What the Phony Dred Scott Analogy Was To the Last Century

I’m only taking notice of the latest outrage from St. Joan of the Tundra because it’s precisely the sort of thing that sounds likely to become a standard conservative meme. Per TPM’s Catherine Thompson:

“The global warming hysteria is to this century what eugenics was to the last,” she wrote in the Facebook post. “So much of it is junk science that will inevitably be discredited once the hysteria dies down and actual science prevails.”

Note that Palin isn’t just analogizing climate science to a branch of science that promoted a lot of nonsense (mainly among its non-scientific popularizers), but to one connected with genocide. If you’re dealing in false analogies supported by sheer assertion, you might as well pick one associated with Nazis, right? It’s an old trick of her antichoice buddies.

And speaking of her antichoice buddies, what this particular howler is most reminiscent of is the claim that Roe v. Wade was to twentieth century constitutional law what the Dred Scott decision was to 19th century constitutional law (go here to see its use by Paul Ryan). Roe‘s authority as precedent becomes in this inverted telling another reason to suspect it. This approach also, of course, reinforces the efforts of antichoicers to treat themselves as the new abolitionist/civil rights movement.

So in the current case, the famously knowledgeable Sarah Palin–the closest thing we have to an Erasmus or Jefferson in our age–identifies herself with the future debunking of scientific theory. If so, that might well cast doubt on another scientific consensus that I suspect Palin doubts: the evolution of the species.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.