The Case for a Scientific Nation: Part Two

Last time I made it clear whom I blame for 90% of the tragic collapse of American political discourse, and especially the War on Science.  Indeed, I will finish (in a bit) by quoting one of the most eloquent calls that I have seen, for a return to confidence in our future-oriented nation.

But first…

== Where democrats have sinned, too ==

Oh, I could cite figures to you. Like the fact that only around 6% of U.S. scientists are still Republicans. (And that includes folks like me, whose GOP registration is both nostalgic and “tactical.”)    Still, it’s true that Democrats do not have a blemish-free record when it comes to science.

Oh, the dems increased research budgets and ended most political censorship of peer-review commissions. They repaired the crippling damage done (deliberately) by George Bush upon our energy and efficiency research programs, goosed the now-healthy auto industry into a burst of mileage-saving measures, and steered manned spaceflight from an absurd lunar boondoggle to privatization of launch and reaching toward planetary resources. Polemically, I have reason to believe that President Obama is at least friendly to the notion that we should be a civilization propelled by curiosity.

Still,   Go look up Science Left Behind by Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell…about the rise of anti-science tendencies on the far left. A secondary but very real problem, described by a founder of Science2.0.  Anyone who talks for very long with a genuine American leftist — as opposed to the vastly more numerous moderate liberals — can quickly see that romantic-nostalgic spite toward science and technology is not the sole province of Fox-watchers.

(The real difference between the far-right and the far-left? Both extremes are crazy. Both despise science. But one of them owns and operates an entire political party and ran the nation off a cliff. The other dominates a hundred university soft-studies departments, and almost nothing else. Big deal.)

In fact, let me take this farther and lay down my biggest science-related grievance against democrats. I will never forgive Nancy Pelosi for what she did not do during her brief tenure as Speaker of the House.

One move might have made clear the two parties’ pro vs anti science traits. That action would have been to restore the independent advisory apparatus that Congress used to maintain, from World War II all the way until 1995, when Newt’s radical neocons banished the Office of  Technology Assessment, kicking out every fact-checker and irritating expert who might dispute polemical dogma with inconvenient “data.”

Amid the battles over Health reform and other major fights, this would have been a trivial side matter to pass in an afternoon, funding OTA for twenty years in advance and making sure all congress-critters would have neutral bean-counters and nerds at their elbows, irritatingly murmuring “Well… actually, the facts say…”

What could be more important, as our politicians are asked to construct policies about a rapidly changing technological environment, with every issue dependent upon scientific  insight? Both as a practical matter and as a declaration of fundamental political difference, no other action would have spoken as loudly or carried as much weight with our nation’s knowledge castes.

I take Ms. Pelosi’s failure to fix this very seriously. It disqualifies her from leadership, should the dems re-take the House. Seriously. A total blow-it.  Go with someone else.

== The real problem and solution, eloquently put ==

But enough with being evenhanded.  The matter before is is fundamental.  As fundamental as freedom, or the basic laws of economics.

This needs some punch. So let me hand the mike over to internationally renowned tech-business pundit Mark Anderson, of the Strategic News Service, who wrote the following, just after watching the brilliant landing of our Curiosity space probe on Mars:

Science is reality.

At a time when a large and increasing fraction of the U.S. population does not “believe in” science (i.e., objectively provable reality) – or, worse, has bought into the idea that science is just one choice on the reality menu – NASA has again given concrete reason to understand that science works, and that science is not an option, not a theory, not a menu item, but instead represents the finest efforts of human minds in understanding, and addressing, objective reality.

Those on Earth who currently think that science is a political football should take note: not only are you endangering your own reputation, you are endangering the welfare of your constituents, and today, of the planet itself. 

Any person or party which mocks science should be considered for what he or it is: a threat to the welfare and future of us all.  Under the influence of political propagandists, misled religious zealots, and truly dangerous television and radio empires (such as Fox (Not) News and Rush Limbaugh), too many people today have been led to believe that science is in some way an option to opinion.

Science is as optional as gravity.  Ignorant delusion is the only real option.

It is time for the U.S. to catch back up to the world in this matter, and recognize the value of scientific study and theory, the use of scientific consensus in guiding public policy, and the wonders that we can achieve when we abandon self-aggrandizing political fantasy in favor of objective scientific knowledge. 

