Links, Quotes, Comments: 20 June

A post today by Amanda Marcotte, on both Salon and Alternet–

Salon: Reason vs. the right: Have conservatives abandoned science and rationality?
Alternet: Have Conservatives Abandoned Rationality, Skepticism and Truth?

The possibility that rationality itself has become a partisan issue is disquieting to many who prefer to believe that “both sides” have topics that they are irrational about and irrationality is evenly distributed among all political stripes. That may have been true in the past, but increasingly, Americans are rearranging their political views and their views on empiricism so that liberals are putting much more of an emphasis on rationality. Indeed, many of the irrational notions floating out there that are assumed to be “liberal” are, in fact, becoming more associated with the right as this reshuffling takes place.

The recent reboot of the show Cosmos on Fox further demonstrated how partisan the very idea of science and empiricism has become. The show, which features astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson taking over the host role from the original’s Carl Sagan, was aggressive in defending science, curiosity, and following the evidence from people who would rather rely on faith or authority, but it took no partisan positions. Nonetheless, it was immediately understood by Americans both left and right as a “liberal” show, merely for its strong insistence that facts should not be ignored in favor of wishful thinking.

Even though the show was hosted on the Fox network channel, Fox News, the conservative cable channel, did not hold back in the slightest from attacking Tyson for perceived liberalism. In a shockingly racist segment, host Greg Gutfeld and guest Gavin McInnes dogged relentlessly on Tyson, insinuating that he can’t really be an astrophysicist and making fun of “white liberals” for being enthusiastic about Tyson and his work. It only grew uglier with McInnes claiming that Tyson deserved to be mistreated based on his race when he was young because he “fit the profile” by having “a huge afro.”

Is this a surprise? The political right is dominated by the religious, who are, virtually by definition, irrational.

And about the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) — meaning, organization against gay marriage — which held a rally in Washington DC this week. Which attracted… hundreds.

Think Progress: Religion Motivates The Few Participants In National Anti-Gay Marriage Rally

Of course it does. I’m not sure there’s one cogent or accurate statement in this article. They are all misinformation, religious bigotry, or childish squeamishness.

At Slate, J. Bryan Lowder has a mildly sarcastic take.

Four of the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, and depression—were on full display today at the March for Marriage, a rally outside the U.S. Capitol organized by the National Organization for Marriage and other co-sponsors.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum offered a particularly frothy mix of rhetoric on this point, suggesting that, “first and foremost in this movement, we have to reclaim marriage for what it is. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of making two people as one—a unity—and secondly, to have and raise children. No other union can accomplish those two purposes.” Those who have happily co-parented a child after an accidental pregnancy will be surprised to learn that their arrangement is impossible, but then their existence was not the only one to be denied entirely at the March for Marriage.

And at another point, Bishop Harry Jackson noted, in what seemed to be an unwitting moment of lucidity, that this conflict represented “one group trying to impose their issue, their agenda, on another group of Americans. That’s not right and that’s not fair.”

The irony of the last paragraph.

A great political cartoon by David Horsey. There is a significant segment of the US population who reflexively reacts to any accomplishment by the Obama administration in this way. Anything, no matter how good, must be bad, if done by Obama. Scroll down to see the cartoon.

GOP criticism of Khattala’s capture hits level of pure silliness

And two great posts at io9 this week.

10 Pseudo-Science Theories We’d Like to See Retired Forever

Including the vaccinations and autism hoax, homeopathy, intelligent design, and… “toxins”.

Here is a scientific definition for a toxin: It’s a poisonous substance produced by living cells, especially one that, when introduced into a new body, spurs the creation of antibodies. That’s a toxin. That’s what it is, where it’s made, and what it does.

Here is a definition for a “toxin”: It’s a mysterious bad thing that’s in all the stuff I don’t like. I don’t know what it actually looks like, or its chemical composition. I don’t know exactly how it’s produced. I don’t know the precise process it sets off in the body. I only know that it definitely, definitely causes the awful thing that I always thought would, and indeed should, happen to people doing stuff I don’t like.

We need to step on the idea of “toxins.” We need to step on it until it’s dead. We’re not going stop people from blasting woo at us any time we eat anything that’s not kale or live anywhere that’s not the windswept peak of a mountain, but with concerted effort, we can at least make them sound ridiculous when they do it. I think the new term for toxins should be “evil pixie dust.”

And: 10 Scientific Ideas That Scientists Wish You Would Stop Misusing

Proof. Theory. Natural. Survival of the Fittest. Organic.

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