The PJ Tatler

Politicians' Ideas About Science Shouldn't Matter

“The Left’s bad ideas about science are more harmful than the rights.” That’s the claim by John Stossel in commentary written for Reason:

The conflict conservatives have with science is mostly caused by religion. Some religious conservatives reject evolution, and some oppose stem cell research.

But neither belief has a big impact on our day-to-day lives. Species continue to evolve regardless of what conservatives believe, and if conservatives ban government funding of stem cell research, private investors will continue the work.

By contrast, the left’s bad ideas about science do more harm.

Stossel points to policies informed by technophobia, from concerns about climate change to fretting over genetically modified crops. Such policies do affect our day-to-day lives, increasing our cost of living, thwarting the advancement of civilization, and causing countless deaths in the third world.

That said, the focus should be less on which side of the political spectrum has worse ideas about science, and more on whether a politician’s ideas about science should affect us at all. A candidate’s view on evolution or climate change shouldn’t matter, because the job he’s applying for shouldn’t include dictating scientific beliefs.

Just once, I would love to hear a candidate respond to a question about their view on evolution with a declaration that their opinion doesn’t matter. The job of government is to protect individual rights. Among those rights are the freedoms of association and speech, which leave us free to accept or reject scientific claims and live accordingly.