Science Denialism with Donald Prothero

May 12, 2014

Our guest this week is Donald Prothero, paleontologist, geologist, and author of the new book Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten our Future. He’s an expert on the effect of past climate change on the fossil record, as well as the co-author of Abominable Science, a skeptical look at  cryptozoology and cryptozoologists with Daniel Loxton.

Science Denialism is a many-headed hydra that rears up when people don’t want to believe what science tells us. In this day and age, science has enough cachet that educated people don’t openly reject it when it tells them things they don’t want to hear. Instead, they imitate the trappings of science to advance a political agenda.

There was “Big Tobacco” making up fake science and slandering critics to convince the world that smoking is good for you, then there were the apologists for nuclear proliferation, spreading bunk science about the survivability of nuclear war. When the courts decided that teaching Genesis in science class was unconstitutional, fundamentalists got busy manufacturing pseudoscience in the form of Young Earth Creationism and later Intelligent Design. Vaccines have slashed childhood death rates worldwide but some people still aren’t prepared to accept this fact, and prefer to fixate on pseudo-scientific conspiracy theories. Perhaps the most dangerous example of science denialism is the fossil fuel industry funded campaign to convince the public that climate change isn’t real.

Host Lindsay Beyerstein discusses all this and more with Donald Prothero.

This is point of inquiry from Monday, May 12th, 2014. 

Hello and welcome to Point of Inquiry. A production of the Center for Inquiry. I’m your host, Lindsay Beyerstein. And my guest today is Donald Prothro, paleontologist, geologist and author. He’s an expert on the impact of past climate change on the fossil record. He’s the coauthor of Abominable Science A Skeptical Look at Cryptozoology and Cryptozoologist with Daniel Loxton. And today’s here to talk about his new book, Reality Check How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future. Science denialism is a many headed hydra that rears up when people don’t want to believe what science has to tell us. In this day and age, science has enough cachet that educated people don’t openly reject it when it tells them things they don’t want to hear. Instead, they imitate the trappings of science to advance a political agenda. There was big tobacco making up fake science and slandering critics to convince the world that smoking is good for you, or that at any rate, we can’t possibly tell whether it causes cancer. Then there were the apologists for nuclear proliferation spreading bunk science about the survivability of nuclear war. When the courts decided that teaching Genesis in science class was unconstitutional, fundamentalists got busy manufacturing pseudo science in the form of young earth, creationism and later intelligent design and other stalking horses for religious indoctrination in school. Vaccines have slashed childhood death rates worldwide. But some people still aren’t prepared to accept the fact and prefer to fixate on pseudoscientific conspiracy theories. Perhaps the most dangerous example of science denialism is the fossil fuel industry funded campaign to convince the public that climate change isn’t real. Here to discuss all this and more is my guest, Dawn for therapy. Don, thank you so much for joining us on a point of inquiry. 

You’re inviting me. What is science denialism? 

Science and nihilism is sort of a recent phenomenon in many ways. It’s basically people who don’t like the message that science tells us, whether it’s about climate change or about evolution or something like that, usually because they have a religious or ideological bias to begin with. And then they go on to really amazing and bizarre attempts to basically deny the science that they don’t like. 

And what sets denialism apart from skepticism, a lot of it nihilists and trying to set themselves up as the true skeptics are the actual skeptics. How do you talenti nihilists from a skeptic, right. 

A skeptic is a person who doesn’t accept claims based on other people saying so. And they want to examine the evidence and tested as frequently as possible as some point out, or the evidence becomes overwhelming. Then it is no longer time to pretend you’re a skeptic anymore than you accept what has been proven, a denial of failure. And we’ll never accept stuff they don’t want to believe. Even if the evidence is overwhelming. 

People have been not wanting to believe what they don’t feel like believing for a long time. 

What makes denialism a recent phenomenon that isn’t it isn’t something new in the sense that people are always in a sort of forced the world to bit their belief system. The difference being it, up until fairly recently, people almost always had a respect for how science is brooder lives and what science does, and the fact that science is at self-correcting system that pretty much gets rid of its mistakes and gets rid of its individual biases or peer review through all the other processes are built into it. And so it’s all a method. We have to get past the problem with humans and their individual ideas. And that has been sort of accepted by people a very long time, despised by so many good benefits. Until recently, in which science now been telling us things we don’t want to hear and giving the truth. And then these people now react to science as something that threatens them or bistritz what they want to believe. 

