The anti-science left

The anti-science left

What do the following have in common: the anti-vaccination movement, the anti-GMO movement, the pro-climate change action movement?

They’re not all “science based” ideologies, so that’s out. They are, however, all movements that find resonance on the left. And…they are all anti-big corporation in one way or another.

The anti-GMO movement is often anti-Monsanto. The anti-vaccination movement seems to be anti-Big Pharma. And the climate change action movement? Anti-industry to a large degree. Which raises a question for anyone who’s watched these debates unfold: Are liberals really pro-science, or are they just reflexively anti-capitalism/anti-corporate?

There are certainly conservatives who fall into the anti-vax, anti-GMO camps, but chances are if you did a quick mental tally of those you know in those groups, they’d fall on the liberal side of the political spectrum. It’s hard to find actual polling on the political ideology of those groups, but a few facts paint the picture:

Vermont, one of the bluest states in the nation, passed an anti-GMO bill this year that requires GMO labeling on foods within the state. The state is being sued by Monsanto, among other trade groups.

Outbreaks of diseases preventable through vaccination are occurring in deep blue areas, such as New York City, California, and other West Coast liberal territory.

Even liberals are taking their peers to task for their anti-vaxxer, anti-GMO stances. A  particularly good piece on this is a January  New York Times article describing the painful journey of a Hawaiian Democrat who, when examining the anti-GMO science, found himself at odds with his party. As the article points out:

Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves at odds with their traditional allies on this issue. Some compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative ones.

Even liberal doyen Jon Stewart featured a segment taking aim at liberal anti-vaxxers on his Daily Show this year.

As the New York Times article pointed out, liberals like to think of themselves as the pro-science party, and they criticize conservatives as being reactionary science deniers on issues such as global warming.

But is the left really pro-science? If inexpensive technology appeared tomorrow that would mitigate the effects of pollutants in the atmosphere, would liberals back off their quest to restrict growth and industry?

This is one of the things that makes the global warming debate so contentious. When liberals like to wear the mantle of “science,” yet many of them resist the hard science on vaccinations and GMOs (especially the ability of GMOs to cut down on the use of fertilizer and pesticides, and GMO crops’ abilities to feed many in poor Third-World countries), it’s hard to believe they are sincere in wanting a clean environment more than wanting one clean of big corporations.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a Big Business flag-waver. But as long as the left wraps itself in the flag of anti-Big Business, it’s hard to view their motivations as entirely pure when it comes to “settled science.”

Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg is an Edgar-nominated novelist whose works include humorous women’s fiction, young adult fiction, and historical fiction. Her political writings have appeared at Hot Air, the Weekly Standard, Insight, the Wall Street Journal, and Christian Science Monitor.


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