Friday, January 23, 2015

In Case There Was Any Confusion … GOP Still Hates Science

A couple of weeks ago, Senators Rand Paul and Lamar Smith wanted to clarify the Republican position on global warming with a Politico piece entitled “No, the GOP is Not at War with Science.” After an auspicious beginning where the Senators wrote about debt and taxpayer relief (code words for further cuts to government spending and tax cuts for the wealthy), they go on to explain that science is really important to our future but that it is important to check what our taxpayer dollars are being used for. Among their concerns are NSF dollars that went to a climate-change themed musical, investigation of Tea Party activities on social media and a study of bicycle designs. Now all three might sound a bit absurd on the surface, but lets consider them again: 1. We do arguably need to make people aware of the hazards and perils associated with continuing to do nothing about climate change, 2. Research on how politics works in cyberspace is important in the field of political science, and 3. Increased bicycle use is a powerful way to not only help the environment but improve the health of those engaged in that activity. A better designed bicycle makes it easier for those who are out of shape/overweight to ride them over a greater distance.

They then list a series of other somewhat obscure research to claim that federal dollars should only go to research that could reap clear benefits to technological and economic growth. On the surface this argument also sounds reasonable, but it ignores the fact that science moves forward slowly and incrementally and that some of that esoteric research actually has a huge influence in other areas. If we only focused on research that had instrumental ends, we would miss out on so much more that is useful. In fact, the call for only funding research that has potentially positive economic outcomes, implies an agenda where the economic needs trump all others and democracy becomes an increasingly bygone promise realized only in the fantasy world of rigged campaigns. They claim that the scientific community should be accountable to Congress (now that it is run by the GOP) and that: “The academic community forgets that federal science funding should be in the national interest.” That is true on the surface, but politicizing academic research borders on the edges of censorship and allows people who know nothing about science to spread their pseudoscience to the masses without anyone to check the validity, truth and accuracy of those fictitious claims. The corporate-sponsored GOP thus appears to wants to decide what is wasteful and what isn’t concluding that article with this rather haunting argument, “In the new Congress, Republicans, the party of limited government, should propose legislation to eliminate the funding of wasteful projects—and focus on smart investments instead.”

And thus we return to the question of global warming and the new GOP-majority Senate. So what happened a couple of days ago? That Senate, which is still debating the Keystone Pipeline project, decided to attach a few amendments that could clarify their position on climate change. They held a first vote where the measure simply asked them to vote on whether the climate is, in fact, changing. That one actually passed 98 to 1, with only Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi holding out (though he wouldn't explain why). The folks at Fox “News” must have been apoplectic. A second vote probably calmed them down though, as 50 voted against ending a GOP filibuster on the following statement: “human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” This is a fact even the oil-loving Bush gang acknowledged a couple of years before leaving office. A third vote look the word “significantly” out of the climate change statement above, but another GOP filibuster killed that as well. And so just as grains of sand through the hourglass, so is the insanity of our lives.

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