Why isn't science doing better under Obama?

By Phil Plait | November 2, 2010 12:30 pm

Over at The Intersection, Chris Mooney has an interesting discussion about why science is still so massively under attack right now, even though Bush’s anti-science regime is gone, and Obama promised to restore science to its rightful place.

Chris notes things have changed. In an interview he did he notes that before, it was a top-down attack, orchestrated by the White House. Now, we’re seeing more of a bottom-up effort to suppress science. I agree, though I’ll add that a lot of Congresscritters are pushing hard against science; I could easily name a half-dozen Senators and Representatives who are virulently antiscience. But we are seeing it at all levels, from school boards up to state legislatures (and Attorneys General) up to Congress.

There are too many attacks to even list coherently, ranging from climate science to evolution and stem cell research. It’s the same old list, in fact, but a lot of the names have changed since 2008. With this election today, I certainly hope things get better, but if anyone from the Tea Party is elected it certainly won’t help.

I implore everyone reading this to find out where your candidates stand on important issues. Not just taxes and health care and all that (which has become so polarized it’s obvious where people are just by what party they claim as their own) but also on science topics. I am hardly a single-issue voter, but where someone stands on things like global warming and the teaching of creationism is pretty important to me, too.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Science, Skepticism

Comments (116)

  1. Number 6

    Along w/ what Phil stated, this is worrisome….

    GOP plans attacks on the EPA and climate scientists –
    If Republicans win control of the House, they plan to go after the Obama administration’s environmental policies and the researchers who have offered evidence on global warming, whom they accuse of manipulating data.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/la-na-epa-battle-ahead-20101030,0,1017566.story

  2. Grand Lunar

    I would’ve thought that Congress is penny-pinching, thus resulting in a less than sterling performance in science.

    It is unfortunate that anti-science still occurs.
    I can only wonder how much is related to the media’s depiction.

    We need more educational programs on the channels once known for portraying science (i.e, NGC, Discovery Channel, History Channel, Science Channel, ect).
    It’s too bad that focus is given on supernatural claims, bible code, Mayan “prophecies”, ect.

  3. Jason Dick

    Sadly, because of the Republicans, we just don’t have a lot of choice in nearly all of the elections. The only option, as near as we can tell, is to put up with even the worst of the Democrats until we can dramatically reduce the size of the Republican party to the point it becomes irrelevant, or until it shifts its policies to more sane ones.

    The problem is, I don’t see that happening any time soon, so in the mean time we’re sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place.

  4. I don’t know if anyone is doing that “Discover Channel Influencer” thing. It’s basically an opportunity to provide feedback to the powers that be about their current shows, and any possible future shows. Every time I see some [CENSORED] reality show proposed, I let them know in no uncertian terms what I think of it.

    I also fight the anti-science idiocy on the local level. I volunteer to give presentations at schools on subjects like critical thinking, debunking extraterrestrial visitations, haunted houses, homeopathy, psychics, etc. I even made a bunch of DVDs of Brian Dunning’s “Here be Dragons” video and handed it out to teachers and students.

    It just takes small bits.

  5. And then there are those who only support science when it verifies their opinions and policies, and reject any science that contradicts those things.

    Ditto what Jason said about our lousy choices. :)

  6. Jason

    I agree with pretty much everything everyone has said here, and the only thing I’ll add is that after years of science being a dead subject in U.S. politics, it will take more than a few years for it to recover.

  7. Daniel J. Andrews

    Good ideas, Larian. I give guest lectures to the university and college crowd as well as some local interest groups. But I haven’t done anything with the high school or the grade school level, which I think is probably more important.

    Do you just go talk to the principal and explain what you’d like to do, or do you know some of the teachers and just talk to them? Have you had any problems with parents complaining about something you might have said?

    The younger they are (within a limit) the better it is to teach them how science works, how to use critical thinking skills, to get them excited about science.

  8. If the president (or an other politician) actually has an impact on it, then it’s not science, it’s politics.

  9. @Daniel (#7),

    So far I have just managed to get in with the school where my daughter attends. I would like to expand more. I have asked with our local skeptic group where a couple of the folks are teachers (/waves @ Dale Roy). I make sure that I send my presentation to the teacher in question first. I also make sure that I don’t get into anything overly specific. I use examples that are thought to be patently silly (Flat Earth, geo-centrism, invisible dragons in a garage) as a way to bring in examples.

    I also use popular culture references advocating skepticism (Mythbusters being the best for school kids).

    So far I have not received any negative feedback.

    Granted, my daughter attends a public charter school called the Academy for Science and Design which is a very heavy STEM focused school. That may influence the receptiveness of the school.

    @Ken (#8), that is a rather simplistic view and opinion. By that standard, heliocentrism was a religious issue and had nothing to d with science.

  10. David D.

    “…after years of science being a dead subject in U.S. politics, it will take more than a few years for it to recover.”

    Not sure what you mean by that. According to Mooney et al., science was anything BUT a dead subject in U.S. politics during the previous administration, for perhaps the wrong reasons.

    Obama’s getting a pass on anti-science, and I’m not sure why. They apparently suppressed a report by top scientists about the impact of a drilling moratorium. I’m not impressed with Holdren’s past association with Ehrlich. And OpenLeft.com July 13 2010 notes the following:

    “We are getting complaints from government scientists now at the same rate we were during the Bush administration,” said Jeffrey Ruch, an activist lawyer who heads an organization representing scientific whistle-blowers [PEER].

    In Florida, water-quality experts reported government interference with efforts to assess damage to the Everglades stemming from development projects.

    In the Pacific Northwest, federal scientists said they were pressured to minimize the effects they had documented of dams on struggling salmon populations.

    In several Western states, biologists reported being pushed to ignore the effects of overgrazing on federal land.

    In Alaska, some oil and gas exploration decisions given preliminary approval under Bush moved forward under Obama, critics said, despite previously presented evidence of environmental harm.

    Interesting article. And this is from OpenLeft.com, not Fox or Glenn Beck.

    I’m not sure I want politics of ANY PERSUASION to be mucking about with science. It’s a very tenuous line, and one that most politicians do not walk very well.

  11. Rann Xerox

    The main problem with “science” is that it has been corrupted by the left and the right for their own political ends. When people who disagree with a certain dogma on either side is lambasted and ridiculed, others stop listening to opposing views.

    Myself, I believe the earth is warming and that carbon emissions play a part in that warming. But I also believe the warming is part of the natural cycle of the earth, a result of deforestation around the globe, etc. But carbon emissions are equated with all that is wrong with the developed world and so is the focus and anyone who descents from that idea is rejected and labeled “a denier” which, believe it or not, is considered a insult. Insulted people tend to reject all that you now say to them and so do the representatives of those insulted people. Hence, when the Republicans take over, global warming will be rejected.

  12. You can get some basic information about current congressman at http://www.votesmart.org/npat.php?can_id=27015.
    Unfortunately it doesn’t give you that kind of info on those running against them.
    http://factcheck.org/ has some good info too. But its sort of random.

  13. It seems like the problem is that the negative reactions to Obama has sprung lots of groups who are – by their own admission even – incredibly anti-science. And there’s also the fact that Obama’s administration, like every presidential administration in history, is doing absolutely nothing that Obama promised during the election.

  14. Georg

    European/Asian countries should prepare to
    offer jobs to disappointed American scientists.
    The pendulum swings back .
    Georg

  15. Eric

    It’s very hard to be “pro-science” politically, since science is such a disruptive force and there’s so much going against it.

    (1) People are angry and frightened and many don’t really know why. That’s why they are voting Tea Party and many are going more and more in a direction of religious fundamentalism.

    (2) There’s so much “niche media” these days, it’s easy to lose oneself in an echo-chamber of self-referential bull. If you have some sort of anti-science bias, it’s easy to get that constantly reinforced.

    (3) Science often undercuts many cherished beliefs and ideologies. It’s gives a radically different vision of our place in the universe, our relationships with plants and animals, our sexuality, our ethnic differences, etc., etc. It also leads to technologies and capabilities that blow the mind, but also disrupt existing business practices and vested interests. It’s also often highly arcane and technical, making it a mysterious “black art” that makes people suspicious of science and the motivations of scientists.

    It’ll take a real concerted effort to overcome all of these problems.

  16. Gary Ansorge

    13. Eric

    “It’s also often highly arcane and technical, making it a mysterious “black art” that makes people suspicious of science and the motivations of scientists.”

    It’s only a “black art” for those who are unable/unwilling to expend the effort to understand. It doesn’t require inborn magical powers to use it. Of course, UNDERSTANDING science does require an inborn capacity for thought, so, in that sense, it may seem akin to magic. There IS a solution to that problem,,,make everybody smarter.(The only way I can figure that could occur is if some brilliant dude released a gene implanting virus that increased human brain complexity. Of course, if it affected all mammals , what a story that could make.)

    Gary 7

  17. Keith (the first one)

    Over my side of the pond, it seems that the USA might be dragged down an intellectual plug hole if you aren’t careful. What I worry about would be how it affects the rest of the world. American culture spreads very quickly and the anti-science stuff is already being imported into the UK in small levels. For the most part we laugh at “those stupid Americans” but sometimes they can influence us.

    Sometimes I wonder if there is some aspect of human nature that will see us reach a knowledge plateau before we destroy it and have to learn it all again. Are we heading into the 2nd dark ages? I hope not.

  18. Number 6

    Re: Eric’s three reasons why some are suspicious of science…Well said!…Also, I think some people have a hard time when science seems to backtrack a bit when new information is discovered or new experiments either contradict or lessen the impact of previous scientific information or experiments….Some have trouble w/ the changes.

    RE: science disrupting “existing business practices and vested interests”. Reminds me of a recounting on an NPR show recently about Alexander Graham Bell’s paramount invention. In reaction to it, at first, the telegraph company (monopoly) saw the telephone as only useful to use locally…to tell someone that they had a telegram at the telegraph office….But, once they realized the full implications of Bell’s invention, they tried their best to kill it.

  19. There IS a solution to that problem,,,make everybody smarter.(The only way I can figure that could occur is if some brilliant dude released a gene implanting virus that increased human brain complexity. Of course, if it affected all mammals , what a story that could make.)

    Gary, would that be like Volescu trying to turn Anton’s key for everyone?

    (Oy, that’s an obscure reference!)

  20. Doug Little

    There IS a solution to that problem,,,make everybody smarter

    I think that we can achieve a fair result through better education. Of course this is a very complicated issue without any easy or quick fixes, it could take decades. It would require some fairly significant changes to our current “family values” as well but I think that with the advent of the internet and newer technologies that help people gain access to greater volumes of information we will gradually head in the right direction. After all one can only place their fingers in their ears for so long.

