Here’s the thing: people with unscientific, irrational, and foolish ideas about evolution and global warming might still have something worthwhile to say about other topics. Take, as one example, Senator Tom Coburn. Coburn doesn’t believe in global warming. He also thinks that lesbian gangs were terrorizing Oklahoma’s school bathrooms. But he’s a been a vigorous critic of earmarks. He’s right to attack earmarks, and no less right because he’s a nut on other issues. If he’s the lone voice in the wilderness on earmarks, and we refuse to engage his criticisms because they’re coming from a lesbo-potty-phobic global warming denier, then we’re being lazy and cowardly. On the other hand, there are plenty of people, and groups, that believe firmly in evolution and global warming, but can’t be taken seriously as bastions of science or reliable political analysis. You won’t find much creationism or global warming denying at the Huffington Post, but you will find it to be a cesspool of junk science and assorted twittery.
Honest people — people who care about issues, and not crass group identities — ought to resist the strong human drive to construct rationalizations for ignoring competing viewpoints. “We can safely ignore and marginalize any blog where most of the authors or commenters don’t believe in evolution or global warming” is lazy tribalism, just as surely as “we can ignore any bloggers and blogs that don’t support Sarah Palin” or “we can ignore any bloggers or blogs that don’t oppose the War on Drugs.” It’s all a cheat, a form of shorthand — a quick way to separate, in our mind, people who belong from people who don’t. It may unclutter your RSS feed, but you’re not going to learn much that’s new, you’re not going to challenge yourself.
Personally, I’m quite skeptical of man-made global warming but like Popehat, I admit that I’m by no means a climatologist nor anything remotely close. He does make very good points here about writing someone off because they believe something kooky on one subject or even a assortment of subjects. There is always the temptation to ignore individuals like the “Truthers,” the “Birthers,” and “Creationists” – just to name a few. It’s quite defensible for me to tune someone out who goes into the whole “Obama is a secret Muslim hell bent on America’s destruction” nonsense if that is the topic of discussion but the same person might be quite rational and knowledgeable on other issues.
Also consider the founders of this country. Many of them either owned other human beings or defended the practice in the name of property rights even as they eloquently made the case for liberty. Thomas Jefferson, in The Declaration of Independence, scribed “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” yet himself didn’t find it “self-evident” that owning slaves inconsistent with this philosophy.
Should Jefferson be condemned by historians for being a slave owner?
Does this make his arguments or his founding brothers’ arguments any less valid?
I think not.