‘Ultraconservative’ Supreme Court undermines science, Nature magazine reports
Nature, a British scientific journal, was the latest media outlet to attack what it called the “ultraconservative supermajority” on the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The piece on “the US Supreme Court’s war on science,” claimed the conservative majority on the court is “undermining science’s role in informing public policy” and “could be disastrous for public health, justice and democracy itself.”
The article, penned by Jeff Tollefson, specifically cited the Dobbs case that overturned Roe v. Wade, the Bruen decision that struck down New York’s strict gun regulation laws and the EPA ruling which limited the agency’s power.
“Although the decisions differed in rationale, they share a distinct trait: all three dismissed substantial evidence about how the court’s rulings would affect public health and safety. It is a troubling trend that many scientists fear could undermine the role of scientific evidence in shaping public policy. Now, as the court prepares to consider a landmark case on electoral policies, many worry about the future of American democracy itself,” Tollefson wrote.
He further claimed that “as the court swung to the ideological right, its attitude towards science also shifted.”
“The result, scholars say, is an ultraconservative, six-member supermajority that is often sceptical of — if not outright hostile towards — science,” Tollefson warned.
Quoting Wendy Parmet, who co-directs the Center for Health Policy and Law at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, he suggested that the Supreme Court is “in some cases…elevating individual rights, and in others they are dismantling individual rights, but the through line is that they are dismissive of science and the real-world impact of their decisions.”
He listed the loss of the “right to an abortion” as one of the crucial health decisions that will have a profound impact for generations to come, especially based on how the case was decided.
“[T]he court also dismissed decades of research indicating that its decision would negatively affect women’s health and increase long-standing disparities in the health system,” Tollefson argued.
He also claimed that the EPA decision similarly disregarded “decades of climate science on the looming peril of global warming” at a “crucial time.”
“The court’s willingness to issue opinions that are likely to have discernible adverse impacts on the population is astonishing,” Parmet said, “and quite at odds with the long tradition of how courts have dealt with issues of public health.”
Citing Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge who teaches at Harvard University, Tollefson also suggested the time has come for court reform, including term limits for Supreme Court justices or expanding the court itself. Gertner noted that while term limits could require a constitutional amendment, expanding the court could, in theory, be done legislatively.
However, so far, President Biden has been reluctant to push for packing the Supreme Court, though many Democrats have advocated for it in the past.
Several media outlets have attacked the Supreme Court following these major decisions claiming that the court is no longer “legitimate.” Some have gone so far as to say that the current conservative-majority court poses a threat to democracy and even the planet.