  21. Caleb

    This will sound somewhat whiny, but it seems that scientists (and engineers, although they don’t get quite the bad rap) work to improve life for everyone on earth, and in exchange they get crap slung at them by pretty much everybody.

    I agree with what Eric said, especially the third point. I attend a catholic high school, although I am an agnostic atheist. There I quite often get rhetoric responses to any pro-science point I make. For example, I recently gave a speech on anti-science and science denial, focusing on evolution, climate change, and anti vaxers. The response was frightening, a couple people even threatened me, and only a few people were even willing to listen to the speech. I did manage to convince at least one person that vaccines are a good thing. That, at least, was satisfying.

  22. MaDeR

    Having fun with you pseudo-democratic duopoly thing, I see.

  23. sailor

    Why just blame government. Lots of major hospitals now endorse “integrative medicine” which means a heaping cauldron of SBM and absolute woo. The anti science rot is unfortunately starting with “we the people”…..

  24. EdF

    Funny how people blame the Republicans. Don’t get me wrong, most if not all the anti-science crowd is Republican, usually the extreme right. My point however is that the Republican party did not engage in some concerted effort to become anti-science. It actually has become anti-science in response to the bottom up groundswell that Phil speaks of. The Republicans are merely trying to get votes where they can (as do Democrats), if the people shift, the party shifts.

    Frankly, this scares me more. The school boards, the churches, and the other areas that are indoctrinating yet another generation of youths to be anti-science is where our problem is. If we could magically have Michael Steele (chairman of the GOP) espouse the greatness of science and to put it at the forefront of the party’s agenda, the anti-science crowd will merely go somewhere else, form their own party (like the Tea Party.)

    My personal opinion is to worry less about Federal elections, and look at the state elections. That’s where school board, redistricting, and other such critical decisions are made. But even then, we must find some way to win hearts and minds, or we will have 50% of the population being anti-science and finding some political party that will endorse them.

  25. Mike Mullen

    I would say the Republican party did make an active effort to attract the votes of the religious right, and created a monster that began to consume the party and led to its anti-science position. Now with the Tea Party movement it appears the last shreds of reason have been discarded.

  26. cantech

    Speaking of anti-science, Phil has blogged on this before i know.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/02/AR2010110203290.html?hpid=topnews

    The thing that no-one here has mentioned is just blind, stupid, greed being behind a lot of woo.

  27. JoeSmithCA

    Stupid is a disease. It’s an evil little retrovirus that attacks the unborn child.

    Also, I have a box of gingerbread snaps, so I’m content if rationalism goes to hell.

  28. Hevach

    Note: i tried to post this a moment ago but the post seems to have been eaten by the intermittent network troubles I’m having, so forgive me if I repeat myself

    @24. Edf: “look at the state elections”

    Michigan’s Republicans in the state election were particularly bad in this department this year. Funding science was a more frequent attack in our ads the last month than stimulus spending and healthcare reform combined. “Ants in Africa” was the local catch phrase, every attack on every Democrat (even ones who’ve never held office to have had the chance to do so) involved talking about them using taxpayer money to fund research on ants in Africa.

    One of the most insulting political speeches I’ve ever heard involved several contextless quips from a supposedly government funded report on ants in Africa (there wasn’t enough there to even tell that much, not that it matters), and was followed by, “Did you understand any of that? Of course you don’t. You live in Michigan. You don’t want to understand that. You don’t need to. But you do understand one thing. You understand you don’t want your tax dollars paying for it.”

    Literally calling his voters stupid. Literally. And the state loves the guy for it, nobody even managed to get angry about this speech, everyone inclined to be angry at him is stuck on the fact that he personally laid off a respectable chunk of our unemployment, and most of them voted for him, too. If he doesn’t walk out of it as governor tonight I’ll be convinced Bernero managed to rig the election.

  29. Daffy

    EdF, well said!

    The reason our government is so screwed up is because we the people can’t stand honesty from our politicians. They lie to us because that’s what gets them elected.

  30. Steve Huntwork

    You spent your government science money on the global warming fraud instead of valid research programs.

    That was your choice, so deal with it!

  31. Ema Nymton

    Holy crap!

    Steve Huntwork is a moron!

  32. Chris Winter

    Gary Ansorge wrote: “(The only way I can figure that could occur is if some brilliant dude released a gene implanting virus that increased human brain complexity. Of course, if it affected all mammals , what a story that could make.)”

    Have you never read Poul Anderson’s Brain Wave? The gimmick there was a sort of bafflegab (my term) field emanating from the core of our galaxy in a narrow beam. It had a suppressive effect on certain electrochemical reactions. When Earth, following the Sun around the galaxy, came out of this field, the nervous systems of all mammals became more efficient. Result: increased intelligence, increased chaos.

    It’s a classic. Written near the start of his career, it’s one of his best stories.

  33. Steve Huntwork

    @30: So you are trying to tell us that multiple millions of federal research grant money was not spent on global warming related projects?

    That same money could have funded other valuable research projects that we mutually support. There is only a fixed amount of money that can be destributed as federal research grants.

    Not “moronic” at all, but simple reality.

  34. Chris Winter

    Phil wrote: “It’s the same old list, in fact, but a lot of the names have changed since 2008. “

    I think a big part of the current problem is the names that haven’t changed. I refer to the civil servants put in place by the Bush administration: Agency bureaucrats, members of advisory committees, etc. Some would be next to impossible to fire, and others are simply overlooked in the press of other business. Look how long it took (and what it took) to purge the Minerals Management Service.

    A good source on this is Undermining Science by Seth Shulman (2006).

    Also, of course, The Republican War on Science and the later books by Chris Mooney.

  35. Monkey

    Steve Huntwork,

    So providing money to fund jobs, research, technology and innovation dealing with possibly the most pressing issue of our and the next multiple generations, is a waste? Was wrong? Is wrong?

    Perhaps that money wont show any huge benefits now, today, for us. But, down the road, the face of humanity and the natural systems of our planet will benefit. Just because there are no direct payouts that you can see in the immediate term doesnt make the science or the science funding irrelevant.

    Dont be so selfish – science is driven to make better, do better, discover, to solve. It takes time, but its important.

    Especially global issues of such grandeur as climate change.

  36. Steve Huntwork

    One of the primary sources of federal research grant money is the National Science Foundation (NSF)and I would not classify the NSF as Republican controlled.

    On the contrary, I would be very surprize if the majority of NSF members were not almost 95% non-Republican.

    Time to face the reality of our federal government and how the money is distributed.

    ….

    @34: I was trying to reply to Phil’s question for this topic: “Why isn’t science doing better under Obama?”

    My reply is that the federal goverment has distributed a vast amount of funds for science, but perhaps not in the most efficient way possible.

    Priorities must be set…

  37. MadScientist

    I disagree with Mooney, there has always been an attack on science from all other sides. Nor do I think it fair to say that Dubbyah was somehow making an effort to hinder science due to some anti-science craving of his. Dubbyah was trying to keep his anti-science voters happy whenever he signed laws hindering the scientific use of human stem cells and so on. Dubbyah did what he did out of sheer ignorance and a desire to please his supporters. Dubbyah’s a politician. Obama’s also a politician. Wake me up when Obama signs a law authorizing the public funding of research involving human embryonic stem cells. Gee, if Obama would only get rid of those handouts to religious groups which started under Dubbyah’s watch I’d be happier. I don’t expect it to happen though, not so much because of Republican opposition (Obama had the necessary majority in both houses until now) but because Obama is first and foremost a politician who subscribes to the current political ideals and dirty tricks.

  38. Obozo’s admin de-listed the wolf from the endangered species list. So much for science. If something doesn’t advance his radical socialist agenda, his regime doesn’t give it any consideration.

    Quoting Jennifer Ouellette from an earlier post, “And then there are those who only support science when it verifies their opinions and policies, and reject any science that contradicts those things.”

    That rather hits the nail on Bad Astronomer’s selective skepticism.

  39. Gary Ansorge

    31. Chris Winter

    “,,,Brain Wave”

    Yes, many years ago but genetic enhancement seems actually possible.

    19. Larian LeQuella

    “Gary, would that be like Volescu trying to turn Anton’s key for everyone?

    Got me there, Buddy. That must be really arcane.(Ah, Enders Game. Just looked it up).

    20. Doug Little

    Education works for people who WANT to learn. Some consider that too much work.

    Flashback: 1952/53; I had already learned to write in script in the second grade in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. Upon returning to the States and the third grade, when our teacher asked what my seat mate Roy was arguing with me about. ( I had written my name in script on our “penmanship” work sheet) AS I explained I had already been writing in script for a year, she said “Oh! I suppose it IS time we learned that.” Roy turned to me and said,

    “See! It’s all YOUR fault we have to learn something new.”

    The rest of that school year was not,,,pleasant. Fortunately, I was very fast on my feet.

    Gary 7

  40. Daffy

    “radical socialist agenda”

    Ya gotta love Rush’s parrots.

  41. Steve Huntwork

    @40: Tonight, the American People are replying to your message. We are saying NO!

    This is not a political thread, but I had to reply to that one. Please let us return to the subject of funding valid scientific research.

    People like Rush, Palin and others are supported because they have the guts to face the attacks and express what the majority of American’s feel and think. We do not parrot them, but instead, they express what we have been trying to say.

    Until you realize that important difference, then you will never understand what happend tonight!

    On the subject of Presidents:

    Unlike Stalin of the now defunct USSR, an American President has very little power over domestic affairs. He can “twist arms” and make deals with members of Congress, but only Congress can allocate money or pass laws.

    The only power that an American President has, is the ability to veto a law that he does not agree with.

    That is why you will never hear me complaining about President Obama and his funding of science!

    If you want to bitch about the federal government, then blame Congress, since they are the only ones who can allocate and distribute money for specific research projects.

    Now, back to science and the topic of discussion…

  42. Kevin

    I fear for our country.

  43. Do you global warming alarmists want to be more effective?

    1. Stop throwing around labels like teabaggers, wingnuts, rednecks, etc. Act like adults.
    2. Don’t talk about temperature increases at all. Don’t even mention it because no one cares, seriously.
    3. Instead tell them that you want to protect the lakes, the rivers, the forests, and all the natural ecosystems that makes America such a beautiful place. Appeal to their patriotism and love of country.
    4. Encourage them to do small things first to help the environment like recycle more , use less water, drive hybrids, etc.
    5. Then we can begin debate on more long term government initiatives and policies to prevent global warming. (See number 1. and 2. those still apply).

    Stop trying to shove global warming alarmism down people’s throats and they will listen.

