Robert A. Levine 11/18/2014
While America and other western nations are concerned about climate change and ISIS, Republican conservatives take stances similar to some of those of ISIS and Boko Haram. The conservative wing of the Republican Party, which seems to dominate the party’s ideology, appears to be waging its own war against science and education. (Fortunately, they’re not quite as brutal in how they handle women as their Islamic counterparts.)
Some of the contrary positions on scientific facts taken by Republican officeholders on state and national levels may stem from religious beliefs. However, funding from coal and oil interests may be the major factor for the refusal of most Republicans to accept climate change and global warming as reality, caused mainly by human use of fossil fuels and the release of carbon dioxide and other gases into the atmosphere. Many Republicans still insist that global warming is a hoax, foisted on the public by scientists who want government support for their projects. That over 95 percent of scientists involved in climate research or related fields believe global warming is an imminent risk to the planet, has been disregarded or downplayed by the Republicans. And the obvious change in weather patterns over the last decade do not seem to have affected Republican held districts, so perhaps they are unaware of what is happening.
This has become more of an issue since the Republicans are now controlling both Houses of Congress. This may allow them to block efforts of President Obama and the EPA to mitigate the factors responsible for global warming. A number of Republicans believe that Obama and the EPA are waging a “war on coal” and want to cut funding for the agency and reverse some of its actions. Since Republican major campaign contributions, Super PACs and 501(c)(4) groups originate with coal and oil interests like the Koch suckers, the GOP wants to protect them no matter what disastrous effects their products might have on the planet.
However, their refusal to believe that man-made climate change is occurring fits well with many Republicans non-acceptance of evolution as scientifically correct. Some see it just as a “theory” that needs to be taught equally with other ideas like creationism. Others do not want evolution taught at all in the public schools with creationism taking its place. With Republicans controlling numerous local school boards and state education agencies, this has become a problem with national implications. A 2014 Gallop Poll revealed that more than four in ten Americans believe that man was created in his current form by God 10,000 years ago and did not evolve from lower species. This belief is evidence of a failure by America’s education system to properly teach science, vitally important in today’s technologically advanced world, where jobs and the economy are dependent on scientific progress. The Big Bang theory is also rejected by those who deny evolution and not taught in many public schools.
But the Republican war on science extends to education as a whole. Republicans want to cut spending for education at all levels of government and for all levels of education, including K-12, college and graduate, pre-school programs, special tutoring, and so forth. Class size is not an important factor for many Republicans as they believe that personnel can be replaced by computers for teaching. As an example of how Republicans can gut education spending, one just has to look at Kansas with Governor Sam Brownback and its Republican controlled legislature that decreased state taxes and revenues dramatically. This resulted in state funding for public schools in Kansas to be cut and it is now 15 percent less than it was in 2008 according to the Center for Budget Policies and Priorities, with a huge state budget deficit present as well.
Research and develop funding by government has also been curbed by Republicans initiatives, with the belief that the private sector would be able to take up the slack. But this belief is also fallacious as corporations are interested mainly in research that will quickly help their bottom lines, not basic research that may yield results in the distant future. On the other hand, research by the NIH and government research subsidies to universities have resulted in numerous new drugs to treat cancer, infections, auto-immune diseases, and so forth. And defense research through DARPA has produced the Internet, Global Positioning Systems, stealth planes, speech translation, robotics, drones, and so forth. Cutting funding for scientific research to save money is like eating your seed corn and can only hurt the nation’s competitiveness in the years ahead.
Global warming is real, and as one of the major contributors to climate change, the U.S. should be one of the leaders in bringing a halt to this process. Evolution is a fact and should be taught as such in the public schools without alternatives given. Educational needs at all levels should be fully supported financially by state and federal governments, and funding for government backed research and development should rise significantly. If the Republican Party cannot overcome the objections of their right-wing zealots to get these things done, America is in deep trouble.