Chief Science Correspondent
I don't generally browse conservative newspaper blogs, but when I came across Augusta Chronicle editorialist Damon Cline's article titled "Liberals love science - and hypocrisy," I decided it might be worth a read.
I expected that the article be filled with the author's protests against evolution and climate change, making broad sweeps in pseudoscience while failing to cite any type of peer-reviewed (or even not peer-reviewed) scientific literature. The writer did not disappoint.
In his article, Cline argues that liberals, just like conservatives, are biased in their interpretation of science, often rejecting scientific research because the results do not conform to their world view. From claims that liberals reject artificial sweeteners despite the science behind their safeness (For the record, recent studies have shown that these sweeteners can contribute to Type 2 diabetes and carcinogenesis), to a rant about the "government myth" of climate change (which I have no respect for because the author provided neither a reference or link to any relevant study or report), to even an attack against the anti-vaccine movement (I'm certainly with Cline on this one, but several recent studies have found the majority of anti-vaccine activists tend to be Republican).
Despite calling liberals hypocrites several times, the ultimate message of Cline's article is actually a peaceful one: Both liberals and conservatives should recognize that sometimes their own interests color their judgment of scientific facts.
I would love to be able to confidently state that Cline's article is completely ridiculous, as all liberals are completely unbiased in their interpretation of science. Liberals don't just believe or make up findings showing the effects of industry on the environment because they hate big business and want to save the polar bears; it's because the science says so. Liberals don't just believe evolution because they hate God (click here for a Cennamology review on why religious believers should not reject evolution); they believe in evolution because, again, the science supports it.
At least, they should.
But Cline brought up one point in his argument that was completely accurate: the anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) movement.
"If you haven’t noticed, it’s perfectly acceptable – encouraged, even – for liberals to doubt the science behind things they don’t like," Cline writes. "It's not just the aforementioned sweeteners, but also...genetically modified foods (which harm everyone) or whatever the evil scientists at Monsanto happen to be working on at this moment."
Cline presents a valid point. A large portion of the anti-GMO movement is made up of liberals. Although a Politico article titled "Democrats Have a Problem with Science Too," cites a study showing that the movement is equally split between Democrats, Republicans and Independents, the article also notes that many Democratic politicians have supported anti-GMO legislation that is simultaneously supported by their Republican counterparts.
Over half of Americans believe GMOs are unsafe, according to a poll conducted by ABC News last month. Again, both liberals and conservatives tend to oppose GMOs in equal numbers.
Therefore, we can conclude that approximately half of liberals stand opposed to GMOs, despite the fact that the vast majority of scientists say it is safe for consumption.* For a political group that prides itself in scientific interest and literacy, this statistic is both disappointing and bit unsettling.
By opposing big business and promoting more naturalistic methods of food production, the anti-GMO movement appears to coincide with the liberal/environmentalist ideology (Although many anti-GMO liberals choose to overlook the fact that GMOs have already helped mitigate world hunger by helping provide food more effectively to third world countries).
Yet it should not matter whether GMOs favor the environment (Although genetically engineering crops could help the environment by eliminating the need for pesticides that affect non-target organisms).
When liberals accept naturalistic pseudoscience in an effort to promote natural food and organic funding, they severely undermine the scientific credibility of the Democratic Party.
It is perfectly acceptable for a science-loving activist or politician to support protection of the environment and small businesses. However, using pseudoscience to promote these values is incredibly hypocritical and damaging, both to their political credibility and to the entire U.S. public science culture.
*This 2013 review article summarizes several scientific studies that found no evidence of GMOs being dangerous. Click here to read our defense of GMOs.