Birthers and sceptics

by John Quiggin on August 1, 2009

The Internets are buzzing with the latest survey showing, among other things, Republicans are split on the Birther issue with only 47 per cent accepting the claim that Obama was born in the US. That’s almost exactly equal to the 48 per cent who agree that global warming exists – it’s evident from the public debate that the overlap between Birthers and opponents of AGW is very high ).

But I wouldn’t want to give the impression that over 50 per cent of Republicans are conspiracy theorists who believe in a secret plot to impose a Kenyan-socialist dictatorship as part of the UN/IPCC system of world government. On the contrary, the proportion is only about 25 per cent (more in the South). As on the global warming issue, the balance of opinion within the Republican Party holds to the sensible “sceptical” position: the science isn’t settled, the birth records are unclear, sightings of black helicopters need further investigation and so on. That’s good to know.

{ 57 comments }

1

mart 08.01.09 at 1:53 am

You missed out the 83% of Republicans who believe that one should be sceptical as to our planet’s roundness. The other 17% need documented proof that the Earth is not, in fact, Teh Black Planet.

2

P O'Neill 08.01.09 at 1:59 am

You’ve also missed the impending pivot on the global warming issue from conservatives, as signalled by Jonah Goldberg, in which the truth or falsity of global warming is irrelevant because Earth is going to be hit by an asteroid.

3

anonymous 08.01.09 at 2:06 am

Maybe stopping the south from seceding was a bad idea after all.

4

John Quiggin 08.01.09 at 2:17 am

BTW, the same poll shows that most Republicans and most Republican voting groups reject plate tectonics because it implies that Africa and the Americas were once joined. We really face a global glut of stupidity here.

5

Steve LaBonne 08.01.09 at 2:27 am

Maybe stopping the south from seceding was a bad idea after all.

Errant sisters, go in peace. And don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

6

Matt Austern 08.01.09 at 2:54 am

Alas, I think Lincoln got it right: the war was necessary to ensure “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” If the US had fragmented into two weak and hostile countries after less than a century, probably with at least one of them dominated by a European Great Power, it’s hard to imagine that the republican experiment would have looked like a success.

7

David Kane 08.01.09 at 3:17 am

John,

You’re a sensible guy. Don’t you think that one could dig up similar silliness, at least as far as the birthers go, among Democrats?

8

rigel 08.01.09 at 3:20 am

@Matt #6:

That’s a perfectly reasonable rationale, i guess. Saving face being worth more american casualties than were to be seen in what, a century?

anyway, speaking as a former southerner forced by circumstance to live again in the south after a blissful hiatus of several years, i think that now, since we’ve demonstrated the success of the democratic experiment to some degree, we can let them take their ball and go home. hell, maybe we can even get rid of some of the anti-abortion extremists, flypaper theory and all that.

9

riffle 08.01.09 at 3:23 am

Pare down the birther numbers even more and you find that about 3/4 of white southerners apparently didn’t know where Obama was born. Other races nationwide and whites in the north are much more in line with the overall numbers.

http://washingtonindependent.com/53396/how-many-southern-whites-believe-obama-was-born-in-america

White southerners are the outliers here.

10

mart 08.01.09 at 3:33 am

Don’t you think that one could dig up similar silliness, at least as far as the birthers go, among Democrats?

No.

To clarify – some individuals, undoubtably. Half of them? See above answer.

11

nona mouse 08.01.09 at 3:34 am

Don’t you think that one could dig up similar silliness, at least as far as the birthers go, among Democrats?

If you take in the whole post, consider this question: Is there a parallel–close to a majority of democrats holding fast to a set of scientifically and otherwise disproved political beliefs…beliefs that you’d have to reject very fundamental sources of knowledge, evidence and so on? Best leave religion out of it and stick to politically relevant beliefs.

I honestly cannot think of a set of sticky memes like this for democrats–where to believe them require a total distrust of basic fundamentals of what we use to know things and how we come to know what is true in this particular century. Not just silly beliefs that turn out to be false like you find on snopes.com. But rejection of science or the findings of the courts or certain features of common sense–where you’d never really be able to ask yourself–if science is wrong about everything…how do planes fly? Or how did those biologists develop that treatment?

But is there a parallel?

What did Dems think about Bush? He had been arrested for drunk driving. He’d used cocaine. He’d been AWOL from the service. Some people had more elaborate things going on. Were these huge memes? Did they really fly in the face of the plausible? Were they relevant to his presidency? I’d say they weren’t exactly parallel but was there a parallel in terms of rumors about Bush?

