do the work..thye have done well, lets just give them the whole damn thing before they kill more…

  8. For the 875th time…root cause is lack of education – critical thinking, visual literacy, digital literacy, etc.

  9. An announcement of a vaccine in October will probably hurt Trump’s chances in November, because the rabid anti-vaxxers will refuse it, and be suspicious of anyone who recommends it. It is not likely that they will see him as a savior for promoting the vaccine (as he will), so they may sit out the election.

  10. Republicans, as a group, used to believe science was real. Then, in the 1980’s, they made a very calculated decision. If they acknowledged the science of global warming [as it was called at the time] they would have to do something about it. Doing something would cost money. How do governments get money? They levy taxes. You see the problems:
    1] Taxes are anathema to Republicans. They don’t mind spending money but earning it is beyond their ken. They’d much rather run up the debt. Then they get to run on “lower taxes.”
    2] Republicans believe [or say they believe] that government can do nothing right — so let’s just do nothing.

    So science had to go.
    They apparently believe the tactic worked so well, they’ve just kept on doing it. And now it’s coming back to bite them.
    We knew that would happen, of course. Facts have a stubborn way of remaining true no matter what one believes. And facts have consequences. We THOUGHT it would happen when climate change spun totally out of control and it was too late to stop it. But the timetable has been moved up. Of course, corona got into the human population due to one part of climate change: our steady encroachment into the habitat of other species. So there’s that.

    But, as science so often reminds us, we’re all linked. We ignore that fact at our peril.

  11. trump has given two pharmas next to 2 billion yesterday thru the NIH to ,, well, they dont have a vacs yet, only a research,ongoing. one got 1.6 billion. yea, october….maybe if they do, he,ll make sure we,ll die when getting the bill for it…
    jim hightowers piece today,,, sacrificing people to corp profit..

  12. Lester has answered the question correctly and succinctly. Disbelievers in science are selective in what to believe (or pretend to believe). How many among such disbelievers would turn down the science underlying Fleming’s concoctions due to sexual disease if personally in need of a cure? Or the underlying science involved in Newton’s gravity or Einstein’s relativities? Where would we be today if Hitler had first learned to split the atom? But I wander – Lester said it all.

  13. Perhaps it just turned out that modernity was not what Republicans wanted it to be. Follow the power. Modernity is inconsistent with wealth redistribution up. I think that’s because it was too successful and there really isn’t much worker wealth left to redistribute, it’s all going to paying for health care, child care now that two incomes are table stakes, entertainment media that’s necessary for workers to remain programmable and taxes and the truth has evolved to be that at least one of those jobs has to be in a high tech field in order to pay those bills.

    What’s an oligarch to do? Wealth redistribution is all that they know how to do and oligarchs have bills to pay too. The mansions, the planes and boats, the staff don’t come cheap and keeping up with the Trumps and Kardashians and DeVos’s requires more every year.

    Of course the oligarchs struggle to be the best (wealthiest) oligarch on the planet can’t win with everything collapsing around their ears. There’s the equality thing. There’s the fact that the staff now is educated and cares about survival (sustainability) and science and social things like avoiding the returning to de facto slavery whatever that is. Some of the de facto slaves are even getting all uppity and think that they deserve more than cake crumbs. They just can’t understand why being lowly born like they were should be a lifelong struggle.

    The problems of royalty are just too complex for those who do the work necessary to support the royals to possibly understand.

  14. One legacy of Trump will be that more people will distrust the government than ever before, because Trump is a chronic, habitual liar, and everything he says and does is to benefit him first and foremost. He hovered over Drs. Fauci and Birx during those so-called “task force briefings”, just like he hovered over Hillary Clinton during the debates. So desperate for something, anything, to counter the daily infection and death tolls, he began touting hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer”, a claim he simply won’t let go of even to this day, despite the fact that it has been proven to be ineffective and unsafe for conditions other than malaria and rheumatoid arthritis. He still thinks he can bluff and bluster his way past this pandemic by constantly lying about the fact that infections are skyrocketing and praising himself for his handling of this crisis. He’s going to try to force schools to re-open for in-person classes by attempting to withhold federal funds.