What are some of the most pressing examples of these inconvenient truths that denialism attach themselves to? 

Well, the largest ones in our culture right now, of course, are the two biggest ones in politics, which is, of course, climate change and evolution. And they’ve been around a long time. And of course, the battle over evolution goes back almost a century now, the early 20th century when this monkey laws were passed, the Scopes trial. But they’re both at fever pitch right now because they’re now part of mainstream politics in a way they never were even 20 years ago, especially because one political party bases attached sensible climate denial and it to creationism. And so it’s now become higher sort of. The group think that anyone who associates themselves with the right wing in this country is automatically climate denier and is usually a creationist as well. 

That was a pretty remarkable part in the book when you took us back to the Republican nomination, where only one, one of the candidates for the public, a nomination to President John Huntsman, actually agreed that the earth was ancient and that that life is halved. 

Yeah, that’s pretty bizarre. I mean, any one of those guys theoretically could have been the most powerful person in the universe and that there’s a there are so many of them are these bizarre ideas that have no support. Science is a scary thing. 

What what what parallels are there in terms of the strategies that the deniers use to deny both climate change and evolution? 

Yeah, that’s what I call the Holocaust deniers playbook, because the earliest sort of denial of an obvious reality, it goes back to the Holocaust deniers right after World War two. And then, of course, the creationists have a long history of doing the same thing. And basically it’s a strategy to provide. They do anything they can to make the harsh reality the science tells us go away or at least try to discredit it. And so they do almost all the same strategies which now been picked up by all the science matters. They’re all very similar in the way they attack science and what science is telling us. And so they can do things that, quote, line or they take stuff out of context from something written by a scientist or written by an authority to twist its meaning to mean exact opposite of what the person clearly intended. That’s been used for years. They do things like get lists of people that supposedly support them and say, well, I have 500 scientists here deny that climate is changing or that life evolved. And of course, the minute you go over that list, you discover isn’t proposed that people have no qualifications whatsoever to be talking about the topic. Usually they’re just people that grab randomly in the scientific community. And the only people’s opinions are Rohner. Those are actually doing the research in that field and know it firsthand. And yet this is the kind of strategy that person press people don’t know any better because this is the kind of thing they can they can use as a political weapon or using way to basically befuddle anyone who isn’t already clearly under understanding the facts, because they’re kind of taking advantage of the fact that to lay people, anyone who has APHC in anything to do with science, you ought to be considered authoritative about right. 

Whether the earth is warming. 

That’s a big scandal. The so-called credential mongering. And in this culture, it’s most often somebody will flag right where their PTSD at you whenever they’re speaking or writing. And my field, of course, is considered bad form to ever talk about your APHC, let alone put it on the cover of your book is your book and your ideas are supposed to stand on this things, their own arguments, and not whether you have a particular credential. And the real problem is, of course, credential monitoring gives the impression that if you have a busy summer, you’re smarter than everyone else and know everything that other people don’t know. And in fact, those of us have pages. No, that isn’t true at all. All it entails, Yellow Pages, is that you’re smarter once specific, narrow area, and that you had the willpower and the strength and the time to go through all these hoops it takes to get that D.C. magic degree. And all that really does make you highly specialized. And one narrow field that you’ve got your page and you have no qualifications. Talk about anything outside that field effect in many gay species are now or unless rather educated science and others because they have focused on anything else for a long, long time. And I Nalgae, I use that, as you know, saying supposedly this creation has a peace deal, but it’s not anything related to evolution. So he’s no more qualified to talk about evolution than he is to fix a car or write a symphony. It’s a very specialized degree or especially skill that you are not trained in every other field because you have a HD. 

Some of the classic arguments is a great section in the book, we go through classic arguments that have been used by the nihilists to debunk climate change. What are some of the big things that people come up with and what’s wrong with them? 