12

mart 08.01.09 at 3:39 am

Some people thought he was qualified to be President?

13

John Quiggin 08.01.09 at 4:14 am

The closest parallel I can recall was a poll showing lots of Democrats thought that the Bush Administration had advance knowledge of 9/11. But the question was consistent with the entirely accurate interpretation “the Bushies were warned something like this would happen and did nothing about it”.

As regards anti-science stuff among Democrats, the example that is routinely dragged out is RFK Jr on vaccines. But this is someone who has never even held elective office AFAIK – the main congressional supporters of anti-vaccine paranoia are GOPers. Then there are Green objections to GM foods, but these aren’t particularly salient in the US.

14

dr ngo 08.01.09 at 4:15 am

Not Democrats.

15

dr ngo 08.01.09 at 4:16 am

Aagh. #14 was supposed to respond to #12, of course, not the intervening and ominous #13. What should have been swift light snark is now just more internet confusion. Sorry.

16

John Gordon 08.01.09 at 4:28 am

I appreciated the comment pointing out that it’s white southerners who live in a world of denial and delusion.

Non-whites in the south appear to have a reasonable connection to reality.

Maybe more pigmentation would help?

17

John Quiggin 08.01.09 at 5:25 am

Exclude the remaining white Democrats in the South, and it looks as if the Southern Republican base is overwhelmingly either Birther or sceptic. No surprise that a lot of Repug politicians are pandering to them.

18

Watson Aname 08.01.09 at 5:44 am

Then there are Green objections to GM foods, but these aren’t particularly salient in the US.

From what I’ve heard, many aren’t particularly anti-science, either.

19

bob mcmanus 08.01.09 at 5:55 am

17:As a Dallasite, I thank you for that.

We have sociologists and political scientists round these parts? Cause we don’t really know that the Birthers believe, we only know what they are willing to say. The analysis of a social phenomenon, to use an analogy, where millions of people are willing to get in your face and say:”The Sun moves around the Earth.” has not been sufficiently explored, I think. At least recently. There is an aggressive unreason here that certainly should cause a Republican politician to be careful.

It is obviously a tribal or purity marker for Southern Republicans.

20

Matt Austern 08.01.09 at 6:30 am

One example of an unhinged conspiracy theory that used to float around on the left was the Truther movement: the people who believed not just that Bush was warned about the 9/11 attacks, but that the whole attack was staged. (Not that you usually ever heard it expressed so baldly. One way in which they’re similar is that you hear a lot more dark insinuations, “If they don’t have anything to hide then why…?”, than actual direct arguments.)

Both movements have their own documentaries, their own facts, their own mound of minute and possibly accurate detail. The Birthers who lecture you about fonts in postwar Hawaiian public records remind me a lot of the amateur metallurgists who step you frame by frame through the towers’ collapse.

The difference, of course: the unhinged conspiracy theorists in the Birther movement include big-name TV and radio stars and big chunks of the Republican leadership. At what point do so many people believe in an insane idea that you have to start calling it the lunatic mainstream instead of the lunatic fringe?

21

Satan Mayo 08.01.09 at 7:42 am

The thing about the “9/11 truther conspiracy theory of the left” is that it was never a theory of the left. The primary media publicist of maniacal conspiracy theories about how 9/11 was an inside job has always been the maniacal Tim McVeigh-style right-wing radio host Alex Jones.

22

ogmb 08.01.09 at 8:06 am

There is a difference between having stupid people among your ranks, which is inevitable in any group of millions, and going full bore for the stupid demographic, as the GOP has done since the Southern realignment.

23

Henri Vieuxtemps 08.01.09 at 11:18 am

Aren’t there also a lot of them who firmly believe that things like virgin birth and ascension are literally true? Or am I wrong and they think it requires further investigation?

24

alex 08.01.09 at 11:30 am

It does rather challenge GK Chesterton’s observation. These people seem to be able to believe in God, Jeezus, and almost anything else…

25

Alex 08.01.09 at 12:34 pm

That plate tectonics question scares the piss out of me. What’s next? Germ theory? “Do you agree that diseases are caused by living creatures too small to see with the human eye? Does your answer change if you are told that Louis Pasteur was French?”

In fact, what gets me is the disparity between the different groups’ No percentages. The difference between the parties is captured by the force of their ignorance – the willingness to absolutely rule it out.

26

Matt 08.01.09 at 12:50 pm

Satan Mayo at 21 is right about the “truthers”. That’s a mix of “far left” types like Lydon LaRouche followers, and far-right anti-government types. It really has no support at all among the “mainstream” left or the democratic party. That seems not to be so of the Birfers.

