Lest we forget… or should that read how quick we forget…

by webmaster on October 22, 2010

Three interesting stories about science and research in the US got my attention this week for a variety of reasons but I think overall because they represent what I think is a problem in countries like the US where politicians see fit to hijack things like science for their own political needs.
The first story http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20827832.700-what-the-us-midterm-elections-mean-for-science.html looked at the midterm elections and what they might mean for science, and the overriding thrust of the story is the Republicans and particularly the unfortunately named Tea Party (which always makes me think of a certain mad hatter) use of the amount of money spent on research as a way of gaining political advantage over the Democrats. Now, I don’t have any political affiliations at all, and in any case I am not in the US, but I have a problem with any lobby (or other group) using certain facts, figures, statistics about science research out of context to pursue their own goals. By using these tactics to speak to an already disgruntled public, they are likely to cause long term harm – especially if they reduce the amount of funding made available for scientific research for something as important as, say, climate change – which a number of scientists fear will get the brunt of a full frontal assault should the Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives. As the New Scientists article shows, there are a number of states in the US where anti-science agendas are at work.
Possibly one of the craziest things I read though was tucked away at the bottom of another New Scientist article http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20827832.600-climate-change-battle-moves-to-courtrooms.html. This article was a very positive one for science depicting the legal challenges that large scale Carbon Dioxide polluters are facing, but the remarkable one at the bottom of the article was the case being taken by the state of Texas against the EPA claiming that it used invalid science to determine that carbon dioxide is harmful… oh, if only I were a court reported in the state of Texas – in the last few weeks I would have been able to witness a case involving an English football club being played out in a Texas court, and would now also be able to look forward to seeing how they will prove this ‘invalid science’ claim.
The last article that I felt defines the US people’s approach to science involved the teaching of creationism in US schools http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20827833.000-creationism-lives-on-in-us-public-schools.html and while the article reports on the success of the Dover, Pennsylvania, case to prevent teachers teaching intelligent design, it reminds us that the Discovery Institute which promotes is still active and has at least managed to have a bill passed in Louisiana which allows local education boards to teach intelligent design and evolution under the ‘guise of “academic freedom”’. Well, why not. Let’s also defy scientific fact and teach them that the earth is flat; that the moon is made of cheese; that a man lives in the moon… feel free to add your own nonscience here…

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