It is one thing that we have in the US a one-party state that serves the interests of the oligarchy, with the Republican and Democratic parties being two factions, with the Democrats projecting the kinder, gentler face.
The modern Republican party seems to be increasingly distancing itself from reality, with anti-science and anti-reason thinking taking an increasingly stronger grip. We have reached the stage when any they seem willing to reject any empirical evidence about anything if it goes counter to their preferred view.
When the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued an encouraging report on jobs last month, they were attacked as having cooked the books. When Nate Silver’s influential polling site shows Barack Obama as likely to win the election, he is attacked as manipulating the data. And of course, any scientific evidence on climate change or evolution or women’s health that disagrees with right-wing orthodoxy is summarily dismissed as biased and untrustworthy.
This is a very dangerous trend that cannot be dismissed as mere pandering to the clueless party followers by a more aware leadership. We cannot reassure ourselves that the leaders are aware of the truth and are merely cynically manipulating it for short-term gain. As Paul Krugman writes, what happens when a major political party starts believing its own lies?
This is really scary. It means that if these people triumph, science — or any kind of scholarship — will become impossible. Everything must pass a political test; if it isn’t what the right wants to hear, the messenger is subjected to a smear campaign.
In his book Believing Bullshit philosopher Stephen Law says that the danger of allowing people to construct an alternative reality in which evidence is tortured to fit into a desired narrative is not merely that such people believe wrong things, but that their whole process of reasoning gets distorted and they start to think that this is the way that science and reason actually works.