  44. @Steve Huntwork
    People like Rush, Palin and others are supported because they have the guts to face the attacks and express what the majority of American’s feel and think. We do not parrot them, but instead, they express what we have been trying to say.

    I dunno, but it looks like the cart pushing the horse from my non-US perspective. Politicians do it everywhere. They beat up non-issues and fears until the great unwashed start believing the rhetoric.

  45. Steve Huntwork

    Seriously, they “parot” us, instead of the other way around!

    With all of the newspapers, local TV, satellite TV, Hollywood and almost every other form of communication in today’s world attacking us, why has the majority of Americans stood up today and said NO?

    Have you ever wondered how such few people could possibly have such an amazing control over the thoughts of the majority of Americans?

    This is a power that even Stalin in the USSR never had, so how could little people like Rush, Palin and Beck posses it?

    “Politicians do it all the time”, and we are sick and tired of it. Today, we are holding those politicians responsible for their actions. If they do not perform as required, they will not last long.

    Sorry Phil for replying about politics, but the ignorance of the American form of government is rather amazing.

    Again, only Congress can pass laws or allocate money. There are very few things that an American President can do with domestic affairs, other than use the power of the Veto.

    Have I answered your question about scientific funding?

  46. Chip

    Since the Republicans will be cutting what they call (but do not define as) “spending” and “big government”, our future astronauts and scientists will have to learn to speak Chinese.

    Maybe the Chinese space program will take a few Americans back to the Moon and later to Mars as a token gesture. That’s after they build their science stations there.

  47. Steve Huntwork

    Last time I looked, by next year, the only manned space program in the United States will be provided by Burt Rutan and Virgin Galactic.

    Perhaps it is time to fund the people who actually PERFORM!

    They have already reproduced the amazing achivements of the X-15 program at a very low cost.

  48. Bruce

    And the whining begins. Sorry losers, but the Republicans are going after the warm-mongering “scientists” that are just trying to push their political agenda by lying to the public. BUH-BYE!

  49. TomInAK

    If science isn’t doing as well as you expected under Obama, perhaps it’s because you were duped and are being discarded now that you are no longer needed.

  50. noen

    Eric Says:
    “Stop trying to shove global warming alarmism down people’s throats”

    Should we use a little astro glide first? I mean, does everything you say have to involve repressed homoerotica?

  51. noen

    Steve Huntwork Says:
    With all of the newspapers, local TV, satellite TV, Hollywood and almost every other form of communication in today’s world attacking us, why has the majority of Americans stood up today and said NO?

    Well actually they haven’t. There has not been a tsunami backlash against the Democrats. The GOP has simply won a majority in the House, not the Senate, in a midterm election. The 1994 backlash, now that was much larger and more significant.

  52. QuietDesperation

    Have you never read Poul Anderson’s Brain Wave?

    Two of Verner Vinge’s books have the galaxy divided into zones where the laws of physics vary. In the core and outward a bit, the processes that lead to intelligence and sentience can’t function. Further out is where Earth is. Sapience exists and basic technologies, but travel is limited to lightspeed. Even further is an area where many things become possible, like FTL and antigravity. At the edge of the galactic disc and beyond is the Transcend where nearly magical things are possible, and godlike AIs can be constructed.

    As for the election… meh…

    Prediction: California will be placed into federal receivership (or some equivalent) within four years when the last productive person leaves the state.

    Maybe the Chinese space program will take a few Americans back to the Moon and later to Mars as a token gesture. That’s after they build their science stations there.

    I wouldn’t worry about the Chinese. Honestly, some of you people are so fraking gullible.

    Should we use a little astro glide first? I mean, does everything you say have to involve repressed homoerotica?

    Er… “forcing down the throat” is a very old and widely used idiom most likely originating from forcing someone to take a poor tasting medication. *You* are the only one reading anything else into it. You sound a bit homophobic. You also wouldn’t use AstroGlide for oral sex, so you might want take a sex education class. Or rent a porn.

    Perhaps it is time to fund the people who actually PERFORM!

    Performers get their own funding. Perhaps it time to stop thinking the government is the source of all funding for everything on the face of the world. Where do you think the government gets its money from in the first place? Like I said in another thread, economies don’t need governments. It’s generally better when they do have them, but the economy is an independent thing. Yes, even in very authoritarian countries. Those places will have thriving black, gray and other types of markets in operation.

    You can sit there and write your little five year plans and crunch your numbers and draw your charts, but the economy, composed of humanity, is going to do what it wants. Best to get out of its way and just referee a bit.

  53. QuietDesperation

    “Why isn’t science doing better under Obama?”

    http://bensguide.gpo.gov/3-5/government/branches.html

    I hope this help- OH MY GOD THEY HAVE NO FACES!!!

  54. Chip

    I wouldn’t worry about the Chinese. Honestly, some of you people are so fraking gullible.

    Once again satire, leveraged at budget cutting, (exempting those budgets that will benefit the few at the expense of the many,) glides right over the head; and yet you know of satire from your own anti-California comments.

    As for California, I don’t know how Jerry Brown will do these days. This will be his third term. (He was very pro-science way back in his first term – when Silicon Valley and JPL were growing and science education had a healthy budget.) Meg Whitman, who was running against him was soundly defeated tonight despite her money. Her corporatism was alarming.

  55. 15. Eric Says: “Science …is also often highly arcane and technical, making it a mysterious “black art” that makes people suspicious of science and the motivations of scientists.”

    My pet theory as to the popularity of the Harry Potter books and movies is that Hogwarts is the perfect analogy to a big technical school like MIT or Cal Tech. Snape’s potion class = chemistry. There are analogs to biology/botany, mechanics, optics, astronomy, etc. They even have big intramural competitions.

    The whole thing is wrapped up in a “mysterious” magic world, but in the end the Hogwarts graduates go out into the world to manipulate their environment for the betterment of others (Well, at least other witches and wizards). It’s the same thing that scientists and engineers do, but without the “scary” (i.e. “mad”) science behind it. The fantasy keeps it safe.

    The funny thing is that, in the movies at least, they show legitimate technology, but it has to be old. Cameras are all right as long as they’re huge 8 x 10 view cameras with flash-powder, uh, flashes. You can show scientific instruments as long as they are made of brass and have arcane symbols carved into them. Astronomy is done from a tower with a dome, but it’s basically Tycho Brahe’s naked eye observing instruments.

    I was going to go on, but I figure I’ve moved this far enough off topic.

    - Jack

  56. Hevach

    @38: When some states had to start initiating culls because of excessive wolf populations, I think it’s safe to say the population is no longer as threatened as it once was.

    But, anyway, Obama had no authority over the wolf being delisted. It was delisted in February of 2008 less than a month after he took office at the end of a process initiated in 2003 (which itself followed a 1993 experimental change to the wolf’s status).

    The delisting was frankly necessary to limit the wolves actually coming into cities looking for food in some parts of the US and Mexico, animal control was illegal, municipalities were facing monumental penalties for putting down dangerous problem animals. Most populations were still protected under the delisting, and some actually received new legal protections, but the delisting allowed for the designation of unendangered populations for animal control actions.

    The only part of the delisting that was actually started under the Obama (or any Democrat for that matter, as Clinton was in office while the experimental redesignation was in effect) administration was the eventual reinstating of endangered status on August 5 this year. Obama had pretty much nothing to do with that, either, but that DID happen under his watch.

    Kinda hits the nail on SOMEBODY’S selective skepticism if you ask me. Not BA’s, though.

  57. Elmar_M

    Well, it seems that the american people have once again outdone themselves with stupid.
    Well done tea baggers! The world will take another step back into the middle ages, thanks to you!
    I just cant stand reading the news anymore these days. Things are getting more and more depressing all the time. Science will be the looser- again- from this election result.
    The US will continue bullying the rest of the world. Big oil and insurance companies party.
    Oh you wonderful world! Makes me want to puke!

  58. Stargazer

    Cutting down on science is never a good thing. It might feel temporarily good in the short run, but if we want to reap the benefits of science and technology, then we need to keep it going. We should cut down on the obscene amounts of money that goes to the military every year, and learn how to live together in this planet without killing each other.

  59. fatkid

    I wish people, or “tea-baggers”, would simply say they don’t like blacks. Racism seems a comfortable blanket for the vast swath of middle America. Obama has done so much for science, despite being hobbled by the scum riding his coat tails into office.

  60. Paul in Sweden

    Obama’s climate guru: Paint your roof white!
    By Steve Connor, Science Editor
    Wednesday, 27 May 2009

    Some people believe that nuclear power is the answer to climate change, others have proposed green technologies such as wind or solar power, but Barack Obama’s top man[Steven Chu] on global warming has suggested something far simpler – painting your roof white.
    -http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/obamas-climate-guru-paint-your-roof-white-1691209.html

    hmmm with democrats in congress worrying that the Island of Guam will tip over and the likes of Ehrlich, Holdren & Chu advising Obama is it any wonder why science isn’t doing better?

    -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjG958lZ1KI

    At least with yesterday’s election we will have the State of California as an example of a “Green Economy”. All states, the senate and the house will look to California each and every time Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming legislation is put forth.

    The Global Warming Industry pulled all the stops to fund the propaganda against the California Jobs Initiative(Prop 23).

    Show the nation those AB 32 Green Jobs California! :) Lead the Nation!

    Looking forward to the United Nations IPCC Cop16 Global Warming bazaar this year in Mexico and the US General Elections or 2012 :)

    It is a pity that the all of Science is tarred with the same brush that “Climate Science” has demanded.

  61. vanderleun

    Too bad you folks just aren’t getting your way after all.

    Hold breath. Stamp foot.

    Repeat.

    Quant suff!

    Most scientific.

  62. This argument is moot. The Republicans will outlaw science entirely.

  63. Jeffersonian

    Phil,
    Seems way better to me. I guess the sting of the Bush administration is still fresh for me.

    @38
    I’m guessing you don’t live near pack studies? Please explain the Obama connection.

    @41
    No, what happened is that people that want increased programs combined with reduction of all taxes, who think that spending cuts will reduce the deficit, can think of only one issue: the economy. In turn, they blame the government for not flipping the switch that fixes the economy and their short-sighted solution is “vote for the other guys”. Same old cycle. Same old memory problems.

    @43
    1. Teabagger is a correct label. AS for the rest, your saying don’t dumb it down?
    2. So, discuss the issue but avoid the actual issue. You’re asking for deception?
    3. Because only one country is affected? And way to dumb it down (see the rest of your #1)
    4. Already done.
    5. This conflicts with the sentence that follows it (presumably #6). And #6 is the cry of the denier.

