Measles Outbreak Shows How Republicans Have A Serious Problem With Science And Facts

Statements from many prominent Republicans, including Chris Christie and Rand Paul, on the measles outbreak have served to remind people that Republicans really are the Party of Stupid. This follows recent problems with Republicans ignoring the science to promote hysteria in response to Ebola.  As The New York Times wrote:

The vaccination controversy is a twist on an old problem for the Republican Party: how to approach matters that have largely been settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by conservatives.

It is a dance Republican candidates often do when they hedge their answers about whether evolution should be taught in schools. It is what makes the fight over global warming such a liability for their party, and what led last year to a widely criticized response to the Ebola scare.

As concern spread about an Ebola outbreak in the United States, physicians criticized Republican lawmakers — including Mr. Christie — who called for strict quarantines of people who may have been exposed to the virus. In some cases, Republicans proposed banning people who had been to the hardest-hit West African countries from entering the United States, even though public health officials warned that would only make it more difficult to stop Ebola’s spread.

On climate change, the party has struggled with how to position itself, with some Republicans inviting mockery for questioning the established science that human activity is contributing to rising temperatures and sea levels.

There are two types of misinformation being spread by conservatives regarding vaccines. The most extreme is to deny the basic science, claiming that vaccines do not work or are harmful. Some limit their arguments to denying the public health dangers resulting when some people refuse to vaccinate their children, often on libertarian grounds. While herd immunity has generally protected Americans from the effects of some refusing vaccines, the current measles outbreak shows what can happen. This also highlights a major problem with libertarianism. Sometimes, as even Fox’s Megyn Kelly has argued, “some things do require some involvement of Big Brother.”

It is also hard for Chris Christie to hide behind any libertarian justification for allowing parents to refuse to vaccinate their children after he involuntarily quarantined nurse Kaci Hickox despite the lack of either legal or medical justification.

It does make it much worse for the Republicans when they show similar problems with science and facts on other issues, not limited to evolution, climate change, vaccines, and Ebola. As I discussed yesterday, Republicans are also basing their attempts to restrict abortion rights on pseudo-science, such as claiming that a fetus can feel pain before it has developed a cerebral cortex, and framing the debate around unscientific claims that there is a definite point when life begins.

While economics is not as exact a science, there is ample data which disputes Republican Voodoo Economics. Tax cuts on the wealthy do not pay for themselves, do not stimulate the economy, and do not lead to wealth trickling down. The multiplier effect of government spending on economic development, along with the benefits of giving tax breaks to the poor and middle class, as opposed to the wealthy, often provide far greater benefit. These are among the reasons that the economy does so much better under Democrats than Republicans.

We are still seeing the disastrous effects of Republicans ignoring the facts in Iraq to go to war.

Facts matter, and Republican denial of the facts do not change this. What does happen is that we all suffer when Republicans decide public policy while denying science and facts.


  1. 1
    David Duff says:

    Anyone who uses the phrase “established science” without a wink demonstrates their total ignorance of the history of science as well as the scientific method.

  2. 2
    lizzie16 says:

    Excellent article, although you got the party wrong.  It’s mostly wealthy liberal coastal elites that are anti-vaxx.

  3. 3
    Rich says:

    There are as many liberal (and possibly many many more) anti-vaxers than conservative ones. Not to mention the liberals who reject the science on fracking or GMO’s because it suits them. In the face of all the evidence to propose that the GOP is systematically more “epistemically closed” than Dems is nothing but confirmation bias in action. Everybody does it, and if you were ACTUALLY interested in science qua science you would call everybody out on it and not try to claim “Well, when THEY do it its worse.” To do that is a rather pathetic exercise in denial.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    David, spoken like a true science-denier/conservative. Off topic, I did think of you earlier when I came across this article on Spiral.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:

    Lizzie & Rich, no, you cannot deny the Republican Party’s problem with denial of science. Yes there are Democratic voters who are anti-vaxers (possibly more than Republicans) just as there are some Democratic voters who deny evolution (far less than Republicans). However this post is on the problem faced by the Republican Party. There are not Democratic Party leaders who are denying science in the way that Republicans have for years on multiple issues, and the recent comments from Republican leaders on vaccines only adds to this problem for the party.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Lizzie, you are also wrong in claiming it is mostly liberal coastal elites. The anti-vaxxers are fairly evenly split between party voters (again with only Republican leaders pandering to them):

    The 2009 version of the just-released Pew study showed 26 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of Democrats favored parental choice on vaccinations over mandating them. Thirty percent of independents agreed.

    Update 12:29 p.m.: Pew has released more data from their new study on this, and slightly more Republicans and independents now favor parental choice on vaccines than in 2009.

    Polling on vaccines is relatively scarce at this point. An October Reason-Rupe study for the libertarian Web site showed slightly higher resistance to mandating vaccine — 37 percent. An AP-GfK poll from March 2014, meanwhile, showed 53 percent of Americans were “extremely” or “very” confident that vaccines were safe. Another 30 percent were “somewhat confident,” while 15 percent were “not too” confident or “not at all.”

  7. 7
    David Duff says:

    Damn!  I didn’t know whether to be pleased at that excellent review of  ‘Spiral’, or pissed off because it was written by ‘The Graun’!  Oddly enough, I have just come upstairs having watched the recording of last Saturday’s double episodes – superbe!

    As to your unfortunate use of the silly phrase “settled science“, the whole history of science since the Greeks has shown it to be anything but settled – ever!

  8. 8
    Ron Chusid says:

    I didn’t read much of the review due to spoilers but got the gist at the start that they agree with your previous comment about the quality of the show.

    I did not use the phrase “settled science.” The closest reference to this in the post is from a quoted article, which doesn’t use the phrase either. The article says “matters that have largely been settled among scientists.” Science is never totally settled as we learn more.

    On the other hand, there is a huge difference between the Greeks being wrong and modern science being wrong. Science deniers who cite things that the ancient Greeks got wrong, or others centuries ago, are the ones with the “silly” arguments.

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:

    Also off topic, but your recent prediction of Walker winning the Republican nomination is also looking good at the moment. I’m sure you’d agree that a lot can change and any predictions are risky, but he has had a good couple of weeks.

  10. 10
    David Duff says:

    Re: Walker, yes indeed, “there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip“, but the slip I’m waiting for is the real ‘arse over elbow’ crash as some of  ‘HillBilly’s’ hidden secrets come out.  Then ‘Faucahontas’ can leave the tepee and give the Dems a lesson in losing.  Such fun . . .

  11. 11
    Ron Chusid says:

    People have been digging into Clinton for so long now that it is doubtful there are any more secrets to come out. Of course Republicans might try to make up a few more things.

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