    All of which brings me to this point: does anyone believe that Trump would be above coercing or bribing some drug company to claim that a vaccine it developed was both safe and effective, even if: 1. it hadn’t been thoroughly investigated, using a broad spectrum of study participants that matches the age, race, co-morbidities and other significant demographics of the U.S. population; 2. even if adverse side-effects outweighed the benefits; 3. it didn’t provide statistically-significant protection from Coronavirus versus a placebo or for a statistically-significant period of time?

    The reason the CDC recommends an annual flu shot is because a flu shot does not produce long-term protection–not even for a full year. Scientists already know that the coronavirus has mutated at least once–it has altered the chemical composition of those spikes on the outside of the cell to make it easier to penetrate the cells of your lungs. Yesterday, Tom Hanks was interviewed, and he said that doctors are following his antibody titers, which are steadily going down since his infection in March. He said that they told him he and his wife, Rita Wilson, could get coronavirus again. He also pointed out that he has Type II diabetes, and that his wife has recovered from breast cancer, so they are both at increased risk. Hank’s point for these statements is that asking someone to wear a mask for the protection of others is a small thing. He also said he has no respect for people who refuse to wear a mask.

    Never forget that Trump is a seriously mentally ill person–he suffers from malignant narcissism, and his very delicate ego hangs in the balance. He’s behind in the polls, which is driving him to desperation. Even before the polling showed him losing, he constantly lied and downplayed the risk of coronavirus, and he tried to bully doctors to go along with him. For these reasons, I would be very skeptical of any October surprise in the form of a “miracle vaccine”. Vaccine development takes time, and no vaccine has ever been developed in less than a year. Even if a compound is formulated that is initially safe, testing takes time to prove that it provides protection, to figure out whether a booster injection is needed, and if so, when, and also whether there are any long-term adverse effects. This cannot be done in a matter of months. Protocols are in place for good reasons. Does anyone doubt that Trump would try to bully scientists into taking short cuts or exaggerating the benefits of a new vaccine?

  15. From Lester: “For the 875th time…root cause is lack of education – critical thinking, visual literacy, digital literacy, etc.”

    You’re putting your finger on a major cause, Lester. However, I submit that preceding your “root cause” is a much deeper and rootier cause–THE REFUSAL TO LEARN.

    In my years as a teacher, the most obstinate impediment to my teaching and students’ learning was the student’s attitude rejecting education. Sometimes that refusal was so strong and so “rooted” that even kindergartners were willing to physically fight an adult in order to block learning.

    Still deeper, maybe deeper than root cause, is that mysterious cabal of instincts, genetics, and very early childhood psychosis that cause the REFUSAL to learn, which causes the FAILURE to learn, which causes the REFUSAL TO GROW UP, which causes the infatuation with crazy idiots like Trump.

    I say that what causes the refusal to learn is a mystery, although I suspect a culprit or two. The thing is quite difficult to ascertain; there are so many variables, which pose a challenge to devising diagnostic tests that are free of analytical contamination.

    Suffice to say that REFUSAL TO LEARN is a major developmental and social problem that we desperately need to overcome, at least to a greater degree than we have so far. Unfortunately, that triumph will never come so long as we–educators, parents, psych professionals, and research financiers–REFUSE to see the problem.

  16. Larry – like the additional thinking. From my teaching experience, a way to attack the “refusal” is to change the paradigm from “open your head and we will dump knowledge in” (to be regurgitated on standardized tests) to “roll up your sleeves and try to figure this real life issue out” – “Montessori / Dewey” learning by doing.

    “What! You want my opinion? COOL!” Not always the reaction, but more often than not.

  17. Lester, re. Dewey! I consider Dewey one of the primary Anti-Christs of all time.

    That impaired style of teaching never worked for any teacher I observed…with this exception…it worked somewhat with gifted, willing students and somewhat in certain subjects, never with Refusal students.

    The best form of education I ever witnessed and experienced was US Army education. It had no name and no founding philosopher, unless you knew the name of mankind’s first coach. Military education is a form of coached learning by doing multiplied by instructed theory.