27

bianca steele 08.01.09 at 2:05 pm

What’s with the dip at ages 30-44 (60+ I understand)?

28

bianca steele 08.01.09 at 2:15 pm

Matt: ?
LaRouche is no more far left than Gertrude Himmelfarb.

29

Matt 08.01.09 at 2:20 pm

Bianca- LaRouche at least presents himself as far left, and that’s where he came from. He’s crazy, as are his followers, so I don’t mean to present him as a legitimate far-left voice, of course. But his underlying philosophy, so much as he ever had one, was an odd sort of Marxism. Again, I don’t mean to tar the left w/ bad associations by saying LaRouche is there- he has no influence and no serious following, thankfully, and it’s been a long time since I bothered to read any of his newspapers or the like, but he at least was a certain sort of crazy leftists. (In the way that the Montana Militia are crazy rightists, though they and their sort do seem to get some traction in the main-stream right in the way that LaRouche, thankfully, never has.)

30

bianca steele 08.01.09 at 2:42 pm

Matt: I’ve been handed LaRouche literature at various times and places from say the late 70s to the 90s, and it was always obvious they were far-right and appealing to rightwingers. IMO, he differs from Pat Buchanan mostly in incidentals.

Does he present himself as on the left? I don’t know–where’s your evidence? Does he have a lingering belief in Marxist ideas? Since the only people who know much about Marxism are Marxists and former Marxists, I would certainly expect him to believe some things that are good markers for Marxism–the same for Whittaker Chambers, the same for the large number of 30s-era Communists who are now hard-line Republicans and Weekly Standard subscribers. I suspect saying he’s on the left is mostly a way for rightwingers who want to be reasonable to reject some of their own camp followers.

31

bianca steele 08.01.09 at 2:45 pm

One of those places was a few blocks from the incident in Northeast Philadelphia someone referred to on the police discretion thread, for what that’s worth. (Would anyone like to guess how many people in that neighborhood voted for Mondale or Dukakis?)

32

john theibault 08.01.09 at 2:47 pm

Alex @25

I’m not really so troubled by the misconceptions about plate tectonics, which I think is about par for the course of scientific ignorance in the US. It seems like about a medium hard question from the Pew survey of science understanding, for which only 10% of the Americans surveyed got all twelve questions right.

The thing that I find so fascinating about the birther issue in the south is that it is clearly a manufactured ignorance, not an ignorance from not paying attention. That’s just different from not understanding about continental drift. The contrast even with white republicans in the northeast, midwest, and west is quite extraordinary. Can we really explain it just by too frequent attention to Dobbs, Limbaugh, and the like, or are there powerful local effects that “force” people to misunderstand?

33

john theibault 08.01.09 at 2:58 pm

bianca,

In the 2000s the LaRoucheites were very anti-war and very anti-Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld. The latter distinguished them starkly from Buchanan. And they definitely claim to be “on the left.” They’ve always been one of the groups one pointed to when one wanted to say that there is less of a gap between the extreme left and the extreme right than there is between the moderate left and the moderate right.

34

Alex 08.01.09 at 3:42 pm

I’m not really so troubled by the misconceptions about plate tectonics, which I think is about par for the course of scientific ignorance in the US.

But look at the crossbreaks. All the groups got it right except for Republicans, and the three highest scoring groups were Democrats, blacks, and Latinos, who all got an absolute majority of Yes, and more importantly, only between 13 and 19% who got it explicitly wrong.

My point is that the Republicans in the survey were marked out by the fact they chose NO rather than DON’T KNOW; they were either unaware of their own ignorance, or else they were positively advertising it.

35

Steve LaBonne 08.01.09 at 4:13 pm

My point is that the Republicans in the survey were marked out by the fact they chose NO rather than DON’T KNOW; they were either unaware of their own ignorance, or else they were positively advertising it.

They’re effing PROUD of it. It’s a badge of honor with these people. I know people like that personally; talking to them for 5 minutes lowers your IQ by 10 points.

36

jre 08.01.09 at 4:34 pm

Lyndon LaRouche is a revealing test case. It turns out that the political spectrum is stitched together at its batshit extremes, and one’s political leaning can only be measured to modulo (2*batshit). Thus, when LaRouche passed the batshit threshold of zero on the Left, he wrapped around and acquired a batshit number of 1.999… on the Right. Hope this helps.

