The U.S. Congress has entered the anti-science intellectual wilderness of willful ignorance, says the science journal Nature

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“It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness,” said Nature, the international weekly journal of science, in an editorial on the March 15 House committee action on the EPA Endangerment Finding. “Republicans on the House of Representatives' energy and commerce committee have made clear their disdain for climate science. … [T]he legislation is fundamentally anti-science, just as the rhetoric that supports it is grounded in wilful ignorance. … It has been an embarrassing display, not just for the Republican Party but also for Congress and the US citizens it represents.” Advice to the rest of the world: Work with the United States where possible, but don't wait for a sudden change of tenor in Washington DC.”

For background see earlier CSW post and associated links:

Partisan climate science denialism reigns as U.S. House committee votes to repeal EPA Endangerment Finding and prohibit regulation of greenhouse gases

Excerpt from an editorial in the March 17 issue of Nature (subscription required):

Into ignorance

Vote to overturn an aspect of climate science marks a worrying trend in US Congress.

Nature, Volume: 471, Pages: 265–266, Date published: (17 March 2011), DOI: doi:10.1038/471265b, Published online 16 March 2011

As Nature went to press, a committee of the US Congress was poised to pass legislation that would overturn a scientific finding on the dangers of global warming. The Republican-sponsored bill is intended to prevent the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, which the agency declared a threat to public welfare in 2009….

Republicans on the House of Representatives' energy and commerce committee have made clear their disdain for climate science. At a subcommittee hearing on 14 March, anger and distrust were directed at scientists and respected scientific societies. Misinformation was presented as fact, truth was twisted and nobody showed any inclination to listen to scientists, let alone learn from them. It has been an embarrassing display, not just for the Republican Party but also for Congress and the US citizens it represents.

It is tempting to write all of this off as petty partisanship, a populist knee-jerk reaction to lost jobs and rising energy prices by a well-organized minority of Republican voters. … Perhaps, but the legislation is fundamentally anti-science, just as the rhetoric that supports it is grounded in wilful ignorance. One lawmaker last week described scientists as “elitist” and “arrogant” creatures who hide behind “discredited” institutions. Another propagated the myth that in the 1970s the scientific community warned of an imminent ice age. Melting ice caps on Mars served to counter evidence of anthropogenic warming on Earth, and Antarctica was falsely said to be gaining ice. Several scientists were on hand — at the behest of Democrats on the subcommittee — to answer questions and clear things up, but many lawmakers weren't interested in answers, only in prejudice.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long. Global warming is a thorny problem, and disagreement about how to deal with it is understandable. It is not always clear how to interpret data or address legitimate questions. Nor is the scientific process, or any given scientist, perfect. But to deny that there is reason to be concerned, given the decades of work by countless scientists, is irresponsible.

That this legislation is unlikely to become law doesn't make it any less dangerous. It is the attitude and ideas behind the bill that are troublesome, and they seem to be spreading. …

copyright 2011 Nature Publishing Group

In fact, Congressional pressure to block EPA from regulating emissions of greenhouse gases will intensify, and such legislation may very well become law unless President Obama exercises his veto power as needed. Paralleling the forward march of legislation in the House, proposals in the Senate, sponsored on both the Republican and Democratic sides, are likely to be taken up on the Senate floor this coming week. More on that to follow. 

Earlier post:

Will Obama stand up under pressure on EPA regulation of greenhouse gases?

This entry was posted in Congress: Legislation and Oversight, Global Warming Denial Machine. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The U.S. Congress has entered the anti-science intellectual wilderness of willful ignorance, says the science journal Nature

  1. Pingback: Humans and Their Love/Hate Relationship with Science and Knowledge « Woodgate's View

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