Oh, they have a wide spectrum of it. They go from this idiotic and stupid, like, well, it was winter, really cold on our winter and not realizing climate is not the same as weather. Weather happens on a short term basis over days and weeks flying. It happens over decades and centuries. And so, of course, we will all say, oh, what a horrible winter we had here in the northern United States. Well, and at the same time as a way to warm this world that Siberia I’d ever experience in the wintertime and and a record summer for Australia that this last several months. Remember you. Weather is local and climate is global. And so you cannot talk about local weather effect and be about climate. And so we had this day major problem because every time someone who doesn’t like climate change, they Salatin comment about snow. It just makes it clear they have no clue what they’re talking about. That’s the most common ones. You see idiotic ones like saying, well, you know, carbon dioxide is good and makes plants grow and that course insults intelligence. Anyone who knows anything about science because, of course, carbon dioxide is a narrow range of stability in our atmosphere. It’s being constantly exchanged at certain systems and you can overload it with just a few parts. You’re moving too much. And so it doesn’t necessarily mean just because carbon dioxide, the path that the previous levels is good, that it too much of it. Again, it’s insulting anyone’s intelligence to suggest that. But of course, most Americans are illiterate when it comes to science. 

The irony is they’re saying, oh, well, you know, the plants will flourish, but at the same time, there’s massive deforestation. So we’re getting rid of our supply of plants, many of them that could be absorbing that carbon. Right. 

That plants will flourish. But I was going to do is feed a lot of algae in the oceans, which is going to help you that much. And other things, of course, are dying, which they never mentioned. That’s another classic argument, of course, is again, I find it insulting as a scientist who does climate change is that they are climates were warm in the past or climate fluctuates. Of course, those people have no clue what we actually do know about past climate. You know, a tremendous amount of how climate change is, when it changes and how it changes what caused past climate change. And none of which these amateurs who say that comment I’ve ever heard about. And when we talk about climate change, we’re talking about in the context of knowing the total picture, they had no idea what they’re just describing. Am I quick in an answer to something like that, as I say? Well, yes, we know climate change. The past does get warmer, does get colder. But you can look at the famous ice core called the ethical one ice core that gave me an article. And it has almost seven hundred eighty thousand years of six glacial interglacial cycles recorded. And we can see exactly how warm it’s gotten. Naturally, every time we went to an interglacial. The last one is a hundred twenty five thousand years ago. And the only time we’ve ever seen carbon dioxide go higher than that baseline, which is about two or three parts per million in the last century and a half. And now the planet’s over foreign parts of million, which has never happened in the last two and half million years. 

Can you say a bit about what’s what we know from the fossil records, from ocean sediments that goes back even farther than what we know about the atmosphere? 

Yes, I actually did some research in that area because I used to be a micro paleontologist as well. I’ve worked with fossils in ancient climates and sediments and they are very good, especially the microfossils. Champine deep cars are very good at recording exact chemistry and temperature of the seawater which they lived. And these cores often span or 100 million years of very high dust, detailed records of the oceans of the world. And so we know exactly why the oceans warmed at certain times and which parts of the oceans change, climate and all that comes from then analyzing the shells, a tiny little plankton. So that’s given us tremendous picture. And again, that’s constrains what’s going on. So, for example, we can say from these cars and from these plankton that back during that they pay at the age of dinosaurs. Of course, we were in a super greenhouse world where there were no ice caps on any part of the planet. No ice at all. And at that point, a policy level was much, much higher than is now around the middle of North America. So there was a student and all the waves in the Gulf of Mexico, both Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas and the Dakotas, Nebraska, all the way up to the Arctic Ocean. That’s not something that I think people who deny climate change would like to see come back. 

And we’re in danger of losing plankton, too, aren’t we? If climate change continues unchecked. 

