Commentary: Science? We don't need no stinking science in Gulf oil spill

The Miami HeraldAugust 23, 2010 

To hell with those damn scientists bad-mouthing our good shrimp, oysters and crabs pulled from the oily waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Best way to deal with that peer-reviewed study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association?

Same way we Americans deal with any science we find inconvenient. Ignore it. Call it a lie. Make it out to be the stuff of elitist eggheads. Particularly when scientific recommendations cut into profits.

The JAMA health warnings could damage tourism, the fishing industry, restaurant sales. Patriotic Americans have a duty to shout down these lying liberal environmentalists plotting to drive fishermen into extinction.

No one really believes a few dollops of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons render invertebrates unsafe for the frying pan, do they? After all, this was the same sooty stuff medical researchers claimed was poisoning cigarette smoke back in the 1950s. Relying on contrary research financed by the tobacco industry, and some loud southern politicians, we managed to deny the risk for years. Right up until Momma keeled over from lung cancer.

It's the great American paradox. We live bountifully off the fruits of scientific research while attacking scientific findings that offend religious or political ideologies. Or the bottom line.

A Pew Research Center survey in 2009 -- 84 years after the Scopes trial -- found only a third of Americans bought into that notion of evolution. We might harbor vague worries about antibiotic-resistant super bacteria evolving in hospitals, yet argue that the evolution-free universe clocks in at 7,000 years.

How do we do it -- deny basic tenets of biological research while gulping down pharmaceuticals by the handful? It's the magic of asymmetrical thinking.

A study published in the April issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that global-warming skeptics "comprise only 2 percent of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3 percent of researchers in the top 100 and 2.5 percent of the top 200."

No matter. Ideologues rev up the volume on climate warming until two percent overwhelms the 98 percent. Here in America, to save a little money in the short run, we're willing to bet our children's potentially hellish future (a three- to seven-foot rise in sea levels, desert temperatures, mass extinctions and widespread drought) on two chances out of a hundred that global warming isn't worth worrying about.

An overwhelming consensus among coastal scientists has warned that the threat to the environment from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's 45-mile sand-berm project outweighs its use as a buffer against BP's spilled oil. No matter. Jindal is building a $360 million monument to the concept that short-term politics trumps long-term science.

Evolution gets skeptical treatment in text books throughout the Bible belt. The Big Bang gets shut out. Lately, anti-evolution evangelicals have extended their war against science to include the heretical notion of man-caused global warming. Their argument goes (news to the passenger pigeon) that man does not have the power to undo what God has created.

Which ought to fit nicely with a campaign against those godless geeks who've dared to denigrate God's BP-sauteed invertebrates in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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