Reading Time: 6 minutes There is a problem in the world of philosophy (only one?) dealing with the subject of science known as the demarcation problem: what counts as science, what is good or bad science, and what is pseudoscience? Generally there is agreement that there is no fine line between science and pseudoscience, though there are clear examples of both. But what features can we look for to know which is which and avoid the bad?
Reading Time: 6 minutes

This tweet came across my home screen earlier and it really solidified some things about the 2016 Presidential election:

I don’t think anything else that I’ve seen lately better encapsulates the problem with this election cycle. Even if/when Hillary Clinton wins, as does indeed look more and more like a happy inevitability, America still has a very big problem on its hands. A sizeable percentage of our citizens don’t appear to have the faintest idea how to assess claims or evaluate political candidates–or else lack the desire to do so for various reasons. No matter who wins, after the election we’re going to have to deal with that group somehow, and I don’t think anybody’s got any idea how to do so.

This isn't Bumble. You can tell because he looks nervous--and his nose is clean. (Credit: Les Chatfield, CC)
A furious, angry, puffed-up orange fella. Remind you of any politicians? (This isn’t Bumble. You can tell because he looks nervous–and his nose is clean.) (Les Chatfield, CC.)

An Unprecedented Circumstance.

Not long ago, our dear friend and moderator Beth posted this on her Facebook:

For months I’ve wrestled with whether it’s appropriate or even mature to end friendships over politics, but this year is different. If you still support this man after everything he’s said and done, your influence in my life is toxic and I can no longer be around you. Your unwavering support for a rape apologist who hates women and discriminates against minorities tells me all I need to know about you.

She could have taken those words right out of my mouth. The stark polarization of the American political climate has happened alongside the stark polarization of its religious climate. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the end product of decades of concerted pandering and fearmongering on the part of the Religious Right, an effort that has created two distinct groups of Americans–each with their own goals, needs, and versions of reality.

Finding the Breaking Point.

I’ve watched with mounting horror as scandal after scandal erupts out of the Republican tent, boiling out into the street like shit-lava from a particularly angry volcano. It’s just so shocking, even knowing what I do about their decades-long grab for power, to see Republicans–the party that’s been trying to trademark “family values” as their purview for most of my lifetime!–supporting someone so morally repugnant, dishonest, manipulative, petty, greedy, tyrannical, belligerent, cruel, thoughtless, ignorant, self-serving, and narcissistic.

I’m sure that the inches of print devoted to “how Republicans could possibly stoop so low” are, all by themselves, enough attention to feed Donald Trump’s ego until the heat death of the universe, even if the spectacle has actually centered less around the man himself and more around the idea of a group that has tried its damndest to style itself the Jesus Party and yet, at the first sign of political opportunity, instantly turned into the lackeys and knob-polishing toadies of a man who, back in my day, was considered the epitome of “worldliness” and sin–all because a beast tickled their ears by promising to return them to dominance and punish the people they hate.

Donald Trump’s constant stream of hamfisted, baldfaced gaffes and lies makes one almost long for the happy days of Mittens’ flip-flops, surreally-alien behavior, and demonstrable deceptions. The sickening scandals erupting around the current Republican candidate make one think back wistfully to the ones that used to get everyone in a dither with previous candidates. There just don’t seem to be any real comparisons between the stuff Mr. Trump does in any given week with the campaign-breaking ones that once completely destroyed the hopes of previous Republican candidates.

Famblee Values.

And his supporters continue to support him, no matter what he does, no matter what he says, and no matter how he behaves.

Donald Trump famously bragged that he could shoot someone in public in broad daylight and still get elected by his loyal supporters–and he said it at a time when he was already starting to get mired in controversy. Genuine but misguided bravery or bullheaded braggadocio? Does it even matter?

I’ve watched and marveled, wondering just how much Mr. Trump’s followers could take–where they’d draw the line, and how much they’d endure before they’d call fucking well enough. The list of horrific words and deeds has elevated further and further and further into the nosebleed seats–and still Christians line up behind him. Some of them parrot the Republican Party’s 25-year-long list of lies about Hillary Clinton and claim that really, they just don’t like her, and that’s why they’re voting for a man so vile that people are starting to screen his television appearances for their kids’ sake:

But an alarming number of Republicans still fervently–even belligerently–defend him against all criticism.

A Trickle of Hope.

Hope has at last appeared on the horizon. With each disgraceful, distasteful explosion of misbehavior and churlishness, a few more people inevitably decide that they’ve had enough. The list of Republican elected officials who’ve disavowed him has now become a large enough list to necessitate cheat sheets. They follow the general trend of voters themselves.

Right after the leaked-tape fiasco, at Nate Silver’s site, Donald Trump’s chances of being elected plunged downward from the mid-40s to about 18%. Now his chances sit at 15%. He’s torpedoed himself at last. He finally found the point of no return.

According to Five Thirty Eight, Republican women are turning away from Donald Trump twice as fast as men are. Some 42% of elected female Republican Congresswomen and governors now vocally and directly oppose him. Incidentally, only about 6% of those elected female Republicans had opposed him before Friday, so clearly the tape had an impact on them as well as on the American people. He is not, as Mr. Silver put it, “teflon” in the way that Ronald Reagan famously was; these scandals and revelations are demonstrably hurting his campaign. As people depart from him, he is struggling to draw in new voters. His main demographic, you see, is uneducated white men, and there simply aren’t enough of them left to deliver him from his own mess.

A Dire Dinner Date.

Donald Trump’s chance of being elected tracks fairly well with the number of true-blue evangelicals in America (11%). Mr. Trump’s remaining supporters tend toward the ultra-religious and the ultra-paranoid–and the ultra-racist and ultra-sexist. This demographic is the one most likely to feel “left behind” by American culture and to be the angriest about our progress on a number of fronts. His continued popularity is an indication of just how angry and disaffected that demographic is–a message that we cannot afford to ignore.

Having created this demographic beast, Republicans are now panicking. They’re looking at a looming catastrophe of (if I may say so) Biblical proportions, with down-ticket repercussions echoing all up and down the ballots. People may well decide to vote against Republicans in general at this point; some sources speculate that they may well have lost women as a voting bloc for the next generation.

I see no reason to argue that point. I’ve long seen Republicans as Team Rape, but their unflinching, unwavering support of someone like Donald Trump speaks to more than just a momentary ambition that’s gotten their pretty lil heads all turned around.

Their support speaks to something much more dire, much more endemically wrong with their party, something fundamentally broken about how they see themselves and how they see women as a group–how they think about human rights and what importance they lay upon dignity itself.

It tells me that even if Donald Trump loses this election, America still has a very dreadful problem on its hands. Pizza will probably win, sure, but gang, almost half of our fellow citizens appear to want to kill and eat us for dinner.

I’m hoping that none of the group wants to commit murder ON a pizza. That’d be just weird. (Lena, CC-SA.)
Avatar photo

ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...