  64. I personally can’t get behind either party. Neither does anything for me. I do feel that Reps. being in control of the house will hinder science further. Way to go to you delusional religious zealots. ;)

    I won’t get into religion. It makes clowns cry. Then again, is that a bad thing? :)

    I want more science. That is all.

  65. Nigel Depledge

    Rann Xerox (11) said:

    Myself, I believe the earth is warming and that carbon emissions play a part in that warming. But I also believe the warming is part of the natural cycle of the earth,

    How so?

    And what is your view about the rate of warming?

    a result of deforestation around the globe, etc.

    Deforestation is, IIUC, mentioned in the IPCC reports. Climate scientists certainly aren’t ignoring it.

    But carbon emissions are equated with all that is wrong with the developed world and so is the focus

    I can think of two reasons why this might be. (1) Maybe carbon emissions have the largest impact; or (2) maybe control of carbon emissions is the easiest thing for us to change. Or maybe some of both.

    Either way, do you not think there might be some reason why carbon emissions are the principal focus of most people who support doing somethign about GW?

    and anyone who [dissents] rom that idea is rejected and labeled “a denier” which, believe it or not, is considered a insult.

    Well, I’ve seen comments on this blog from people who claim one at least one of the following:
    (1) GW isn’t happening – the data have been faked somehow.
    (2) GW is happening but it’s nothing to do with us. It’s just sunspots or some unspecified “natural cycle”, but it’s not our fault so we shouldn’t have to do anything to stop it.
    (3) GW is real and it’s probably our fault but it won’t have any impact on us. And there’s no such thing as positive feedback.
    (4) GW is real and it’s our fault but it’s a good thing.

    These positions all require denial or willful ignorance of some large areas of evidence. When these people refuse to change their view when presented with summaries of the evidence that contradicts their stated position, how else should one describe them?

  66. Daffy

    #53 “As for California, I don’t know how Jerry Brown will do these days. This will be his third term. (He was very pro-science way back in his first term – when Silicon Valley and JPL were growing and science education had a healthy budget.) Meg Whitman, who was running against him was soundly defeated tonight despite her money. Her corporatism was alarming.”

    One of the main reasons for the “Moonbeam” label was his support for mining the asteroids…which I would like to see as well! Frankly, overall, Brown was a pretty good governor.

  67. Ken

    Well, Obama’s Administration might be bucking FOR science & doing something about global warming.

    In fact, he’s touted as the “Greenest President Ever” — and for good reason, just consider HIS Carbon Footprint:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1325075/Obama-India-visit-Biggest-US-President-40-planes-6-armoured-cars.html#ixzz14BVLPL2p

    WOW!!!

  68. Benjamin Lecrone

    Unfortunately, Phil is once again confusing science with what occurs during political wrangling. Politicians can’t shape science, they shape policy. And policy is shaped by the largely emotional and instinctual needs and wants of the masses. So long as about 90% of Americans still believe the god myths they’ve been taught, proper science will never be a priority for any politician…regardless of party affiliation.

    Besides who says that the government should have any say in science. When the government hands out subsidies or offers tax breaks they get into the business of picking winners and losers. This inevitably fails. The best way to pick winners when it comes to technology is allowing the free market to do so. And the best way to pick winners in science is to let the facts come through by way of unbiased research. The government does this on a level only slightly better than religion does. Fortunately, reality doesn’t care. The Earth doesn’t orbit the sun because enough people started to believe that…it orbits the sun because it does. Government policy won’t change any of this. Take the government out of science. At least with corporations the quest for profit motivates them to do the least amount of harm to the general populace and is non-coercive.

  69. David D.

    @noen #51–

    There has not been a tsunami backlash against the Democrats. The GOP has simply won a majority in the House, not the Senate, in a midterm election. The 1994 backlash, now that was much larger and more significant.

    Really?
    As of this morning, GOP has picked up 58 House seats, as opposed to “just” 54 in 1994. More telling perhaps are some big GOP gains at the state level.

    “Simply”? This from a party that was declared DOA only 2 years ago.

  70. QuietDesperation

    Once again satire, leveraged at budget cutting, (exempting those budgets that will benefit the few at the expense of the many,) glides right over the head; and yet you know of satire from your own anti-California comments.

    Whatever. Maybe your intent isn’t as clear as you think it is? Nah, simply NOT possible, right?

    As for California, I don’t know how Jerry Brown will do these days.

    My only hope is that because Brown is about 112 years old now he wants to go out on a positive note and honestly doesn’t give a crap about ideology anymore. Maybe he will do the right things.

    Not that I had any use for McCain, but I wonder if many Dems who complained about McCain’s age happily voted for Brown. Just pondering.

    Show the nation those AB 32 Green Jobs California! :) Lead the Nation!

    Oh, there will be “green” jobs a plenty. In China and elsewhere.

  71. QuietDesperation

    One of the main reasons for the “Moonbeam” label was his support for mining the asteroids…

    It was a proposal to purchase an emergency communication satellite for the state. I think Mike Royko was the one who launched the nickname to its eventual popularity, although Rolling Stone magazine was involved somewhere. Memory fails me. :(

    which I would like to see as well!

    Would love to see the business model for that.

    Frankly, overall, Brown was a pretty good governor.

    Meh…

    One reason he won yesterday was that Meg Whitman was enormously unlikable, and her very expensive political handlers will be remembered as running the worst political campaign in history. If those people ever get hired again to produce anything more than Printshop fliers for the local dog catcher position then there is no justice in the universe.

  72. Chris Winter

    QuietDesperation wrote: “OH MY GOD THEY HAVE NO FACES!!!”

    Faceless bureaucrats, led by President Upwind Johnson. ;-)

  73. Nigel Depledge

    Steve Huntwork (33) said:

    @30: So you are trying to tell us that multiple millions of federal research grant money was not spent on global warming related projects?

    That same money could have funded other valuable research projects that we mutually support. There is only a fixed amount of money that can be destributed as federal research grants.

    Not “moronic” at all, but simple reality.

    What is moronic is that you do not value research into the state of the global climate.

    Even if you did not accept AGW, the research was needed in order to find out if what seemed to be happening was real or not. Well, a great deal of research has been done, and the results so far overwhelmingly indicate that:
    (1) GW is real and happening now;
    (2) it is almost certainly a result of human activity;
    (3) it is definitely a bad thing.

    What is perhaps just as moronic is that you have allowed yourself to become a mere mouthpiece for vested interests (yes, the oil industry makes more money than climatologists).

    Of course, you are free to disagree with my assessment. However, if you do so, please cite the research that supports your position, i.e. that demonstrates that either (1) GW isn’t happening; or (2) the GW of the last 50 – 100 years is not the result of human activity; or (3) that GW would be a good thing for everyone.

  74. Chris Winter

    Jeffersonian wrote (#63): “Seems way better to me. I guess the sting of the Bush administration is still fresh for me.”

    So it is. How could it be otherwise, given the cabinet officers Obama chose and the directives he issued?

    But like any large organization, the federal government takes a long time to re-staff.

  75. Chris Winter

    Steve Huntwork wrote (#30): “You spent your government science money on the global warming fraud instead of valid research programs.

    That was your choice, so deal with it!”

    Your mistaken assessment of global warming aside, what makes you think it was a choice between that research and all other subjects?

    And why do you think we (or I, or him) control the federal research budget?

  76. Nigel Depledge

    Benjamin Lecrone (69) said:

    At least with corporations the quest for profit motivates them to do the least amount of harm to the general populace and is non-coercive.

    I disagree.

    The quest for profit does not motivate the minimisation of harm. Shareholders mostly care about quarterly or annual dividends – they certainly don’t care about longer timescales than this. Look at the tobacco industry. Motivated by profit, selling an intrinsically-harmful product.

    If you really believe that corporations are non-coercive, you are being hopelessly naive. Advertising, marketing, brand image etc. are all very powerful and persuasive tools. For example, research has shown that the placement of products on supermarket shelves makes a difference to how well they sell – so supermarkets charge their suppliers to place these products on the best shelves.

    Research has shown how little choice we actually make when it comes to shopping, especially in a supermarket. For example, how many times have you gone into a supermarket and only bought precisely what you intended to? If it’s more than one, that makes you unusual.

  77. Terry

    I love how republican and democrat are still thought of as effective labels for people by ostensibly thoughtful individuals. Skepticism means thinking things through. We need to break the party narrative because it blinds the issues so that one party can be completely inconsistant with its own stated goals. “We need to reduce government power… and ban gay marriage”. “We need to outlaw smoking… and legallize all drugs”. “We need to make sure our freedoms of belief are protected… and punish people when that belief is hate”. “We need to stop these foreign adventures… and make sure the world is safe for democracy”. Neither party makes sense because neither party is a consistent political philosophy anymore. They are hodgepodges of issues needed to get reelected.

  78. MattF

    Eric (@43): Stop trying to shove global warming alarmism down people’s throats and they will listen.

    Stop telling people about the approaching hurricane. Tell them how wonderful mountain country is, and they’ll evacuate on their own.

    Yeah — when it comes to getting people to do what they can to avoid getting squashed by natural calamities, lying by omission always works. Especially when some kind of group action is involved, it’s really the best strategy.

    The fact of the matter is that if you make it sound optional and ignore the potential consequences, simple inertia dictates that most people will want to live their lives as they always have — unless there’s a way to make things more comfortable for them than they are presently.

  79. Sir Eccles

    But the Republicans have had all morning to fix it!

  80. Terry

    @Nigel
    I certainly agree that tobacco is a perfect example of a corporation acting like a criminal outfit. I don’t see how people being influenced by supermarkets is coercive, though. If it was coercive to influence others, than only hermits would be free of coerciveness. Your points on this forum are then coercive.

    People make a decision at the supermarket to buy something, even if it was a dumb decision, it is THEIR decision. Taking away that decision doesn’t protect them, it harms them. Buying the item helps the individual, if they make use of what they bought. It helps the market. It helps the supplier. And it helps all the poor Keynesians with their squiggles that prove ANY movement in an economy is better than none.

    I also disagree about the point that shareholders only care about the dividend. Many shareholders are investors that care about long-term viability. That is why tobacco acted the way they did; to push off the inevitable devaluation of their stock (which was first issued before anyone knew that tobacco was dangerous), not to make a quick buck. If tobacco could find a way to make cigs safe and still cheap, they most certainly would.

  81. Sparki

    But the Republicans have had all morning to fix it!

    Am I the only one who remembers the Democrats have controlled Congress for four years and not just two?

