"They should not blindly accept scientific findings, whether they come from academia, government or industry. But neither should they believe that scientific debates are simply clashes of opinion and values. A healthy appreciation of the nature of science, the persuasiveness of replication, and respect for the necessary expertise is also essential. When teachers tell their students that they can have their own opinions about the validity of evolutionary biology, they are sending a dangerous message to our future citizens."Facts matter, and the most unfortunate part of this has been the sense that my conservative friends can choose to "believe" or "not believe" factual evidence. From one angle, it matters not whether they believe it or not, but from another angle, it has a huge ripple effect in our approach to difficult problems. And we see this all the time. Conservatives who simply will assert something about Obama or Reagan and will not actually look at the factual record.
A good example, just this week, is how Gingrich responded to Obama's DOMA decision. Obama told his justice department not to fight the law in court--he didn't say they won't enforce the law. This has happened before. But when Gingrich talks about it, he frames it as Obama putting his own beliefs above the law and refusing to enforce the law.
Facts matter. And we live in an age of Fox where facts are fungible and malleable--and ultimately only useful in how they can be manipulated and used.