Wednesday, March 24, 2010

MemeWatch: Do you "believe" in global warming?

In Jon Stewart's recent appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor," the host, Bill O'Reilly framed a question about global warming in what seems to becoming the preferred fashion on the right: "Do you believe in global warming?" This puts global warming on par with the Easter Bunny and Phlogiston. When did global warming become an issue of faith? Round about the same time that the Texas Board of Education removed any reference to "Enlightenment ideas" from the school curriculum. Coincidence? Perhaps not. The real question is, "do you believe in the scientific method and the process whereby it adduces empirical evidence and tests hypotheses?" Or, more simply, "don't you think that science is just another kind of faith -- perhaps a secular religion?"
Since then I've seen this formulation crop up in a number of different places -- sometimes in the form of an assertion by those who accept the scientific consensus: "I believe in global warming." Perhaps soon we'll have to say things like "I believe in the laws of gravity" (or not). In the face of the collapse of science, the goal is to couch everything in terms of a war of faiths. Or, more simply, war, which is what that boils down to. It should come as no surprise in this context that the response of right-wingers to passage of health car reform has been threats and attacks. Falling back behind the Enlightenment means returning to resources other than recourse to deliberation, evidence giving, and reason as means of settling debates.

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