As to plate tectonics, I didn’t realize that Kos had done the poll, and that the question was phrased “Do you believe that America and Africa were once part of the same continent?” Cleverly done.

Instead, my first guess was that John was talking about Joe “Boxx of Roxx” Barton. If you follow the exchange, you’ll notice that Barton seems to be driving at something:

Isn’t it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on the North Pole? It wasn’t a big pipeline that we’ve created from Texas and shipped it up there and put it under ground so we can now pump it up?

Dumb like a fox, eh? OK, a really, really dumb fox, but still.

37

will u. 08.01.09 at 6:09 pm

“But his underlying philosophy, so much as he ever had one, was an odd sort of Marxism.”

His underlying philosophy is producerism, which does have affinity with the very crude sort of Marxism that (correctly) distinguishes industrial from finance capital, and (incorrectly) uncritically champions the former against the latter. The inchoate populist suspicion the Prairie states have of Wall Street and “elites” is dimly of this sort, too, which goes a long way towards explaining what’s the matter with Kansas.

38

Tim Wilkinson 08.01.09 at 10:06 pm

john theibult @33: In the 2000s the LaRoucheites were very anti-war and very anti-Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld. The latter distinguished them starkly from Buchanan.

Buchanan was anti-war, anti-neocon (the paleos being among the most vocal critics of the neos) – and wrote at least one article about it.

As an aside (coincidentally I was just going through some notes on this stuff a short while ago), in fact he was such a credible opponent (i.e. one from within the Rep fold) that he attracted the accusation of anti-semitism:

One-time Presidential candidate and CNBC commentator Pat Buchanan, in a just-published article in the American Conservative, blames the conflict with Iraq on the State of Israel and a ‘cabal’ of neoconservatives, the majority of whom are Jewish and supporters of Israel*. Among Buchanan’s vitriol: “We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords.”
What is truly frightening is the fact that this anti-Israel, anti-Jewish rhetoric is not coming from the lunatic fringe. It is now creeping into the American mainstream — helped by bigots like Buchanan and Rep. James Moran.

*note that this gloss is added by the guy who authored the piece – and isn’t part of the accusation Buchanan makes. Here “Jewish and supporters of Israel” is used as though the two are part of a single, indivisible phenomonen cp. “this anti-Israel, anti-Jewish rhetoric”.

39

Lichen 08.02.09 at 1:06 am

What do you think the general political make-up of PETA might be? Sensible on some points, but a bit too wacky for me.

Now I will swat at a fly. And I will not care if it dies.

40

john theibault 08.02.09 at 1:26 am

Tim,

The LaRoucheite literature I remember seeing in 2003/2004 was explicitly anti-Bush/Cheney (not that I saved any of the flyers that were being handed out at the Patco line so that I can be 100% sure of my recollection). I don’t recall Buchanan launching any sustained attacks on Bush and Cheney. Indeed, the whole point of the article you link to is that Bush is being “lured into a trap” by the neo-con cabal. I knew that he was anti-war and anti-neocon. And I don’t doubt that the LaRoucheite movement is suffused with similar anti-Semitism.

41

mart 08.02.09 at 2:06 am

…is suffused with similar anti-Semitism.

Didn’t Tim just show that the article was *not* anti-semitic? Not that I care that much that Buchanan is having mud thrown at him – he deserves it – but that whole anti-semitic slurring thing is getting *really* old.

42

Hume's Ghost 08.02.09 at 2:20 am

LaRouche started out on the far left, realized that there’s not really a sustainable market for far left politics in the United States and switched his associations to the far right. He’s crazy enough that you can still find mixes of crazy theories from both the far left and the far right.

“Then there are Green objections to GM foods, but these aren’t particularly salient in the US.”

Yes, and you can also here survivalist fears of GM foods if you listen to AM radio, since commericials for non-GM “survival seeds” can be heard during the breaks of programs such as Savage Nation. Of course, I believe the paranoia has a bit of truth to it since GM producers do come up with ways to f_ck over farmers with terminating seeds and what not.

43

bianca steele 08.02.09 at 3:04 pm

The article authored by Buchanan is incoherent. He notes that Jonah Goldberg’s call for war followed “the Ledeen doctrine” (Michael Ledeen being Goldberg’s more intellectually sophisticated colleage at National Review). Ledeen, however, in the writer’s opinion, is “less frivolous” than Goldberg; the call to war, obviously, comes from Goldberg himself. He quotes some passages from Ledeen’s writing. Then he concludes, “Passages like this owe more to Leon Trotsky than to Robert Taft and betray a Jacobin streak in neoconservatism that cannot be reconciled with any concept of true conservatism.” (Obviously, of course, this part of Ledeen’s writing is where he exposes views he picked up from Goldberg, not his own. Obviously.)