  82. AJ in CA

    @#78 Terry:
    I love how republican and democrat are still thought of as effective labels for people by ostensibly thoughtful individuals. Skepticism means thinking things through. We need to break the party narrative because it blinds the issues so that one party can be completely inconsistant with its own stated goals. “We need to reduce government power… and ban gay marriage”. “We need to outlaw smoking… and legallize all drugs”. “We need to make sure our freedoms of belief are protected… and punish people when that belief is hate”. “We need to stop these foreign adventures… and make sure the world is safe for democracy”. Neither party makes sense because neither party is a consistent political philosophy anymore. They are hodgepodges of issues needed to get reelected.

    THIS! THISTHISTHISTHISTHIS thissity this this thisssss!

    A big problem, IMHO, is the voting system that we have. I’d love to see instant runoff voting, though there’s no chance in hell the two major parties would ever allow that to come about, sadly. It seems to me, though, like in our current system, we’ll always have two parties, not by design, but emergent processes (I’m sure people versed in game theory have a field day with this stuff).
    Most obviously, it seems that people willingly allow their own (very specific) groups to be co-opted by larger groups in order to gain the influence that comes with numbers. People willingly sacrifice their identities in hopes of being on the “winning team”. Ultimately, the lowest number of “teams” you can have, while still fighting for “your way,” is two.

  83. AJ in CA

    Is anyone else having this issue of not being able to edit their comments? It says “loading comments failed”

  84. AJ in CA

    @81 Terry: I’ve never been the knee-jerk anti-corporate type, but it seems to me that even concerns about long(er) term viability are no guarantee that a company is going to act in a way that benefits anyone but themselves.
    For instance, I’m sure that the higher-ups of most oil companies are well aware of the problems of anthropogenic GW and peak oil, but their stock prices depend on them publicly denying it until they figure out how to move over to non-fossil energy (while still maintaining their profits).

  85. Yojimbo

    @79 MattF says “…most people will want to live their lives as they always have — unless there’s a way to make things more comfortable for them than they are presently.”

    I’d say that sums up this election (and the last one) in a nutshell. People see that things in their lives have gone wrong. They want them fixed, which means putting them back to when things were better. Back in 2010 people thought things were so messed up, they were even willing to let a black guy try his hand at fixing it. Two years later all they can see is that he and his party didn’t get things fixed, and, worse yet, he tried to make things different. So, the swing back to the other party, who are expected to “fix things” and get rid of the new stuff. Had the economy significantly improved in the past two years, the new stuff would have been accepted (i.e., mak[ing] things more comfortable). It didn’t – luck of the draw. Governments influence these things but they don’t control them.

    One of the pieces of political rhetoric that bugs me the most is when a politico says “the American people want…”, followed by some statement of political philosophy or intent. “The American People” have no political philosophy or intent. They just want things to be like they used to be when things were good. It doesn’t even matter if such a place ever existed. Political success is largely a matter of being on hand when good things happen so you can claim you did them, and when bad things happen, finding some way to make it the opposition’s fault.

    As to the topic at hand, I’d say the main reason science hasn’t done better under the Obama administration is that there hasn’t been time for any change in philosophy to make any inroads. One unusual thing about this administration is that it has actually tried to do something during the President’s first term. Significant policy shifts usually take about six years to be established. Two years is way too short.

  86. Peter Davey

    As I understand it, some years ago, the United States landed itself with something called the “No Child Left Behind Act”, which was supposed to aid the efforts of those children substantially below the educational average to improve themselves, but which has also had the consequence of making it far better – safer, more profitable – for schools to concentrate their efforts on such children, at the expense of the very brightest, who are inaccurately supposed to be able to cope without help.

    At the moment, out of every $100.00 dollars of Federal money spent on education, only 2.6 cents is spent on gifted children, far less than that spent on those children at the other end of the graph. Critics have warned that a substantial number of potential scientists, designers, inventors, analysts, etc, etc are having their futures jeopardised, together with the future of those who might benefit from their contributions (possibly the whole country).

    I can remember a recent article discussing the possibility of a new Lunar programme, by a certain “Buzz” Aldrin, which prompted a reply from the head of the American National Association for Gifted Children, pointing out that the Government’s lack of spending on the education of such children would drastically reduce the number of future personnel qualified to work on such a project.

    Some 13 states have no gifted education programme at all, and the quality of such programmes in the others can vary enormously. Commentators have pointed out that spending money on particularly bright children can be highly unpopular amongst the electorate – “elitist!” “divisive!” “undemocratic!”.

    There is only one Federal act – the “Javits” Act – recognising the existence of gifted children, and then only with families that are either low income, or from minority groups.

    During his time in office, President Bush attempted to remove the Act. His successor, President Obama, is now attempting to do the same, despite the fact that his wife apparently gained her first break in life by being accepted by a “magnet” school, intended to provide an acceptable education for the brightest children in her neighbourhood.

    I think that this is one instance where the public might prefer less agreement amongst the political leadership.

    Someone once said that “stupidity is the only crime that always carries the death penalty” – if not for individuals, then perhaps for societies that fail to recognise the value of intelligence.

  87. mike burkhart

    I think its a problem I commented about earler . The lack of interest in science in the Untied States. The problem is biger then I thought and I think it going to get worse fewer and fewer kids have and interest in science. Off topic I had an idea for the blog : People send in a list of there favorite sciencetists in works of fiction . They can be human or alien . Hears mine : Dr Indiana Jones, Dr Emmit Brown, Spock, Q (James Bond films) real name Algion? Bothrooyd, Clayton Forestor, Heywood Floyd, Dr Victor Bergmen, Jor-El, Dr Zarkof, Dr Hure,and Dr Russel Marvin.

  88. Terry

    @85 AJ in CA: That is a great point about the oil industry that I very much agree with. The problem with peak oil is not in its accuracy, its in how much it matters. Here is why. We will never ever ever run out of oil. The reason why is that oil will eventually be more expensive (in terms of money and other motivators) than other less dense energy sources and more people will shift to that power source because it makes sense.

    You have to take the other side of the argument as well, however. It gives the oil industry money to deny AGW. It gives some research groups money to sell fear about AGW. Both sides make money off of it and meanwhile the news media makes money off of both by keeping doubt alive. Fear sells, probably better than sex, these days.

  89. Daniel J. Andrews

    Larian…thanks for the info. I was thinking of going to the school where my nephew and niece are. I could probably get in there to do some talks fairly easily.

    Nigel said

    However, if you do so, please cite the research that supports your position, i.e. that demonstrates that either (1) GW isn’t happening; or (2) the GW of the last 50 – 100 years is not the result of human activity; or (3) that GW would be a good thing for everyone.

    I would humbly submit that Steve Huntwork also needs to show why temperatures would NOT rise with increasing levels of CO2. Adding more CO2 to the atmosphere and having temps NOT rise would be a stunning-near-violation-of-physics discovery. The person elucidating these completely overlooked mechanisms and new laws would surely win Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry. If Inhofe funds the research into this then maybe the researchers will share their prize with him when they win.

    Speaking of funding, why aren’t there any science foundations debunking global warming? The fossil fuel industry has very deep pockets indeed and could fund major research centers around the world, and pay scientists several times the pay they get at universities and science academies. Instead, we have some isolated figure, almost always speaking outside of his field of expertise, and a host of people without any science training at all, and just enough education to be able to read a teleprompter (or their hand) without stumbling over the words (usually).

    Sort of like why aren’t there any creation research labs doing ground-breaking work on the age of the earth using radioactive isotopes, especially when radio-dating first started being used–you’d think they’d have been all over that one to at last prove the earth was young.

  90. Terry

    @ Daniel J. Andrews(90): I certainly agree with that point. AGW seems the logical theory from my decidedly non-climate scientist perspective (hell, I’m a world politics guy) but I don’t see demonstrated evidence that this is either a good thing or a bad thing. In fact, an argument made to me that makes a lot of sense is a blanket comparison of the number of people who die each year from cold versus the number that die of heat. That doesn’t mean I think AGW is a great thing, it just means I don’t think its a ‘end times’ issue. I do think that eliminating bio-diversity is a huge problem. I do think that paving over a swamp in order to put of a Walmart is another problem. I don’t know that AGW, which we can’t do anything to stop, should decide our economic policy for the next century. It should be a factor, not the deciding factor.

  91. Yojimbo

    @ Terry

    Basing economic policy on any one deciding factor would be foolish. Leaving one out of the equation because you think you can’t completely deal with it (or pretending the gorilla really isn’t in the room) would be just as bad.

    I’m not sure I agree that we “can’t do anything to stop” AGW, but even if that is true it still might not be a bad idea to stop making it worse.

  92. Steve Metzler

    90. Daniel J. Andrews Says:

    Speaking of funding, why aren’t there any science foundations debunking global warming? The fossil fuel industry has very deep pockets indeed and could fund major research centers around the world, and pay scientists several times the pay they get at universities and science academies. Instead, we have some isolated figure, almost always speaking outside of his field of expertise, and a host of people without any science training at all, and just enough education to be able to read a teleprompter (or their hand) without stumbling over the words (usually).

    Sort of like why aren’t there any creation research labs doing ground-breaking work on the age of the earth using radioactive isotopes, especially when radio-dating first started being used–you’d think they’d have been all over that one to at last prove the earth was young.

    Excellent point, and one I’ll be sure to remember in future. They won’t fund it because they know it’s a hopleless cause. It would be a bad business decision, and ultimately one they wouldn’t be able to justify to their shareholders. CEO at AGM: “We spent $3 billion last year trying to disprove AGW… and the study came to the conclusion that the Earth is warming… and that we’re causing it.” No, the fossil fuel companies’ money goes much further on sowing FUD and lobbying. Even better if you can dupe astroturfers into joining in on the fun at no cost to you!

  93. Messier Tidy Upper

    @77. Nigel Depledge Says:

    Research has shown how little choice we actually make when it comes to shopping, especially in a supermarket. For example, how many times have you gone into a supermarket and only bought precisely what you intended to? If it’s more than one, that makes you unusual.

    Okay, suggestion for everyone when going shopping :

    Step 1 – make a list of what shopping you need & intend to buy,

    Step 2 – Work out approximately what it will cost, budget for that & just a very little bit more just in case some things are a fraction pricier than you expect.

    Step 3 – Go shopping seeking out and purchasing only the items on your list and calculating as you go how much things are costing. If you can’t afford something, decide to either not buy it or cut something else out so you can pay for it if it truly *is* absolutely essential. If something catches your eye that you decide you really have to have but haven’t budgeted for, make a note of it & its cost and put it on the list for next time or a separate later specific return trip.

