Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Ideology vs. hurricanes

There are several topics about which I think, "Okay, I've said all that needs to be said about that.  I've plumbed the depth of absurdity and foolishness on that particular subject."

And then things keep getting worse.

It will come as no surprise to long-time readers of Skeptophilia that what I'm referring to once again is climate change.  What touched off this particular salvo on that topic was the announcement two days ago that any research grant awards from the Environmental Protection Agency have to go to a Trump administration aide to make certain they're consistent with the party line before they're officially approved.

Yes -- we're at the point where science is being held hostage to the standard of ideological purity.

In particular, the aide in charge, one John Konkus, says he looks for the "double c-word" (guess what that means) and automatically eliminates from consideration any grant proposals that mention The Piece Of Reality That Shall Not Be Named.

The EPA isn't the only place this is happening.  Last month, the Department of the Interior cancelled a $100,000 project by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to study the effects of surface mining on the environment and on people living nearby because it doesn't jibe with the "Drill, Baby, Drill" policy of the current administration.

It probably bears reminding people what happens when the politicians start requiring science to abide by party agenda.  You end up with Trofim Lysenko, who became rich and famous under Josef Stalin by falsifying experimental data to make it look as if the environment could change the genetic makeup of an organism (you might recognize this as a latter-day Lamarckianism).  This idea, of course, was in line with Stalin's hatred of the idea of heredity-as-destiny, and it also bolstered his goal of revolutionizing Soviet agriculture.

Unfortunately, it was based on incorrect science and bogus data, invented because Lysenko knew what side his bread was buttered on.  The result was that Soviet scientific progress was stalled for decades, not only in genetics but in other fields, when researchers recognized how Lysenko had succeeded -- and what happened to the people who dissented.

All of this, however, is part-and-parcel of Trump's determination that ideology comes first, profitability comes second, and reality is dead last.  Especially ironic that all of this is happening while the Gulf Coast of the United States is still cleaning up from one of the costliest storms in history, and Hurricane Irma has broken every record for strength in Atlantic storms, and besides Irma there are simultaneously two other hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.

Oh, but none of that has anything to do with climate change, according to noted meteorologist Rush Limbaugh, who said (and no, I'm not making this up) that hurricanes are part of a liberal plot to push a climate change agenda.

"There is a desire to advance this climate-change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest [ways] to do it," Limbaugh said.  "You have people in all of these government areas who believe man is causing climate change, and they’re hell-bent on proving it, they’re hell-bent on demonstrating it, they’re hell-bent on persuading people of it...  Unlike UFOs, which only land in trailer parks, hurricanes are always forecast to hit major population centers.  Because, after all, major population centers [are] where the major damage will take place and where we can demonstrate that these things are getting bigger and they’re getting more frequent and they’re getting worse.  All because of climate change."

Hurricane Irma [image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

It's funny, I always thought that gays were the most powerful force known to nature, given that they've been blamed for causing earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires.  But that's apparently incorrect.  Liberals cause all of that stuff.

You know, I kind of wish that were true, because if I could create a hurricane, I'd send one to Rush Limbaugh's house, and also one to Mar-a-Lago.  But I'd want it to be a really focused hurricane, so no one else gets hurt, because I'm just a bleeding heart snowflake that way.

What gets me most about all of this is how much of this political posturing is based on ignorance.  I'd be willing to bet cold hard cash that most of the Trump supporters who are snarling about "government inefficiency" and "government red tape" and "bureaucracy" couldn't give you facts about a single specific example.  It's why bloviating gasbags like Rush Limbaugh are still around; he can make idiotic claims like the one above, and people just nod and go, "Yeah!  Damn liberals!  That all makes sense!"

So here we are, once again discussing climate change deniers.  All of which makes me feel like we're moving backwards, that our leaders are actually getting progressively stupider.  And I'd like to say this is the last time I'm addressing this in Skeptophilia, but chances are, circumstances will prove me a liar.

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