    The coaching aspect is important, because Experience is an Imperfect Teacher. Imperfect because experience merely teaches one to make the same mistakes one always made; it is the coach that identifies the flaws of experiential instruction and prescribes their cure. The fact that a coach operates between theory and doing invalidates the Learn by Doing description of that style of teaching.

    Having said that, even in Army instruction in the time of conscription, there was the ever-present Refusal to learn. And that refusal occupied the psyche of 30% to 40% of the recruits, not 2% or 4% as most of you want to believe.

    The saving grace of Army instruction was discipline–loss of privilege, loss of free time, shit tasks, embarrassment, peer pressure, etc., and testing. Army discipline turned that 40% Refusal rate into a mere 5%, or less.

    Yes, testing! But not like the testing we see in public schools now. Army testing meant business, and it was short and sweet. In public school, those who do poorly on those way-too-long tests are moved on anyway…with a mere shake of the head and a tsk-tsk. In the military, failure on a test means a lot of unpleasantries for the soldier.

    The military way of teaching is one way to reduce Refusal to learn, but it will never be accepted in public education. So, public education is left to find another way. Unfortunately, public ed will have to be satisfied with much less success, because the other methods are drastically inferior to the military way and far too impeded by goody-two-shoes, sweet, coddled, effete myths.

    I find the resort to Deweyism to be a cop-out, very much like the Trump cop-out on Covid-19 leadership. Both refuse to address the nascency of the problem.

  18. Larry, interesting comments.

    I have always thought that the difference between coaching and educating is doing versus problem solving.

    Coaches teach repeating physically the actions the coach credits with maximizes success. Educators, ideally anyway, teach how to more successfully deal with unexpected challenges that you are unprepared for.

    Most everyone is coachable though at deferent rates of progress. Everyone is educatable though to different levels of success.


  19. Oh Larry – good luck to you.

    Your comments remind me of the arguments between the “teach reading via phonics or be ‘d…ed'”and the “teach reading via whole language or be ‘d…ed'”arguments, as crazy a controversy as ever could be (of course, we have worse now, but I believe they all build on each other). I, having been a reading teacher, could never figure out why an observant teacher wouldn’t use whatever method (and there are many more than two) met the student where they were, at the time in question.

    As to Dewey – he was a romantic, for sure, but I see him as (attempting to) respect the student, not as denying a learner any resource that might help. Who says that coaching has no part of experiential learning? Who says that teaching is a limiting process where you remove potentially helpful ideas? (Lest your own version of orthodoxy fail to prevail?) Do you see any parallels here with religious wars?

    Clearly you have hit me pretty much where I live. But, I do not apologize. The testing wars have turned education so far on its ear that it can hardly be identified as education any more. I recently looked up ‘Debunking ‘A Nation at Risk’ (ANAR) and found interesting arguments that the report was wrong headed (used faulty data, created data to prove its points, generally ‘monetized’ the sort of nasty thinking that has come to characterize many education critics – I think…) but happened to be helpful sort of despite itself – in that it galvanized people to improve education (thus went that argument).

    We can – and should – consider seriously whether improvement was any part of the resulting changes. ANAR was followed several years later by the Sandia Report, which pretty much negated the ‘concusions’ drawn by ANAR, but was pretty much buried. In all of this, teachers were shoved out of their own profession, to be replaced by testers, for whom ACCOUNTABILITY became a religion – again, minus any serious consideration of what a useful accountability might mean to the enterprize of education.

    Among other resources, one might look up Jonathan Kozol’s writings – still relevent to the real issues with vouchers, charter schools, and the starving of public education. I believe that the hidden agenda driving charter schools is a (sadly, too effective) end run around Brown versus the Board.

    Or consider that the reason the storied California whole language reading program did not catch on (it failed spectacularly enough that the state superintendent who championed it lost his job)- children did not begin reading – skills and scores went down – might have been because few adults in California actually read, there are vanishingly small resources given to libraries, etc., not because the system did not include phonics.

    I’ll stop. And, yes, it is difficult to stop…

    Best wishes to everyone.

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