Why do science bloggers home in on fringe politics?

Following up on what I wrote last night:
Gribbit and his ilk wonder why people operating what are ostensibly science blogs spend time mocking them. I don’t have to justify my motivations, but I have sometimes wondered the same thing. I think that apart from all citizens being concerned with who is running the country and, by extension, who is helping put those people in office and why, it’s a matter of keeping front and center the fact that vast numbers of Americans fail to engage their critical faculties when it comes to things that are important to them, and politics is central to the raisons d’etre of millions of people in dire need of a hobby.
Science is a process, not an assemblage of facts, and those who earn the label of “wingnut” are completely foreign to the idea of scientific thinking. This can’t help but jump out at those trained in the philosophy of logic or the scientific method, either directly or by becoming fans of the more prominent people who champion such approaches. Science lovers have a much harder time abiding by sloppy thinking in general than others do.
People like Gribbit get their “news” from palpably propaganda- and lie-soaked sources such as Michele Malkin and WorldNut Daily and propagate the laughable garbage they find in such loci without pausing for a second to engage in any of that deep thinking Gribbit says he’s capable of. They are moved by anger whose origins they can’t even explain. They’re suckers and puppets of a masterfully effective plan by Karl Rove types to capture the most superficial thinkers of multiple generations. Yes, it happens on the political left as well, but not nearly to the same extent or, in terms of blogs, nearly as blatantly and in such a neatly encapsulated manner. I know plenty of sharp conservatives with well-honed analytical acumen, but bona fide idiots are virtually always drawn to the right, which touts cognitive laziness as a virtue.
Nutterbloggers cannot assemble multiple talking points into a coherent whole, for if they could and did they would spot the contradictions in their own shitburts in a trice. They start with the idea that global warming is wrong, homosexuality is evil, liberals are terrorist-sympathizing communist tax-and-spend ghouls, evolution is a godless lie, sex education leads uniquely to fucking which leads uniquely to another categorical evil (abortion), guns are harmless in the right hands and always remain in the right hands, war is good when brought by the United States, and immigrants are more often than not criminals. Then they find “news” sources supporting these views and work backward, very backward, from there.
So that’s what’s bothersome. When you live in a nation where probably half of the adult population cannot be bothered to even try to perform a basic, reasoned analysis of the facts before them, it’s a concern, and one bringing to bear at some level on science even if it doesn’t involve Ohm’s law, the periodic table, or a phospholipid bilayer.

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  1. #1 by Bill from Dover on December 17, 2008 - 10:03 am


    but bona fide idiots are virtually always drawn to the right, which touts cognitive laziness as a virtue.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the Gribbits (Gribbiti?) of the world proudly hyperbolize their lack of education and ignorance.

  2. #2 by Kevin Beck on December 17, 2008 - 10:12 am

    Well, make no mistake, I know plenty of very intelligent people without college degrees, and know loads of people both with and without who know a lot more about politics (not a fond subject to me) than I ever will. But acknowledging this is a far cry from pretending that a college education is actually a drawback and that lacking one while reading nothing but right-wing Web sites is a useful means of developing a respectable intellect.
    This sort of attitude reminds me of the guy who calls himself “The Penguin” in Runner’s World, who goes beyond encouraging slower runners to get out there and race and paints a lack of competitiveness and lackluster training as a virtue while portraying those who put a lot into their running as weirdos. He even has a book called “No Need For Speed,” and I bet it sells better than “Run Strong” ever will. I’m going to write a book called “No Need For Harmony” that disparages serious musicians and encourages people to never get beyond playing “Chopsticks” on the piano, telling them all the while they’re just as worthy as the “weirdos” in the Boston Pops.

  3. #3 by meatbrain on December 17, 2008 - 11:12 am

    You’ve articulated the reasons that I blog far better than I ever could have done, Kevin. Bravo.
    I would simply add that the reason that it is a concern that so many cannot “perform a basic, reasoned analysis of the facts before them” is that reason is the only human faculty with a snow cone’s chance in Hell of getting us out of the multiple crises we have and will find ourselves saddled with in the twenty-first century. Certainly the Gribbits of the world, with their lunatic devotion to ignorance, will not be providing any solutions.

  4. #4 by Joshua Zelinsky on December 17, 2008 - 11:12 am

    “know plenty of sharp conservatives with well-honed analytical acumen, but bona fide idiots are virtually always drawn to the right, which touts cognitive laziness as a virtue.”
    I would agree that bona fide idiots are more likely to be on the extreme right than on the extreme left. But this isn’t true to such an extent that one could say they are “virtually always” on the right. For example, The vast majority of the alternative medicine crowd is on the left. The same applies to the anti-vaccination groups who have had some members on the right which have grown with the whole Gardasil matter but are still mainly a left-wing thing.

  5. #5 by Kevin Beck on December 17, 2008 - 11:17 am

    You’re right about the antivax and altie loons, no question. Same with those why deny or minimize the role of genetics in various functional realms as well as those who go too far in pushing wrongheaded environmental causes. I consider these people to be more cranky than flat-out idiotic, but then again splitting hairs at this level is probably pointless.

  6. #6 by Pierce R. Butler on December 17, 2008 - 2:04 pm

    … bona fide idiots are virtually always drawn to the right …
    Maybe in blogtopia, but I suspect you haven’t been to as many left-oriented events disrupted by 9/11-truthers, chemtrailers, etc, as I have. :-P

  7. #7 by JimFiore on December 17, 2008 - 2:17 pm

    I’m going to write a book called “No Need For Harmony” …
    Someone has apparently beaten you to it, and several years ago I might add. To wit, punk and rap. Actually, some purveyors of rap have devolved to the point that there’s “No Need for Rhythm” either, at least on the part of the rappers. It’s just shouting over a drum track.
    On the converse side, just because you have harmony and rhythm doesn’t mean that you’ll wind up with anything interesting either. To wit, Pat Boone and Britney Spears.

  8. #8 by John McKay on December 17, 2008 - 3:52 pm

    Butler, I wouldn’t call the 9/11-truthers, chemtrailers, or HAARP crowd left or right, though many do arrive there from one end or the other. More of them start with these goofy ideas and then move into extreme politics, not the other direction. The fall of Communism in Europe took the wind out left-wing extremism outside of the altie crowd. Even the altie crowd is more mixed these days. For example, the survivalist, militia, and white supremist culture has whole-heartedly adopted altie medicine and food ideas. Dont worry though, I have faith that the next wing of left-wing nuts will be just as appalling as the last one was.

  9. #9 by Pierce R. Butler on December 18, 2008 - 11:14 pm

    John McKay @ # 8 – There’s been a hard-core right wing contingent with a strong bent towards unorthodox food and health concepts at least since the ’70s (when I first started to track them), and probably going back to the fluoride hysteria in the ’50s.
    As a long-time “leftist” activist (pls take rant about such labels as given), I’m here to tell ya that quite a few of the comrades have gone all the way ’round the bend about 9/11 – much to the frustration of those of us who have serious questions about The Official Version, but don’t claim to know the answers. So far, the only “leftie” chemtrailers I know of were nuts to begin with…

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