in this New York Times column, which I highly recommend.
He starts by noting that Eric Cantor last week gave what his office touted as a major speech, and that we should be glad they so informed us,
Otherwise, a read of the speech might have suggested that he was offering nothing more than a meager, warmed-over selection of stale ideas.Would that staleness were the worst one could say about the speech and its contents. In the second and third paragraph he drills down and makes clear what is wrong, when he writes of Cantor and the Republicans
these days his party dislikes the whole idea of applying critical thinking and evidence to policy questions. And no, that’s not a caricature: Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach “critical thinking skills,” because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”But there is much more. You need to read it.
And such is the influence of what we might call the ignorance caucus that even when giving a speech intended to demonstrate his openness to new ideas, Mr. Cantor felt obliged to give that caucus a shout-out, calling for a complete end tofederal funding of social science research. Because it’s surely a waste of money seeking to understand the society we’re trying to change.
Let me offer a few additional thoughts.
Krugman calls out Cantor and the Republicans and Cantor on topics such as medical research and climate research. He mentions the Republican attempts to suppress a Congressional Research Service study that showed clearly the lack of any magical economic results in tax cuts for the wealthy (although clearly, even if Krugman does not mention it, those wealthy supporters of the GOP agenda benefit mightily from those cuts).
He then writes this cogent paragraph:
Do actions like this have important effects? Well, consider the agonized discussions of gun policy that followed the Newtown massacre. It would be helpful to these discussions if we had a good grasp of the facts about firearms and violence. But we don’t, because back in the 1990s conservative politicians, acting on behalf of the National Rifle Association, bullied federal agencies into ceasing just about all research into the issue. Willful ignorance matters.I will let you read his final paragraph on your own, where he reiterates his title rather forcefully.
But I do want to focus on his penultimate paragraph:
The truth is that America’s partisan divide runs much deeper than even pessimists are usually willing to admit; the parties aren’t just divided on values and policy views, they’re divided over epistemology. One side believes, at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts; the other believes in suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs.That is not just ignorance, it is willful ignorance. It is, in my opinion, one reason for the hostility to the existence of institutions that might teach critical thinking (public schools, universities) or challenge those fixed beliefs (scientists and social scientists who actually examine the evidence). It is why so much of their base frames their political expression in theological terms, thereby asserting that those beliefs come from some "higher authority" and thus are not subject to falsifiability or open to question.
Of course, it just happens to be convenient that those who assert such fixed beliefs seem to benefit socially, economically and in control of political power by those beliefs they do not want challenged.
that is bad enough.
But then there are the likes of Eric Cantor, who surely knows the unreality of the blather he puts forth, who as a leader of his party in the House allows the likes of Paul Broun to sti on of all things the Science Committee.
The Ignorance Caucus indeed.
Read the Krugman.
Pass it on.