Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Right Won't Let Science Get in Its Way

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Right Won't Let Science Get in Its Way

Article excerpt

The reboot of "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" as a vehicle for exploring the frontiers of science comes at an awkward time for scientific literacy in America.

With the amiable, but brilliant, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson replacing the late Carl Sagan as host, the show has undergone a dramatic face-lift since the 1980s, but the centrality of science remains the same.

The show's ratings on Fox and National Geographic are respectable, but not great. Still, critics are unanimous in their praise of Mr. Tyson's earnest, yet accessible, approach to explaining difficult concepts from the Big Bang to electromagnetism to the role of plate tectonics in Earth's history to the evolution of the human eye.

Even so, Mr. Tyson is facing a far more skeptical and politically polarized audience than his mentor and predecessor ever did. According to recent polls, a slight majority of Americans now doubt that the universe is billions of years old, while growing numbers aren't so sure about evolution or global warming, either.

Last week, columnist Charles Krauthammer, arguably the conservative movement's most influential public intellectual, commented on the White House's newest report linking extreme weather conditions and man-made global warming. He likened the report to superstition and a Native American rain dance.

Not to be outdone by the know-nothingness of intellectuals of Mr. Krauthammer's stature, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chimed in. "I don't agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what's happening in our climate," he said.

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it, except it will destroy our economy," the likely contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination added.

As if anticipating the outbreak of just this kind of anti- intellectual political expedience, Mr. Tyson addressed climate change opportunists like Mr. …

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