We should use this marvelous achievement to create a new cultural change in the United States, returning us to the group intelligence of past eras, when no one doubted that an experiment, done with the same result in many locations, demonstrated an objective truth.  Not an opinion, not a religious position, not a political chip, but another permanent addition to our ever-rising mountain of human scientific knowledge.

The world owes much to the people of NASA, of JPL, and to the taxpayers of the U.S., who have achieved the most important step in space exploration yet attempted.  This was done by a willing and informed government, working with private contractors, paid for with taxes.  It stands as one of the greatest of tributes to human intelligence yet achieved, shoulder to shoulder with decoding the human genome. 

I highly recommend that you take a moment to watch the scene inside JPL headquarters in Pasadena, as Curiosity makes its way safely to the Martian surface.  We owe a great deal to those pictured in their moment of triumph, and citizens of the U.S. owe it to themselves, if they wish to remain a great nation, to put a rapid end to the rise of ignorance in their country which threatens scientific endeavor, and the acceptance of scientific findings. 

Our thanks go out to all of the people who, using Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, just flew a car-sized laboratory across the solar system, landed it safely at the end of four lines under a crane under a rocket under a parachute that popped out from a targeted aerobraking shell, from a ballistic missile, to bring us yet more scientific knowledge about the world.

It is time for all Earth inhabitants to recognize the value of science.  In doing so, we will find common ground for agreeing on other important things.

Wow. I could not have said it better than Mark just did. All the way to his tone of militancy.  Because it is, indeed, time for moderate pragmatists to stoke up their own sense of militant ferocity and drive.

If you are unconvinced by the plight of the middle class, or the diametrically opposite records of the two parties at fostering economic growth or entrepreneurial startups, or the blatant oligarchic power grab of Citizens United, or the fact that all our present deficit comes from just four GOP “programs”…*

…then at least ponder science. Hated by viewers of Fox, adored by viewers of Jon Stewart.  That pretty much says it all.



GOP “programs” that made nearly all of today’s skyrocketing U.S. debt. Two multi-trillion dollar land wars of endless quagmire-attrition in Asia, attempting futile “nation building” in places where we’re hated… plus vast tax gifts to the oligarchy, that they have not spent on the promised productive factories, not ever… plus Medicare Part D for which no funding source was ever devised, just a vast, red-ink gift to Big Pharma.  Add them up, plus the effects of Bush’s “ownership society” deliberate asset bubble….  Remove them and what do you get?  We are back to Bill Clinton, paying down the deficit every year.  And you would put those guys back in charge?  Really?



Filed under science

4 responses to “The Case for a Scientific Nation: Part Two

  1. It reminds me of a line from _Arrested Development_ several years ago: “Well, the jury’s still out on…science”

  2. Dave

    Wow, you suffer from a delusional level of partisan thinking. For a “contrarian” you don’t sound much different from an average college women’s studies major – thinking Presidents completely control the economy, that 80% + of Democrats didn’t vote for Iraq, that Obama didn’t EXPAND Afghanistan, that Bush didn’t spend the same billions or more than Clinton on R&D. Actually pointing out your ideological blinders is becoming boring. Unsubscribe.

    • Amazing. “Dave” can do the twists that this new-conservatism demands. After saying that democrats backed their president when (based on lies) he demanded war… I’ll bet he’d turn around and then claim that democrats are just as obstinate as republicans when it comes to honest negotiating. In fact, ALL republican presidents got major cooperation from Democrats, when the dems controlled Congress. Despite despising Nixon, the dems in congress passed acres of Nixon’s legislation. Same with Reagan Bush and Bush.

      The behavior when things are reversed? The diametric opposite. ONCE the Gingrich Congress sat down and negotiated with Clinton and the result was epochal and effective, Welfare Reform. And thereupon major Republicans swore IN PUBLIC “we will never do that again.”

      In fact, Bush did NOT expand R&D. The fact is that all the generals and admirals I know and all the scientists all despise GW Bush as the worst president in their lifetimes. All of them, every last one of them.

      Bush stole from actual R&D that might have liberated us from the Saudi Oil Teat and poured it into gasahol from corn and into mythical “hydrogen.” But what do you expect? The Saudis co-own Fox

  3. SelfAwarePatterns

    Well said. I appreciate your desire to be as even handed as possible, but I can’t bring myself to rate Nancy Pelosi’s failure to resurrect the OTA as comparable to anything like the scientific censoring and outright denialism on the other side.

    Of course, despite that attempt at even handedness, I see someone has already called you a partisan. How frustrating for conservatives that reality appears to biased against their ideas.

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