    Step 4 – Pay at the counter – in cash. I, for one, neither have nor want a credit card and use debit one that only allows me to take out money I already have in the bank instead of letting me purchase with money I don’t have. Try to save up, hard as it is, & if in doubt, do NOT buy. The best way to save money is to keep it in your pocket. ;-)

    Step 5 – Additional points :

    a) Shop by yourself wherever possible to avoid pressure from others to “impulse buy” extras that aren’t on the list. Children, especially, should be left home whenever possible and taken shopping with you only on the condition of “good behaviour” with them understanding that they’ll be negative conseqences for them if they breach that promise.

    b) Never give into “pester power” or tantrum threats because that sets the precedent and teaches them that’s how they’ll get their way. Toddlers should NOT be allowed to go shopping with you if it can be avoided at all. Kids old enough to understand and follow “the rules” can be given instructions on what items to look for & help find *only* those items or allowed to wait at designated places, eg. book shops, CD shops and “come back to” later.

    c) If there are gambling machines set up anywhere think hard first and ask yourself : whether the owner put those machines in order to lose money or make money. If you do choose to play (& I advise against it) then set yourself strict limits and expect – know – that you’ll lose.

    This is really all just “common sense” although the problem with “common sense” is sadly its just NOT that common. ;-)

    Oh &, yes, I’m not perfect by any means and slip up sometimes with not following this method too! ;-)

  94. Messier Tidy Upper

    Gak! #$&^^$%%!!!#@ typos. :-(

    Children, especially, should be left home whenever possible and taken shopping with you only on the condition of “good behaviour” with them understanding that they’ll be negative conseqences for them if they breach that promise.

    That’s supposed to read :

    Children, especially, should be left home whenever possible and taken shopping with you only on the condition of “good behaviour” with them understanding that there’ll be negative conseqences for them if they breach that promise.

    Although thinking of children as :

    they’ll be negative conseqences ..”

    works as sound advice in another very different context! ;-)

    Anyhow, if people put conscious effort and logic into shopping those pyschological “coercive” sales tactics wouldn’t work. *If* only people put in conscious effort & logical thought which, of course, rarely happens.

    Mea Culpa too natch. I do know how easy it is to forget or fail to follow this common sense. :-(

  95. Nigel Depledge

    Terry (81) said:

    I certainly agree that tobacco is a perfect example of a corporation acting like a criminal outfit. I don’t see how people being influenced by supermarkets is coercive, though. If it was coercive to influence others, than only hermits would be free of coerciveness. Your points on this forum are then coercive.

    Perhaps you are correct to some extent, but there are differences:
    I’m not selling anything, for a start. All of the information I type is in the same font and the same point-size. I try not to hide information, I try to be objective (I’m sure others will have noted that I don’t always succeed) and I try to persuade people to think for themselves from an informed position.

    Information is, I think, the key difference. Being aware of the information empowers people to make an informed choice.

    People make a decision at the supermarket to buy something, even if it was a dumb decision, it is THEIR decision.

    Actually, research in psychology has shown how easy it is to manipulate people. Do you think the food industry would choose not to use this information to sell us more crap?

    Taking away that decision doesn’t protect them, it harms them.

    Exactly. My contention is that packaging, marketing and advertising are tools that actually take away people’s ability to choose. Why do you think accurate food labelling is so vehemently opposed by the food industry?

    Buying the item helps the individual, if they make use of what they bought.

    Again, I disagree. Research has shown that if we buy more food than we need, we eat more than is good for us. And, as I note above, it is actually very easy for the food industry to make us buy what they want us to buy.

    Consider this example. Many foods are labelled as “low fat” or as “fat free” or as “reduced fat”, and these are advertised in such a way as to plant the idea in people’s minds that they are good for us (or at least substantially better for us than the normal-fat-content versions). In reality, most of the foods carrying these labels have additional sugar, and the human body is most excellently efficient at converting sugar into fat. So, the net effect is that they are just as bad for us as the versions they seek to replace (or perhaps slightly worse, as they may increase the risk of diabetes by giving us larger sugar highs).

    It helps the market. It helps the supplier. And it helps all the poor Keynesians with their squiggles that prove ANY movement in an economy is better than none.

    Which all relies on a stack of assumptions. Economics is an area in which reality has shown time and again that the models are wrong. Otherwise, the crash that happened a couple of years ago would have been predicted. Economic models assume that people are all rational (whereas in reality many are not). They also assume that raw materials magically appear from nowhere, and completely ignore the finite nature of them. But that’s a digression.

    I also disagree about the point that shareholders only care about the dividend. Many shareholders are investors that care about long-term viability. That is why tobacco acted the way they did; to push off the inevitable devaluation of their stock (which was first issued before anyone knew that tobacco was dangerous), not to make a quick buck. If tobacco could find a way to make cigs safe and still cheap, they most certainly would.

    OK, you may have a good point here.

    But still they care very much about year-on-year growth, irrespective of what impact that has on people or the environment.

  96. Peter Beattie

    Over at The Intersection, Chris Mooney has an interesting discussion

    I kind of doubt that, what with the number of people Chris has banned from commenting at his blog who would have something interesting to contribute to such a discussion.

  97. Nigel Depledge

    Terry (89) said:

    It gives some research groups money to sell fear about AGW. Both sides make money off of it and meanwhile the news media makes money off of both by keeping doubt alive.

    I don’t get this.

    How does a research group “sell” fear about AGW?

    And how do research scientists “make money” off AGW? All of their grant income is spent on doing research. Yes, they get salaries, but most of them could probably earn more by working for the oil and gas industry. Scientists do not get paid big bucks. Consider any other profession that demands an equivalent level of expertise (say, law or medicine or finance or insurance) – the experts in other walks of life get paid substantially more than university professors.

  98. Nigel Depledge

    Peter Beattie (97) said:

    I kind of doubt that, what with the number of people Chris has banned from commenting at his blog who would have something interesting to contribute to such a discussion.

    Ooh, this sounds like a case of sour grapes if ever I heard one.

    Care to back up your assertion with some evidence?

  99. Nigel Depledge

    Terry (91) said:

    @ Daniel J. Andrews(90): I certainly agree with that point. AGW seems the logical theory from my decidedly non-climate scientist perspective (hell, I’m a world politics guy) but I don’t see demonstrated evidence that this is either a good thing or a bad thing. In fact, an argument made to me that makes a lot of sense is a blanket comparison of the number of people who die each year from cold versus the number that die of heat. That doesn’t mean I think AGW is a great thing, it just means I don’t think its a ‘end times’ issue. I do think that eliminating bio-diversity is a huge problem. I do think that paving over a swamp in order to put of a Walmart is another problem. I don’t know that AGW, which we can’t do anything to stop, should decide our economic policy for the next century. It should be a factor, not the deciding factor.

    OK, the link isn’t obvious, but I’ll try to give you some of the highlights . . .

    Increased temperature of atmosphere and of oceans will supply more energy into weather systems. Thus, even if weather patterns were to remain unchanged, we should expect stronger winds and heavier rainfall.

    However, the distribution of the increased temperatures will not be even. Therefore, GW is likely to lead to changes in our weather patterns. Some of the models predict shifts in seasonal patterns like the Gulf Stream and the Indian monsoon. Consequently, areas that are currently good arable land will become more arid and crop failures may become even more frequent in some parts of the world. Conversely, some relatively dry areas may become wetter, but if they don’t have fertile soil this won’t help in the growing of food crops.

    Melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets will lead to rises in sea level. Several of the world’s largest cities are built on low-lying land and may be threatened. A great deal of the world’s arable land is low-lying, and may become unusable due to sea-water contamination.

    Thermal expansion of the oceans will also lead to a rise in sea level.

    How large the rises in sea level may be is difficult to predict accurately, but AFAIK all of the models show sea level rising. The figures I have seen vary from about 1 to 4 metres over the course of the century. To put this into perspective, a 1-metre rise in mean sea level will render parts of London underwater at high tide. A 4-metre rise in mean sea level will pretty much inundate London and a good deal of New York. The same applies to other cities around the world. Several thousand square km of England are less than 4 m above sea level. IIUC, several thousand square km of Belgium and the Netherlands are less than 2 m above mean sea level. IIUC (again), much of Florida and Louisiana are similarly placed.

    GW looks like being the biggest threat Britain has faced since 1940. The same can be said of many other parts of the world. What aspect of this shouldn’t dictate policy?

  100. Nigel Depledge

    Yojimbo (92) said:

    I’m not sure I agree that we “can’t do anything to stop” AGW, but even if that is true it still might not be a bad idea to stop making it worse.

    Agreed. Since the Earth has already warmed some, and since CO2 in the atmosphere has a half-life of several decades, it will take time to redress what is already happening, even if we were to cease emissions of greenhouse gases today.

    However, there is a great deal we can do to lessen the impact of GW.

    Switch from fossil-fuel power generation to so-called renewables (hydro, wind, wave, solar, tidal, maybe with hydrogen as an energy-dense transport fuel).

    Stop using lime-based cement and use magnesium silicate instead (although it has not yet been shown to be as strong as lime cement).

    Sequester and store CO2 (this is a bit more controversial, as it looks expensive and there’s no precedent to show that the engineering is sound).

    Engage in various other geoengineering projects (these range from the simple – e.g. increase the land area that is forested – to the simplistic – e.g. use sulphate aerosols to reflect sunlight and hope the resulting acid rain isn’t too severe – to the downright science-fictional – e.g. huge mirrors placed between the Earth and the sun to reduce insolation).

  101. Anchor

    “Why isn’t science doing better under Obama?”

    Um, hasn’t it?

    Are you and Chris Mooney kidding?

    You know, as immense as the tonnaged inertia of the Ship of State is, it positively boggles the mind even more to discover people who so easily delude themselves into thinking that turning it about (say, to ‘starboard’) should be easier than to have been stuck with the continuation of the course set by Bush in the ghastly form of McCain and Palin.

    I for one am not in the slightest surprised or upset by what’s happened in this election: it was totally foreseeable BECAUSE of a rotten-to-the-core tendency by Democrats (my preferred party, if only to thwart the forces of consummate evil) to adopt the idiotic propagandistic ‘techniques’ of the Republican party. Literally hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on this election in persuading voters to their cause to relatively little avail besides the usual “defense”.

    If Dems were really serious and want to do as well as the GOP in that sordid business which churns out gluey opinions like hotcakes without any reasonable or demonstrable support, they have to get cozy with some billionaire like Rupert equally willing to manipulate the public and subvert the foundation of this country.

    OR, they can – with far less money – embark on a little remedial education (noting that politicks is now so well festered within the commercial world) and provide continual supplemental education on exactly how this country is supposed to function.

    But they did not do that. They let Faux News and the likes of Rush Limbaugh and his clones regularly cream the country. How have the Dems responded in these last two years? Oh, well, heck, we won. Period. End of story. Stewart and Colbert and precious little else picked up the slack. Good enough.