That’s right. One of the interesting things about using the deep ocean research is that we are looking at the biggest reservoir of carbon and also the biggest reservoir heat in our system, which is the world’s oceans. So like 90 percent of almost all the carbon is stored there. And we always thought this would be a giant buffer that would allow us to keep on pumping carbon in the atmosphere that we’d all just soaked in the oceans. But the biggest problem, of course, the ocean is very sensitive to too much and anything. And what’s happening pretty clearly now is that the ocean is now becoming too rich in carbon dioxide and start to get less acidic, making carbonic acid. And we see this because there are certain organisms. Which are extremely sensitive to small changes in the acid level, and especially a group called the Sea Butterflies are actually a group of snails as planktonic of the pteropods. Their shells are made out of mother of pearl. The same stuff makes Pearl and probably layer inside shells like it and an abalone that is much more soluble than the calcite. The most S.A.M. leyser make their shells. And these are now dying off and even developing to adulthood because the ocean is now so acid for them that they cannot grow their shells. And that’s like a canary in the coal mine. But the clear side of the ocean is now switching over to an acid state which exceeded the reservoir capacity of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide. 

Those creatures, the mother of pearl creatures at the bottom of any important food chains. What eats them? 

Yes, they are indeed. They are miniaturize snails, if you will know the size of a pinhead. Most of them they live on. They planktonic algae, things like diatoms and coccolithophores, which are the built base of the food pyramid. There are plants, basically. And then those are ternary by other kinds of things. Are Mevo like those intrigued by the pteropods region of microscopic snails? And that, of course, all of those tiny plankton bloom for all the bigger animals, especially many of the world’s fish populations. And ultimately, you know, they feed things like that as well as they feed stations like krill and so on, that live in huge numbers, the ocean, which are then the food of the whales. So it all builds from that very small food pyramid and you start kicking out the bottom of the food pyramid. The producers and the very first level consumers, the whole ocean pyramid could crash. 

Is that something that could could possibly happen in our lifetimes if nothing’s done? 

Lots of people are worried that it might because it’s this rapid change in which have we seen now all these things dissolving, the pteropod dissolving is having a very fast scale. It’s only been a couple, three years now, and it’s already reached a catastrophic level. And another sign the ocean is in trouble, of course, is the leaking of the corals is something that’s been talked about quite a bit. Coral populations, the world especially sensitive to much heat and also to too much carbon dioxide. And they’re now starting to disappear like the coral reefs. That forcing only 20, 30 years ago are just dying off one after another. But what happens to the corals when they get too much of these bad things end up losing the algae live in their tissues, which makes them thrive in a hurry, bro? And then the coral die off. And, you know, a number of people who used to be divers when they were young, who died on reefs all over the world, are in beautiful shape. And they say all these reefs are now dead. And this is a worldwide thing, which is it happened in one generation. Lots of signs that the oceans are in trouble and the oceans are in trouble. Everyone’s in trouble. 

My mom lives on Vancouver Island and up the road from her. There was this amazing scallop farm that farmed these scallops that were eating in fancy restaurants all over the Pacific Northwest. And this just this year, they decided they’re going to pack it in because they’ve lost multiple scallop crops in a row because the shells have just imploding when they’re babies and they never grow up. 

And the other thing caused the warming in the ocean has changed a lot of things as far as development and populations of fish. And a lot of other things. So you’re seeing fisheries collapse not just because they’ve been overfished, which has happened as well, but also because the populations of things that sustain fisheries are now disappearing. So the oceans are in deep trouble and people can it now for several decades. But again, it’s an inconvenient truth. You don’t want to air you know, you just go and find some layer of what you want to hear. 

So who are the main people and organizations that are trying to tell us that global warming and climate change aren’t a threat? 

The biggest, of course, is the energy industries, especially the coal and oil industries, because they have, of course, the biggest, best interests in keeping things the way they are. So we burn more fossil fuels as well. Documented numerous documents in the leak. The numerous people that looked into this and discovered the evidence of coal and especially oil industry patiently pay for all these libertarians and think tanks that are conservative and capitalist oriented to do what they do, which is, of course, create a smokescreen of lies. And so you have very clear fingerprints of oil all over these people who beat us, this stuff about about climate change not happening. And so the irony being, of course, the coal and the coal industry, especially the oil industry, now delighting themselves and they are a doomed industry if they keep doing what they’re doing now. And so some of them are actually now are actually starting to kind of off to find a new business model and start going to alternative energies, even as they say it’s still funding people who deny what’s happening already. 

Are there any activists who are active in both global warming denialism and evolution denialism simultaneously? 

Yeah, it actually turns out there’s a giant overlapping population. I mean, much of the viewership of Fox News, of course, is in both camps at the same time as most the politicians who play that audience. Right. They know their audience is both denying evolution and dying climate change, both which they don’t want to believe in. And so there’s an overlapping group there. And among them, there are many that are prominent, that are major deniers of climate change, who also are often deniers evolution. So we haven’t known numerous, you know, various members of Congress especially going on the record and having both. Climate change and evolution know lives in the pit of hell. Paul Brown of Georgia did. 

So that’s that’s a scary thing. 

And the gaudy hysteria that that guy is on the House Science Committee, it’s sort of ironic that the people who are the biggest fans of fossil fuels may not believe in fossilization. 

Yes, indeed. Well, what they say what they think about fossilization is so badly out of date is basically the payoff lies so that they don’t connect the dots that. 

Pardon me. I. Do they believe about did they believe that God put the oil under the sea somewhere during the narrative of Genesis? 

I’ve read versions of that from different creationists and basically. Yeah, that’s it. That God created the world as you see it are just slightly different from after you see it for six days. But they don’t give the oil any credit for ever having been born naturally. Everything has for less important, supernaturally and sound the way it is because God said so. And all these things of course, mean that they have no clue as how it’s found. And as I point out, my blog post, it just appeared this week. These guys actually were working for oil industry. They would quickly lose their creations ideas about geology because it doesn’t work. You can’t actually use it in the real world. 

I met a fundamentalist geologist on an airplane once who tried to convince me that there was no such thing as fossilization, that new oil was being produced in ways we don’t quite understand all the time from the Earth. 

Well, maybe it was miniscule amounts of the oil base of the world, maybe still producing and if fair, the right tapping, the right temperature, but not about the boy in that we’re taking it out. And that’s cause very clear from the curves of all the various world oil fields, which are all on their depletion side now. And they’re not replacing the oil fields near that large. In the last several decades, there haven’t been any major oil fields of that scale found to replace what’s already gone to the ground at this point. So that’s another tipping point again, which is, again, denied by people who don’t want to believe they can’t continue to drive their SUV is all over the planet. 

So you’re thinking that as you explain in the book, that we’re looking at the end of cheap, readily extractable oil in the near future to anyone who is actually in the oil business and not a creationist geologist who doesn’t any first hand experience, but anyone who’s done oil work, which I have, you know, they’re all I realize that the Hubbert’s curve, the prediction of peak oil has already happened in the US and it’s starting to show in almost all the major world oil fields. 

I mean, even the major ones, the Middle East, it’s really under a declining phase right now. And I’m not finding any new giant supplies replace what they found 20 years ago so that those things combined means that we’re much my kids and race is not going to have oil that cheap anymore. And people say, oh, well, you know, we’ll do something else. A lot of alternative energies that will drive our car in something different. They forget that we use oil for everything these days. I mean, every plastic you use, every synthetic fabric and said that mature use, it’s all drive more oil and people don’t realize what we’re going to reach. A point where oil is too precious to use in those kinds of things, too precious to use in cars either. And so at that point, they’re gonna be gigantic changes in lifestyle. No more cheap plastic toys from China because oil will be too valuable. 

So is it possible that the price of oil could rise fast enough, that it could put a kind of intrinsic economic brake on our carbon emissions? 

It’s possible, but unfortunately, it’s not the only source, right. We really we’re going to reach a point where we can’t use oil for cheap energy anymore. And that will sort of force us to drop back on Usenet. But then we will spill. And that’s a figure that go to cleaner energy, like solar especially. Still have made the demand on that. Of course, then it usually means that they’ll find another cheap solution like coal, which like pennies is largely. And that, of course, is the worst of all the polluters. I mean, not every kind of pollution, not just carbon dioxide. Of course, don’t have a worse atmosphere, pollution of any Putland, the planet, because they continue to burn so much dirty coal and there’s no shortage of coal. 


Well, there wouldn’t be a shortage unless we granted full scale using it exclusively. And then, of course, it would only last a very short period of time. The good thing is that it’s a large supply, but that’s only because we don’t use it as heavily as we could use it if we use it heavily. Then supply is not more than a century. 

Switching gears a bit, there was another thing that I found really interesting in the book you wrote that you said you learn to read both ancient Greek and Hebrew and you read the Old and New Testaments in their in their original. What motivated you to do that? 

I grew up in sort of a conventional Protestant Presbyterian background, and yet I was also a dinosaur freak at age four and back in the 50s. And I grew up I was the only kid I ever met. Like dinosaurs was not as cool as it is now. So I had to sort of scramble around and learn about dinosaurs and crypt, really. By the time I was eight or nine, knew quite a bit about evolution and life history as well. And at that point, I think, you know what? 

A little bit of adherence to my family’s faith I might have had was pretty much fading because I realized that the conflicts were there. So by the time I was in high school, I was not only learning Latin in high school, but I had an opportunity to learn Hebrew with a friend of mine, some others that got together. And so I learned quite a bit of Hebrew and learned to read when I wanted to read. And then in college, I carried from. Greek. Just because I wanted to. But also it turned out I had three as a Greek in college. You know, one of things you do is read the original New Testament in Greek. And, of course, your language or really Hebrew Bible of the Greek New Testament. What opens your eyes and something, of course, people who don’t read in translation never know. And to want to know is how bad those translations and how bad does transcriptions are. Because the original text is full of mistakes, it’s full of errors, all sorts of things that cannot be easily translated to old stuff. Or, you know, they’re copying errors and the new generations of scribes, it would copy this over and over and over again. And so we know it’s full of mistakes and it’s not trustworthy as a source of any kind of information on that basis alone. And yet all these fundamentalists using the words translations of all which King James are walking around talking like this is the only source of truth. And of course, the minute you actually read the original, you would no longer think that. So I always find it amazing to debate people who claim the Bible believers, you know, far less about the Bible than I do. And they cannot read its original language, which I always consider important. Important as that, if you’re going to argue about it. 

Which part of the Bible defines Pius three? 

Well, that’s that’s actually a myth. Were there stories around that, that the legislature in the south somewhere had made decreed that PI should be a category? 

There is a verse of the thing is being in Joshua, where they say they go around the city exactly three times or something like that and calculate it did indicate there was it would be that I would be three red and white went forward. But of course, again, that translation is so poor that I wouldn’t trust what that said, even in the original verse. I mean, most scholars work on the original physical or manuscripts for a living. Very divided on just how much of it is actually very original and how much of it’s been added and modified over the years, which the state of teaching evolution in the public schools these days in the United States. Well, we’ve we’ve had some ups and downs. Know we keep on winning any time it goes to a court, especially at federal court. It’s very clear that the law specifies that you have to have separation of church and state and almost any version of creation and so on. And how carefully disguised eventually ends up crashing because it is clearly a narrow sectarian religious viewpoint being forced on us, a minority of people who want to push their idea. So every federal part, and especially the Supreme Court, struck it down repeatedly. 

But what that creation have done over the recent decade, now ever since 2005, over decision killed intelligent design, is they gotten more and more subtle. So they do these things like teach the controversy or, you know, teach strengths and weaknesses, or they’ll do various things that they single out. Evolution is sometimes also climate change and science, which is not complete separable. And then that’s what they use as the backbone to introduce things like creationism and now even the planet analogy as well. So it’s scary because the real problem lies at the root, which is the Deep South and other places where fundamentalism is very powerful, maybe feature people. Teachers are teaching science, aren’t really actually scientists and are fundamentalists at heart and they’re actually teaching creationism or at least toning down and dismissing evolution. That’s a scary thing because they’re the ones who really pass on next generation. And so and in general, even the poorest countries don’t have this huge fight about evolution and influence. People are so scared of talking about evolution very much. It’s common in most high school biology classes, not talk about it. All right. Very briefly, intolerant tone it down or very often is like the last in the book or there might not end at that point. 

They can’t cover it. So they skip it all and do that to avoid controversy. Again, his parents will come in and give them our time. So either way, what happened is that evolution, that being advertised or mis taught or censored. 