44

Danielle Day 08.02.09 at 7:17 pm

Preferring to deal with realities on the muddy street rather than guessing from the Ivory Tower, i recently witnessed two LaRouche followers camped in front of our local post office as they interacted with some hapless locals. Friends, these guys are about as crazy as you can get walking around upright without a strait jacket.

45

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 08.03.09 at 11:28 am

Um, the plate tectonic question was not actually meant to prove anything, except the inadequacy of the question itself. This was explained on Daily Kos, because it was meant to be an analogue of the very poor questioning Gallup does on “belief in evolution”.

46

John Quiggin 08.03.09 at 12:14 pm

It did prove something, although of course not about plate tectonics. As the explanation said, it proved that, if you pushed the right racial buttons Southern Republicans would reject mainstream science, even when it’s not controversial in any way.

47

Salient 08.03.09 at 2:23 pm

BTW, the same poll shows that most Republicans and most Republican voting groups reject plate tectonics because it implies that Africa and the Americas were once joined. We really face a global glut of stupidity here.

Anyone who felt surprised by this definitely hasn’t taught at various rural high schools. Which granted, is most everybody.

Personally, having taught at a couple rural high schools, I was extremely pleased to see this was true.

I’m not trolling, I swear! Why pleased? Because the answer shows that most Republican voting groups at least understand plate tectonics well enough to know the theory does indeed imply the Americas were once joined to Africa. To me, that’s… impressive. Or at least, not depressing.

As the explanation said, it proved that, if you pushed the right racial buttons Southern Republicans would reject mainstream science, even when it’s not controversial in any way.

I have copious anecdata about the rejection of Newtonian physics, specifically friction and gravity, together with the idea that an object would travel forever in a straight line at constant velocity unless a force was acting on it. But there’s no point in me going on about it; you can imagine anecdata-like stories for yourselves…

48

JM 08.03.09 at 4:04 pm

In the 2000s the LaRoucheites were very anti-war and very anti-Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld. The latter distinguished them starkly from Buchanan.

Really? Judging by Buchanan’s work at amconmag, his anti-war stance wouldn’t exactly “distinguish” him “starkly.”

49

cod3fr3ak 08.03.09 at 4:21 pm

bob mcmanus@19

Can you go into the tribal purity marker a bit. I am really interested in the psychology of human behavior and I think this is an excellent topic for study.

50

michael e sullivan 08.03.09 at 7:01 pm

So that plate tectonics question is going to be an interesting date point for St*v% S&^l#r to chew on. Looks like Black and Latino folks are smarter than white people. Too bad they didn’t sort out Asians or Ashkenazi Jews.

Somebody needs to create a diabolical (or perhaps it would be angelical?) IQ/standardized knowledge test, full of questions where movement conservatives who refuse to accept the truth will drag down the white average dramatically.

OMG STANDARDIZED TESTS HAVE BIASES WHO KNEW???

51

Paul 08.03.09 at 7:42 pm

In my opinion the Republican Party has been taken over the most extreme religious right (people who love to push their beliefs on others while trying to take away their rights) and that’s who they need to focus on if they real want to win. Good Luck, because as they said in WACO, “We Ain’t Coming Out”.

In the same vein, to all the birthers in La, La Land, it is on you to prove to all of us that your assertion is true, if there are people who were there and support your position then show us the video (everyone has a price), either put up or frankly shut-up. I heard Orly Taitz, is selling a tape (I think it’s called “Money, Lies and Video tape”). She is from Orange County, CA, now I know what the mean when they say “behind the Orange Curtain”, when they talk about Orange County, the captial of Conspiracy Theories. You know Obama has a passport, he travel abroad before he was a Senator, but I guess he fooled them too?

52

Aulus Gellius 08.03.09 at 11:24 pm

I don’t think the “same continent” question can be interpreted as nicely as we’d like to interpret it. It’s true that Southern whites answering “no” are probably, in many cases, ignorant of the science and guessing based on irrelevant prejudices; but the same is probably true of many Southern blacks and Latinos, whose irrelevant prejudices, in this case, are more likely to match the truth. A huge number of both right and wrong answers probably come from people who don’t know the science and are following their vague memories of what they’ve heard and gut instinct.
Also, seeing the question on the survey probably makes people think it must be a controversial issue; and then your answer is likely to depend on whether you think this is the sort of thing that would more likely be wrongly invented or wrongly covered up; that the liberals are trying to trick us into thinking we’re all the same race, or that the white power structure is trying to invent a separate identity for blacks.
Now if you asked something like “Geologists claim that America and Africa were once part of the same continent; do you think they are right?”, that would do something to separate the nuts from the merely ignorant.

53

Aulus Gellius 08.03.09 at 11:32 pm

Also, I sometimes suspect that many people tend to mentally translate a lot of survey questions into “are you on the Right or the Left?” So even if you see a crazy exaggerated version of your beliefs, you’d rather misrepresent yourself (especially anonymously) than take the uncomfortable mental step of saying “the bad guys are right on this one.”

Of course, this leads people to harm their own cause, because they make themselves seem like lunatics, but I, at least, can appreciate the temptation. If I was asked, on a survey, something like, “don’t you agree that allowing gay people to marry has been rather rare in much of Western history,” I’d be tempted to say “no,” when what I would really mean is “fuck you, homophobes.” I don’t think I’d do it, but I’d be tempted.

54

Mike Furlan 08.03.09 at 11:35 pm

But is there a parallel?

What did Dems think about Bush? He had been arrested for drunk driving. He’d used cocaine. He’d been AWOL from the service. Some people had more elaborate things going on. Were these huge memes? Did they really fly in the face of the plausible? Were they relevant to his presidency? I’d say they weren’t exactly parallel but was there a parallel in terms of rumors about Bush?

Yes there is a parallel.

Republicans disbelieve all bad things about themselves.

This is exactly parallel to believing all bad things about Obama.

WEST ALLIS, Wisconsin — Texas Gov. George W. Bush acknowledged Thursday that in 1976 he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol near his parents’ home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

http://archives.cnn.com/2000/ALLPOLITICS/stories/11/02/bush.dui/

A conversation between Bush and an old friend, author Doug Wead, touched on the subject of use of illegal drugs. In the taped recording of the conversation, Bush explained his refusal to answer questions about whether he had used marijuana at some time in his past. “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions,” Bush says. “You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.”[16] When Wead reminded Bush of his earlier public denial of using cocaine, Bush replied, “I haven’t denied anything.”[17]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Bush_substance_abuse_controversy

Whatever the case, even though his superiors knew he’d blown off his duties, they never disciplined him. (No one’s ever been shot at dawn for missing a weekend guard drill, but policy at the time was to put shirkers on active duty.) Indeed, when Bush decided to go to business school at Harvard in the fall of 1973, he requested and got an honorable discharge — eight months before his service was scheduled to end.

Bush’s enemies say all this proves he was a cowardly deserter. Nonsense. He was a pampered rich kid who took advantage. Why wasn’t he called on it in a serious way during the 2000 election? Probably because Democrats figured they’d get Clinton’s draft-dodging thing thrown back at them. Not that it matters. If history judges Bush harshly — and it probably will — it won’t be for screwing up as a young smart aleck, but for getting us into this damn fool war.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2446/did-george-w-bush-go-awol-during-his-time-in-the-national-guard

55

Freshly Squeezed Cynic 08.04.09 at 11:56 am

It did prove something, although of course not about plate tectonics. As the explanation said, it proved that, if you pushed the right racial buttons Southern Republicans would reject mainstream science, even when it’s not controversial in any way.

A fair point, but the question is rather ambiguously worded; it says “America” rather than the Americas, and I’d guess that the thing most people would remember about the whole continental drift theory is the connection of South America and Africa due to the way they “fit”. It’s not a good question.

The poll does show an interesting bias amonst Republicans that’s likely to have a racial element, but I think the initial reason for Daily Kos commissioning the poll was the most interesting; the poll was an implicit critique of the way polling is done on science issues (i.e. evolution).

56

MSS 08.04.09 at 5:17 pm

John (at #13), I am genuinely puzzled as to why “Green objections to GM foods” would be similar to anyone’s rejection of plate tectonics or global warming, or Obama’s US citizenship.

57

John Quiggin 08.04.09 at 10:51 pm

@MSS (#56) Of course, there is nothing antiscientific in objecting to GM foods on ethical or aesthetic grounds, or about advocating compulsory labelling so consumers can avoid these foods if they want.

But at least for some, the temptation has been to make claims about health risks that aren’t supported by mainstream science, and to do so in a way that is very similar to the arguments of GW sceptics. Here’s an example of the kind of thing I mean.

http://todayyesterdayandtomorrow.wordpress.com/

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