    Next to nothing at all but laughs.

    I have often been soundly ridiculed by my fellow Dems over the last several years for suggesting that the country might have been better served if McCain-Palin ticket had beat Obama-Biden, along with a Republican dominance in Congress 2 years ago. You see, the state of the nation would undoubtedly by now have become so much more unthinkably unbearable (following on the heals of Bush’s 30-odd percent approval rating and his administration’s dismal failure) that the situation would have been amplified and totally unambiguous to a vast majority of voters. They would have known without question who is responsible for exploiting and draining the life blood out of our country: corporations ever intent on making ever more money. The longer it lasts, the better it sticks in the mind of the public. Instead, what we got was a steady bombardment of distraction from interests who know precisely how to exploit a situation favorably.

    That sort of horrendous condition quite evidently has to last long enough to penetrate deeply and unequivocally: if McCain-Palin hads gotten in, there would now be no ghastly ‘Tea-Party’. Their reason for being would have evaporated. Instead, people with authentic minds capable of thinking for themselves would have by now produced the antithesis of the Tea Party.

    Alas, there ain’t no such animal in the zoo we call this country.

    Unfortunately, it is the adopted national character of this country to follow stupidity, and in following along with the stupidity, automatically assume it to be “mainstream”. That, by stages, is how our condition ratchets down into the pit we’re headed for: in 1970, the wealthiest 1% held about 25% of the total wealth of the country. After Bush left office 2 years ago, the wealthiest 1% held over 75% of the total wealth. QUICK! Give that poor CEO a golden parachute! He’s suffered so!

    You figure it out. Be honest. Try to find how corporations do NOT dictate and control the course and policies of the United States of America. Then try to persuade yourselves that the Republicans have so much less to do with it than the Democrats. Continue to entertain the idiotic notion that the tiresome mantra of “less government” doesn’t have the underlying implication of MORE CORPORATE CONTROL over your government. See if you can’t develop an independent opinion apart from the lunacy constantly barked at you.

    Then take two aspirin and sleep off the nightmare. But when you wake up, you had better WAKE UP.

  102. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (95) -

    Anyhow, if people put conscious effort and logic into shopping those pyschological “coercive” sales tactics wouldn’t work. *If* only people put in conscious effort & logical thought which, of course, rarely happens.

    Even knowing the tricks and techniques that the supermarkets and edvertisers use to try to get you to buy stuff does not make one immune. Annoyingly.

  103. Nigel Depledge

    @ Anchor (102) -
    I have enough trouble not buying piles and piles of junk food each time I go to a supermarket.

  104. AJ in CA

    @93 Messier: One shopping tip I’d add – never, ever shop for groceries while you’re hungry :) I always do my shopping immediately after dinner, and I notice myself buying a lot fewer “unexpected” impulse items (sometimes these turn out to be things I wouldn’t even want to eat unless I WAS hungry).
    This probably goes for other areas, too, ie don’t wear your rattiest clothes when you go clothes shopping, don’t buy stationary and school supplies until you know exactly what you need, etc etc.

    This stuff is probably blindingly obvious, but I’m glad my mom taught me anyway :P

  105. Rick E. Laughlin

    EdF wrote:

    “My personal opinion is to worry less about Federal elections, and look at the state elections.”

    Scientific progress, especially in basic research, the importance and value of which can be difficult to explain to laypersons, will grind to an abrupt halt without Federal funding. Local level action and community outreach is well-advised of course, but we cannot afford to “worry less” about Federal elections.

    The new GOP leadership’s primary talking point right now is to “cut spending.” Combine this new-found power, the “cut spending” mantra, and the populist anti-science attitude under discussion here, and things are looking very grim for basic science research. We can hope that the GOP disappoints the electorate enough over the next two years to facilitate another major shift in the political landscape, this time toward moderatism, but at the moment I have to admit that I’m deeply discouraged by the current trends.

  106. Terry

    @Anchor (102): The Republicans are not out to give golden parachutes. The Republicans did not give golden parachutes to individuals. Companies did that and usually on the advice of lawyers and human resources gurus, who are traditionally Democrats, demographically.

    The massive accumulation of wealth by the top 1% of earners is not something that holds a party affiliation. It is supported and made possible by the system and the concept of planned economies. Economies are too complex to plan well, so the planners get lots and lots of money funneled to themselves. Those that are ‘altruistic’ get that money funneled to themselves in the form of government agencies that then waste the money and those that are ‘selfish’ get the money funneled to themselves as individuals, usually from the government agencies that are wasteful.

    In my opinion, this is how it works. Republicans are helpful to business owners, from the small businesses to the very very large businesses. Democrats are helpful to the very lowest classes, government agencies, and very very large businesses. Those people in the middle have no party that support them, which is why more and more of them are voting independent. The real question shouldn’t be the accumulation of wealth by the very rich. I don’t care how much SOMEONE ELSE has. It’s none of my business. The real problem should be the shrinking of the middle. Who cares how wealthy the top 1% are. I care about how few are left in the middle where the bills are actually paid.

  107. Terry

    @Nigel (96): If you go with the concepts of economics, you are selling someone. Economics is not the study of movement of money. Its the study of the movement of incentives. Even so, I agree that more information is rarely a bad thing.
    “Actually, research in psychology has shown how easy it is to manipulate people. Do you think the food industry would choose not to use this information to sell us more crap?”

    Manipulate people means that the people still have freedom to choose otherwise.

    “Exactly. My contention is that packaging, marketing and advertising are tools that actually take away people’s ability to choose. Why do you think accurate food labelling is so vehemently opposed by the food industry?

    Because they want to take away the ability to make an informed decision, not because they have perfected mind control. We may be motivated by very strange things, but it isn’t mind control. You had someone two resumes which are essentially the same but on different clipboards and people will usually choose the heavier one. That is not a lack of ability to decide for ourselves, its an irrational motivator. Just because people are irrational doesn’t mean you can take away their rights, unless you really are elitist and think that we can decide better than all those people. In a planned economy, the first right that is taken is the right to fail. It will never be the last.

    “Again, I disagree. Research has shown that if we buy more food than we need, we eat more than is good for us. And, as I note above, it is actually very easy for the food industry to make us buy what they want us to buy.

    Consider this example. Many foods are labelled as “low fat” or as “fat free” or as “reduced fat”, and these are advertised in such a way as to plant the idea in people’s minds that they are good for us (or at least substantially better for us than the normal-fat-content versions). In reality, most of the foods carrying these labels have additional sugar, and the human body is most excellently efficient at converting sugar into fat. So, the net effect is that they are just as bad for us as the versions they seek to replace (or perhaps slightly worse, as they may increase the risk of diabetes by giving us larger sugar highs).

    Okay… that’s a great argument except that I, and many other people, know that this is the case and yet I still decide to overeat and eat unhealthy food. It’s my choice to do so. I wish I didn’t. I don’t wish that someone would come in and make me to better.

    “Which all relies on a stack of assumptions. Economics is an area in which reality has shown time and again that the models are wrong. Otherwise, the crash that happened a couple of years ago would have been predicted. Economic models assume that people are all rational (whereas in reality many are not). They also assume that raw materials magically appear from nowhere, and completely ignore the finite nature of them. But that’s a digression.”

    Why is it that weathermen fail to predict the weather, despite us knowing so much about the climate? The crash (really disagree with this phrase since I can’t rationally call it a crash when people are still out buying so many iPhones and HDTVs that they are reshaping markets) was predicted, just not by the people who get listened to. Heck, Hayek predicted it 70 years ago, as well as the 70s stagflation and lots of other history. Economic models do not predict complete rationality. Keynesian, which got us into this mess, predicts that people are inherently irrational. Hayek suggests that they are mostly rational, but that planners aren’t smart enough to be able to plan the system entirely. What would you say to a person who told you they could shape the weather and the climate to be the way you wanted if only you’d let them plan it? The climate and economics have a lot in common because they are chaotic systems with an overarching order.

    “OK, you may have a good point here.

    But still they care very much about year-on-year growth, irrespective of what impact that has on people or the environment.”

    That is true. That is why you have to make incentive to worry about the impact on people and the environment. One of the greatest incentives for any company is the image of that company. Look at BP trying to repair its image. Losing face has lost it 2/3 of its value. Of course it wants to improve image.

    Banning tobacco from advertising failed entirely in this regard because they no longer have to worry about their image. They just rely on the addiction bringing people back. If they were advertising, it wouldn’t do anything to help them, really, and may hurt them as people are exposed to lies. If they lie, they suffer. If they don’t lie, they suffer.

    Look back at the 1980s with people caring so much about toxic waste. That did more to clean up comanpies than the EPA really accomplished. The EPA can’t really incentivize cleaning up unless they can levy fines lofty enough to make it worthwhile. They can’t do this, generally, because the businesses have more pull with the Senate and the House than the EPA does.

    @ Nigel (98): “I don’t get this.

    How does a research group “sell” fear about AGW?

    And how do research scientists “make money” off AGW? All of their grant income is spent on doing research. Yes, they get salaries, but most of them could probably earn more by working for the oil and gas industry. Scientists do not get paid big bucks. Consider any other profession that demands an equivalent level of expertise (say, law or medicine or finance or insurance) – the experts in other walks of life get paid substantially more than university professors.”

    I absolutely agree with you that scientist do not get paid lots of money and I’m not trying to say that they purposefully skew results to get more fearful, but creating a sense of fear gets them more money to do their research that they do love. It is the research that is the incentive, not the cash. Scientists have to sell their research to generate interest in it. If not, Phil wouldn’t need to get corporate sponsors for his blog.

    @ Nigel (100): “GW looks like being the biggest threat Britain has faced since 1940. The same can be said of many other parts of the world. What aspect of this shouldn’t dictate policy?”

    The part where we base assumptions that changing weather patterns will lead to more harm. The part where the impact of trying to de-incentivize fossil fuels may be greater than the impact of global warming itself. It would be cheaper to build a dike around London than switch London to an all renewable energy dependency.

    Even so, why is it that fission power doesn’t enter your list of alternatives? If we want to get off of fossil fuels with anything like the economic viability we need to survive now, it is the most attractive option until we get a better solar panel and battery technology or fusion power. Realistic alternatives rather than fear mongering. Creating incentives, not bashing heads. Show people why they WANT to do better, not take away the choice. You want a solution to Global Warming, develop a good energy alternative like some scientists are doing, which is as cheap and convenient as oil and coal, and people will flock to it and you’ll be on your way.