What are the stakes in terms of our future as an economy and a society for not teaching science properly and objectively? 

Well, there’s lots of stakes here. And the biggest is, of course, the economic battle that we are fighting with all the other economic powers, the world, China especially, which has us over the barrel economically at the moment. And really, you know, the more you try to stifle science, especially the scientists and the inconvenient nature like climate change and evolution, the more likely you are to drag the country back into the second or third tier of scientific powers. You have to let it thrive where it’s going to thrive and generate future generations of good scientists. Neil deGrasse Tyson said this several times. So as Bill Nye, they don’t care what the adults think. It’s too late for them anyway. It’s what the next generation thinks. But they’re the ones who are going to be dealing with a different planet and dealing with the problems that we created. And so that’s a big problem because, of course, climate denial has meant that our country is the only major industrialized nation in the world that does not have its political structure in place behind climate change and climate change legislature. All the other European nations that are in Western industrialized nations, all the Asian nations that are being with us there all have no no political influence on climate nihilism at all. There’s no major party in Japan. Or in Norway or in England. Versus climate. No one has any power or the only one where the political system is stalemated by climate deniers. Nothing is getting done ever since the Republicans took over Congress. So this is a scary thing because our longer are our gridlock. Laughs Our government’s unable to stimulate research and innovation and climate change things and green technology. Well, the sooner we’re going to be behind all these people and eventually when the world gets the point where they have to use this technology driven home by the Chinese or can’t be owned by somebody else, and we’ll be paying for it and letting your own scientists find it themselves. 

And of course, some people say, oh, it doesn’t really matter whether they learn climate change and, you know, high school because eventually they’re going to learn it in university. But but those people are considering is that the people that don’t go on are still going to become voters. And they’re not going to vote for candidates and say that we need to take action on climate change because they’ll think they won’t believe that it’s true. 

We’re still in a position where the GOP has enough power to stall things. And they have this gerrymandered Congress, of course, that allows them to keep on holding power. And putting in a House science committee is full of climate deniers and creationists, which is, again, as I said, a bizarre thing. I can ever imagine that people should lie. Last person on earth, you want to be in charge of science policy or action charge science policy. But I see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think this is just temporary because the demographics are gradually turning against the climate deniers in the creation of the GOP in general. The younger generation especially is very accepting of evolution, very accepting of climate change and of course, other other aspects of societal change as well. And they’re voting very much on the left and against the reactionaries on the power in Congress and factor that to some degree. A lot of what’s happened is that the fundamentalist finally got what they wanted, which is political power. 

And as soon as they had the agenda and the power to do it, all they done is drive the next generation away from the door, voting Republican ever again. The other against it to limit not just science, but also it allowed women’s rights and minority rights and everything else. They’ve just become a clear sign of what religion does. Politics is poison the well for the next generation. 

Do you think that there’s anything that we can do as activists, concerned citizens, to expedite that process and help it along being active politically? 

It’s certainly important that the sooner we get rid of the Republican minority majority in the House, the sooner things will move forward. I’m not so sure what’s going to happen here in the 2014 election because, as usual, in midterm elections, that all white Republicans who vote in greater numbers than the rest the country. But when the 2016 presidential race is on untap, I think we’ll have the same ways that we’re favoring the last two cycles. So I’m confident eventual move forward. And, of course, the real issue and the demographics here is the Republicans that does this consistently chosen them shoot their own feet themselves in the feet over and over again with up against the immigrant nation, which, of course, is growing especially Hispanic population. And alienating women on a level is unimaginable if they had any foresight. 

And that’s going to come back and bite them, if not in 2014 and certainly in 2016. And of course, they’re there. Their base is dying. They’re basically trying to appeal to a shrinking population of old bitter white people. They’re gradually vanishing. 

And just that’s eventually and writing. It’s coming on the wall. They don’t change. They’re gonna be an extinct party, just like the Whig Party. 

Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you coming on the show. And it’s a terrific book. Well, thanks so much. Hope you enjoy it. 

This has been a point of inquiry. You can follow us on Twitter at point of inquiry. Tune in next week. 

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The NationMs. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.