Redskins vs. Cowboys
From 1997 to 2002, the Dallas Cowboys won ten straight games over the Washington Redskins. Ten straight. Some games were close, others were blowouts, but they were all losses. Now, I am a diehard Washington Redskins fan. I worship at the altar of the burgundy and gold, I consume the most banal and mundane news that comes out of Redskins park, and my most beloved sports figure is Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs - the winner of three Superbowls. But no matter what I do, no matter what rituals I perform as I hope for the game winning field goal to split the uprights, the Redskins lost those ten games. It is immutable, concrete, unchangeable, fact.
Yet, when it comes to issues much more vital to democracy than a football game - namely science, medicine, and the very survival of man, conservatives and their political representatives in the Republican party are no better than the rabid football fan who talks your ear of years after the game explaining why, exactly, their team should have won the game. They are Deniers.
Where I'm Coming From
The Deniers reflexively lash out at their critics, usually by one tired, shopworn tactic: faith. They accuse their opponents of representing the secular, godless left who wishes to oppress Christians with atheism. The argument is fallacious. One's personal faith, no matter how strongly held the beliefs are, cannot change fact. The likelihood of up transmuting into down simply because someone prayed is about zero.
I was personally raised in a Christian household, christened in the Anglican church. While I haven't been to a church in over fifteen years and have never been a regular churchgoer, I would clearly classify myself as something of an agnostic or Deist like the founding fathers. I think the basic idea is that there is a higher power to the universe, but I couldn't begin to define who or what it is. I believe that the goal of man on earth is to improve himself and his society for the better. I think you get what you put in, so you should err on the side of caution and put good stuff in. That said, what I believe is mostly immaterial. Facts are facts and truth is truth whether I disagree with it or not. If an atheist were to say that red is blue, he would be no more correct than if the pope or an imam said so.
Denial Is A Threat
The Deniers of the right seek to limit or expunge from the public sphere that which they disagree with or what clashes with their religious or social dogma. This is unequivocally the wrong thing to do, and hurtful to American society. As a nation we strive endlessly to be better and greater. In order to accomplish this, their is a long national tradition of innovation, criticism, peer review, study, research, and more. These are all focused on the creation of ideas, refining those ideas and adding new data to those ideas in order to network them together in what we call "knowledge". Every nation does this in one form or another, and America has traditionally been a leader in this area and it is a clear contributor to our status as international leader and superpower.
Yet, in order to further their personal pet agendas, the deniers seek to undermine this basic idea. Take, for instance, the promoters of creationism (in the guise of "intelligent design"). There is nothing inherently wrong or bad in questioning accepted scientific principles like evolution. But in order to do so, you must similarly back up your critique with evidence. The entire sound and fury behind the creationist movement is simply the denial of the scientific evidence in evolution. There is no factual basis for it, no peer reviewed work validating it. Yet, the deniers seek to infect our already ailing school system with their ill-considered and ill-constructed ideology. It may help them demonstrate support to their supporters and possibly deliver a few votes for the Republican party, but in exchange it pours nonsense into the heads of our children. This bilge is mainstreamed at an early age, substituting theology and hogwash for years of scientific research and theory. What happens to these children when they begin working with biology beyond the lectures of a teacher? Evolution theory is a critical building block of so many sciences, but by pumping up creationism - even with marketing terms like "intelligent design" - you're instantly kneecapping the academic pursuits of millions of children. The next great drug or medical innovation or leap forward in science isn't going to come from a child indoctrinated in a dogma which has no basis in reality.
For the sake of the conservative movement, should we sacrifice children's brains? That is the ultimate choice.
They Are Deniers
Denial is more than just a river in Egypt. Many deniers reject the label because they see it as too closely aligned with "holocaust denial". But the sick set of people who deny that the systematic extermination of Jews and others under the reign of Hitler never happened used the exact same "reasoning" now exhibited by people like Senator James Inhofe who doesn't just quibble with the details of global warming but flat out decries the entire field of science and research as a "hoax". There is honest discussion about what amount of global warming can be directly attributed to mankind, but people like Sen. Inhofe and his many followers deny the entire concept outright no mind the peer-reviewed scientific research and discovery to the contrary. Inhofe and his supporters (many of them in the oil industry who profit over government inaction on climate change) would have allies at least in how they reject basic evidence with the people who clearly are aware of the existence of Nazi death camps but still deny their systematic operation.
They are deniers.
How Do You Fight Them?
For too long, moderates and liberals have sought to give the deniers a seat at the table. Thinking that by simply discussing the issue and by "teaching the controversy" to children, they stupidly think that the deniers can be satiated. But the bloodlust of the denial crowd is infinite. They do not seek to even debate issues - mostly because their assertions cannot stand up to honest debate - but rather they seek to wipe thousands of years of human triumph off the map.
Deniers like to stress that the numbers are on their side. In the case of global warming, this is not true. The majority of Americans believe in the science and some level of human culpability in it. In the case of evolution, the opposite is true. More Americans believe in creationism than they do evolution. But here is the great thing about both cases and others like them: it doesn't matter. Once again, if you put 100 people in a blue room and they all believe that it is red - the room is still red.
Defeating the deniers is vital to the continued survival of common sense in America. What someone believes in their home and in their house of worship is whatever they wish to believe, but when those beliefs enter the public sphere and seek to contradict real research and objective truth, they must be beaten down until they are bloody and dead. In our public schools our children must be taught real science, not radical nonsense or watered down committee approved bites of nothingness. Our children must learn real science, as practiced by men and women of knowledge for thousands of years. It is our only hope for continued survival as a planet and as a nation.
At every turn, objective reality must not only have people standing behind it but vigorous supporters who will defend it to the hilt. The very notion of accommodating the denial crowd should be anaethema to any sane human being. If you give them an inch, they will take a mile and pull us all down with them.
Faith does not automatically lead to denial, because while the denial crowd is often made up of those who claim to be religious, contrary to their assertions the worlds do not exclude each other. There are many who have made big and small advances in science, knowledge, and research who prayed and worshipped their gods along the way. And there are some who don't. Yet, because their work product adheres to accepted standards, neither is denied by the rational.
That's how it ought to be in America, and in the rest of the world.