  108. Somewhere, I read that the Tea Party is NOT, in fact a “grass roots” movement, but is funded heavily by the Koch brothers. (The same guys who make hefty contributions to PBS through the Koch Foundation.)

  109. Anchor

    @107 Terry: I never said that the Republicans give out golden parachutes. Those are given out by corporations that thrive in an economic atmosphere specifically orchestrated over the years since the Reagan administration, one that has without any shadow of a doubt has deflated the economic reservoir of the middle class and transferred it to the rich.

    You say, “The real problem should be the shrinking of the middle. Who cares how wealthy the top 1% are. I care about how few are left in the middle where the bills are actually paid.”

    Yeah, well who do you suppose sucks out the middle more? Do you really imagine that those in poverty are responsible for that? How can you NOT conceive of the possibility that the wealthiest 1%, who wants ever more, have accomplished that hijacking? Who is in control of the money?

    Don’t gimme any of that baloiney that absolves Republicans of their cozy relationship to wealthy corporate interests. That’s the typical deflection (I believe they call it “spin”, and Republicans are the acknowledged masters of it, or you must instead consider them incompetent, which I certainly do not). It is unarguably true that Democrats have their own corruptions, but when it comes to that particular championship, the Republicans win it hands down, and you KNOW it.

    Evidently you’re about as good at reading comprehension as you are at comprehending the actual state of the nation.

  110. Anchor

    As an addendum to my previous comment: if science ISN’T doing better than it was and where it was HEADED 2 short years ago (DESPITE these last 2+ years of economic hardship), I’d like to see some real evidence of that claim. And if the spuriously dunderheaded claim (or the crafty little insinuation) that science is NOT better now than it was 2 years or 200 years ago, we (and Chris Mooney in particular) evidently harbor a lousy opinion of and confidence in the intelligence of scientists and scientific institutions.

    Scientists are comprised of some of the most gifted and intelligent people on the planet. They don’t need to be defended by the likes of Mooney, and they certainly do not need to be corrected by such pretenders.

  111. Terry

    @Anchor (110): First, allow me to say that there is such a thing as disagreeing without being disagreeable. I’ll refrain from attacking you personally, despite the fact that I think your understanding is flawed. As far as comprehending the actual state of the nation, I think I understand it pretty well, but time will tell I guess. I take a scientific approach. If I end up being proven wrong, I change my belief. Makes me a bad politician, but I’m not, I’m a student of political science.

    The problem is when people react with vitriol to knowledge, as you have, rather than rationality. You are attacking a strawman, the republican party, rather than the argument. I don’t care if communists, republicans or anti-vaxxers have made an argument. I have to defeat the argument, not the proponent.

    To go back a bit to an earlier post. I don’t give a damned about Republican or Democratic Party ideals because I don’t believe they have any. I care about consistency, which both parties lack.

    To clarify, I do not think that poverty sucks out more from the middle than the wealthy, though it does suck out some, with welfare and social programs. I think that it doesn’t matter how wealthy the top is, so long as the bottom isn’t suffering for it. Think of it this way. In 1933 America, the poorest people were bathing in rivers and hunting for food. The homeless at that time weren’t just a problem, they were a large demographic. In 2009 America, the poorest people are mostly living in homes or sometimes apartments. 97.3% of them have refrigerators and 1/3 of them have cell phones. They are also, often, buying their iPods and $99 Walmart iPhones. To a lot of the rest of the world, and our historic selves, being poor in America is akin to what being middle class is. Who cares if the top 1% is effing rich, so long as there is an acceptible standard of living for even the poorest? I don’t. It doesn’t affect me. I care if the standard of living is unacceptible. I care if laws are exploitive and support suppression of a class of people. I care if unfair advantage is given to one people because of their cozy relationship with the government. If we didn’t plan our economy, we wouldn’t have cozy relationships between business and ANY politicians.

    That high overall standard of living can only be maintained so long as their is a robust middle class for the government, and business, to exploit. I would love to use a different word, but I can’t. The middle class pays for everything in our society. It pays both the top 1% who then pays robust taxes, or they are taxed directly by the government. There is some muddying of the water because the middle class also makes money off of the top 1%, but they make a lot more off of other middle-classers. Real economy, that is to say unplanned economy, occurs mostly among that demographic. Taxes come along and take money from them and the rich. The rich realize this and exploit the lower earners to get more money to protect themselves from the new taxes.

    What I think sucks out life from the middle class is planned economy. This creates a tacit or actual agreement between the planners and the ‘stewards of industry’ which eventually is used by those stewards to get effing rich. The unplanned economy is not great either; who wants to live in anarchy? But this is a case of regulating the excesses, not injecting extra capital into the economy. Even so, it must be understood that the more control you give to someone in the economy, the more super-rich you will create, and the more political despots you will generate. And is this a “Republican” or “Democrat” thing? Absolutely not. As Nixon said, “We’re all Keynesians now”. The Democrats and the Republicans agree on everything. Now they are just arguing over the fine print.

    If you want to say that the Democrats love the poor and the Republicans love the rich, who the heck loves the middle? Communists, Socialists, and Libertarians? They are extreme in their views. You need Moderation, not extremes. Communists think you can make everyone financially equal without making everyone uniformly poor. Socialists think you can take away the right to fail without taking away other rights. Libertarians think that you can limit government without losing interconnectedness. A moderate looks at it all and thinks for themselves without attacking a concept as too republican or democratic. Does Hayek make more sense than Keynes? I think so, but I need to study Hayek a bit more to say for sure. Does Supply-Side economics work? Hell, I don’t think so because look around. Its got all the same problems that Keynes did, it resolved none of them.

    As far as “Republicans and their cozy relationships with corporate interests” Sometime, you should look at who gets lobbied in congress. The corporate interests are lobbying BOTH parties just as hard, and BOTH parties are playing along. Both parties are spin-doctoring the hell out of everything. The republicans are no more the owners of spin than the democrats. Want to know how I can tell? Which party says, “the American people want” or “The American people are”. Whenever someone pretends to knowledge of the will of 300 million diverse people, they are spin doctoring like crazy. It’s just one example, offered up by Jon Stewart, but who does it more? Palin or Pelosi? Obama or McCain? I’ve heard all of them say it. In fact, maybe the Democrats are just better at spin doctoring because they seem to have made people believe they are idealists who don’t engage in it.

    Edit:
    There is the question about what to do about all of this. I don’t have an answer. I don’t trust anyone who does have an answer. I don’t believe in Utopia. I don’t believe that there can be a perfect union. I do have suggestions. We need to curb government spending, but not wipe out programs wholesale. We need to cut back on military spending as much as we do social programs. We need to eliminate blocks to competition in the medical field so that healthcare will be cheaper. Even if we keep the grotesque invasion of rights that is forcing everyone to buy health insurance, we should allow communities to build more hospitals and clinics to support themselves without other hospitals having a say. We should reduce restrictive zoning laws for non-intrusive business. Manufacturing and retail should be zoned away from residence but other commercial enterprise should not be, especially not medical care. We should reduce legal protections for corporations. Corporations shouldn’t be legally treated as individuals. I don’t think they can sue and I don’t think they should be able to be sued. Individuals within the corporation should be sued, or even groups of defendants within corporations should be sued. Similarly, they shouldn’t be given freedom of speech. Individuals should be given freedom of speech only. We need better solutions to break the lobbying trade’s power. I don’t know them, but I would consider public financing of all elections or severe term limits. I’d need more study on the impacts of that concept. I can already see problems with both of those ideas. I would also suggest reducing patents and copyright to a minimum. Intellectual property is especially suspect because everyones thoughts influence everyone else. In the modern execution of patent law, only corporations are protected by it, not individuals. I’m open to suggestions but I will not accept any answers.

  112. Messier Tidy Upper

    Its been a year of elections – my local state, national federal, council and now these US mid-terms dominating the blogosphere – & I’m utterly fed up with politics and politicians.

    There’s not a one of them I’d trust further than I could garrote them.

    Cynical as it may be, I’m increasingly coming to think that there’s a blazes of a lot of truth to the old adage that :

    “Guy Fawkes was the only person to enter parliament (equivalent of Congress) with honest intentions.” ;-)

    US politics seems to have gotten ever more hyper-partisan, hyper-polarised and hyper-depressing. :-(

    Whoever you vote for you get a politician. :-(

    ——

    “Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
    Gunpowder, Treason and Plot …”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes_Night

  113. Messier Tidy Upper

    @105. AJ in CA Says:

    @93 Messier: One shopping tip I’d add – never, ever shop for groceries while you’re hungry

    Yep, very true & good point.

    Election time depressingly enough, is when we are reminded again how guillibly and badly all too many people seem to think – or rather NOT think – and how little regard too many folks have for science and its importance generally. :-(

    I look at the candidates put forward as our would-be leaders ranging from the appallingly bad to the even worse and just despair these days.

    Now with this election it now looks like all hope for the US govt acting against climate change has now gone. With the time lag of the stuff already in the atmosphere .. we’re stuffed. :-(

  114. Chris Winter

    Anchor wrote (#102): “I have often been soundly ridiculed by my fellow Dems over the last several years for suggesting that the country might have been better served if McCain-Palin ticket had beat Obama-Biden, along with a Republican dominance in Congress 2 years ago. You see, the state of the nation would undoubtedly by now have become so much more unthinkably unbearable (following on the heels of Bush’s 30-odd percent approval rating and his administration’s dismal failure) that the situation would have been amplified and totally unambiguous to a vast majority of voters.”

    I understand your desire to see the public figuratively “whacked up’side the head” so they don’t forget the cause of their distress. I share it. But I’m not sure it would work that way. It’s barely two years since President Obama’s election, less than that since his administration began. The housing crisis, the surge in unemployment came late in the previous administration. McCain’s goof on suspending his campaign over the economy, then showing up unprepared at the “summit meeting” is hard to forget. Yet the public, as they typically do, chose to associate their troubles with the party currently in power. Living hand-to-mouth shortens the memory.

    But the architects of these changes don’t have short memories. What you suggest would give them additional opportunities to shift their people into the bureaucracy, to lobby effectively, and to pack the courts with rightists. Who do you think would have replaced retiring SCOTUS justices? Not Sonia Sotomajor and Elena Kagan.

    So I don’t think this would play to the advantage of progressives.

  115. Chris Winter

    Anchor wrote: “As an addendum to my previous comment: if science ISN’T doing better than it was and where it was HEADED 2 short years ago (DESPITE these last 2+ years of economic hardship), I’d like to see some real evidence of that claim.”

    I think what the post means is that, although science is doing better than it was under Bush (how could it not?), it is not as healthy as it should be. That shortcoming I lay to hangers-on from the previous administration.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »