How Conservatives Determine The Truth

From the moment I saw this article posted I knew it would receive a lot of favorable comments in the conservative blogosphere. The article reports on a theory “that cosmic rays from outer space play a far greater role in changing the Earth’s climate than global warming experts previously thought.” Immediately many people who have neither read the actual literature in support of this argument or the research on climate change are latching on to this for the simple reason that it provides justification for their ideological views.

I have no idea as to how credible this idea is. Reportedly it is supported by some scientists and rejected by others. Regardless of the support shown for it in the conservative blogosphere, it will ultimately have to be tested and verified by the scientific method and in peer reviewed journals, which is the same process by which current ideas on climate change have become the consensus of scientific thought. Even if it is true that cosmic waves are an important factor, it doesn’t negate any of the research on carbon dioxide emissions and the connection to climate change. Conservatives love to claim that the climate changes are just a matter of natural fluctuations in temperature, ignoring all the data showing that current trends are taking us far outside of previously recorded norms. Al Gore, for example, made this trends very clear in An Inconvenient Truth.

While it will take some time to determine the significance of this theory from a scientific viewpoint, from a political vantage we can learn some immediate lessons. Conservatives have no concern for determining what is actually true. All that matters is having something in print they can point to. They will accept publications which supports their views and reject that which doesn’t fit in, even if the evidence is far greater for that which contradicts their ideology.

This is just the latest example. In terms of science we see this with all the bogus arguments against evolution. Many on the right also attack geology for disagreeing with them over the age of the earth and cosmology for its ideas on the origins of the universe.

This characteristic of the right goes far beyond science. Conservative and libertarian publications are packed with articles which appear to show that actions by private business are always superior to those performed by government. While philosophically I lean more towards libertarianism and would prefer that it was true that everything could be done better without government, there is just too much evidence that this is not a universal truth. Practicing medicine and comparing government to private plans was one important lesson as to the limits of market solutions to every problem. Conservative publications will simply concentrate on what supports their argument and ignore, or often distort, any evidence they find inconvenient.

Another excellent example of this thought process was seen during the 2004 campaign. All the reliable evidence demonstrated that John Kerry served heroically in Vietnam. When the Swift Boat Liars published arguments which they found to be politically useful, conservatives believed them without any real consideration of the evidence. Even though it was quickly shown that their claims were fabricated by political operatives purely out of political motives and their arguments were quickly to be found to contradict documented facts, conservatives continued to believe such arguments purely because they supported their political biases.

As long as we can keep the misinformed ideas from the far right from guiding public policy their fantasies will not matter. Evolution will proceed, and remain the basis of modern biology, even if conservatives don’t believe in it. It might not matter whether conservatives continue to believe the fabrications of the Swift Boat Liars as these people would never vote for a Democrat. Even if these lies affected the results of the 2004 election, the victory was short lived as the permanent majority Republicans dreamed of was ended quickly. The consequences of ignoring the role of human action in climate change are far graver. We cannot afford to ignore warnings of dangers of this magnitude just because we would prefer that it is not so.

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