Antiscience party

By Phil Plait | December 3, 2010 9:48 am

Capitol smokeMany times, when I post about political antiscience, I get some people who are very upset that I don’t point out when liberals or Democrats attack reality. While I do disagree with some or even many of the Democrats’ planks, they typically are not the ones rabidly attacking science. For the most part these days, those on the left are more supportive of science than those on the right. Stem cell research, evolution, climate change, cosmology… these are not generally targets of those on the left.

So it was with some grim amusement that two articles came up one after the other recently in my RSS feed reader: one from Chris Mooney at The Intersection, where he points out that attacks on global warming come almost exclusively from Republicans (and you can read more from Chris about this on DeSmogBlog), and the other by Josh Rosenau at Thoughts from Kansas where he frets — and rightfully (haha) so — about Eric Cantor’s gearing up to attack science en masse when Congress reconvenes.

I have a lot of worries about the new Republican majority in the House, and you can get a taste of them in an earlier blog post. Everything I’ve read and seen in the few days since I’ve posted that hasn’t exactly been reassuring, either: John Boehner just announced that when the Republicans take over, they’ll dismantle the House Select Committee on Global Warming.

Terrific.

I remember quite well when the Republican Party was steadfast in support of good science, and it was the Democrats who attacked it (William Proxmire was a Dem, as was Walter Mondale, who wanted to reduce funds for the initial Space Shuttle program; and while his reasons for doing so weren’t necessarily antiscience, he did fall for the false dichotomy of funding space exploration versus funding social programs… and please, spare me once again the lie that President Obama is killing manned spaceflight (and more to the point, that link outlines a lot of ridiculous Republican attacks on NASA).

I don’t know what happened to cause a major switcheroo here. Certainly the Republican Party’s aligning itself with the religious far-right explains a lot of that side’s actions, but I don’t know when the Democrats started coming to the defense of science. When I was a kid and becoming politically aware, I liked a lot of the social progressiveness of the left but was disenchanted with the stance on science. Now it’s nice to see those two things aligned better, but I wish the Democrats had the backbone to get more done. With the antiscience, antiprogressive Republicans controlling the House starting in January, that window will close pretty firmly. It’s clear the Repubs in Congress have their stance fossilized for now, and the clear lack of willingness to negotiate means nothing will get done in the next two years, I’d wager. And these are two years we can’t afford to lose.

Comments (121)

  1. Hmmm, I just noticed comments were turned off for this post, so I turned them on. WordPress does that apparently randomly sometimes. My apologies.

  2. Steve

    Reagan and G.BushI started it, when they began courting white Southern males who didn’t have a college degree, but were fervent about church. Now the GOP has to kowtow to the fundamentalist/creationist if it wants to keep getting elected. Said, isn’t it, that a bunch of elite college men have to spout the nonsense they do to get elected. But they’re reaping what Reagan and company sowed….

  3. vel

    ditto what Steve said. the GOP has become the party of willful ignorance.

  4. QuietDesperation

    Reagan and G.BushI started it,

    Er… there’s a bit more to it than that. It really has nothing to do with any president.

    For a much better answer, go here:

    http://www.theocracywatch.org/taking_over.htm

    Seriously, folks. You have a giant global network right at your fingertips. There’s no excuse to traffic in such simplistic ideas. The real answers are deep and interesting. Enjoy.

  5. Bigby

    Wanting to cut funding to science is not the same as being anti-science. Take a look at the state of the economy for crying out loud. Make fun of Boehner if you like. What’s the committee on global warming done other than cost money? Done anything for green house gases lately? It was a waste of time to start with. This government has been giving money away just as fast as they can. And if it doesn’t stop there’s going to be serious trouble. The new unemployment numbers just came out — did you notice that? Or just TOO busy bashing Republicans? 9.8% unemployed. That’s a record 16 months of over 9% unemployment. After the Democrats spent nearly a trillion dollars to “save” the economy. Obama promised the unemployment would stay under 8% percent. So, you know what? It’s time for serious belt-tightening all the way around. And if you are worried about greenhouse gases take a look around the world — the biggest offenders are the ones with damaged and hurting economies. Yes, I know you’ll say we produced the majority of greenhouse gases. True. But measured against GDP? And what about other pollutants? You think we’re even in the same league as China, India, Cuba, Russia, etc? They have no pollution controls at all. The best thing we can do right now is try to get our economy back in shape. By any means necessary. If we destroy our economy in few years we’ll be like those other countries — it takes economic stability to be able to afford putting environmental controls in place.

  6. QuietDesperation

    that a bunch of elite college men have to spout the nonsense

    Plenty of “college men” spout nonsense even when they don’t have to. People are still impressed by a college degree? I’ve met PhDs I wouldn’t hire to trim my hedges.

  7. Alikar

    *Yawn* Please stick to actual science stories.

    Here Neil shall correct you: http://fora.tv/2009/02/04/Neil_deGrasse_Tyson_The_Pluto_Files#Neil_deGrasse_Tyson_Bush_Innocent_in_War_on_Science

    Although I’m sure he’d agree with you on the nonsense of global warming.

  8. “Elections have consequences.”

    And it was a bit earlier than Reagan. Nixon’s the one who started and demonstrated the success of the famed “Southern Strategy”…

  9. Quatguy

    The state of American politics and partisianship sure puts you guys in a pickle. In my opinion, the religious right is a blight on your society and they certainly stand in the way of progress. It is too bad that your media is also screwed up. A properly functioning media is a cornerstone of any democracy. Once that is corrupted by corporate and political influence and the population as a whole is no longer receiving or receptive to comprehensive and balanced reporting, you are pretty much toast and you should consider yourself to be living in a second-rate democracy at best. Canada is not much, but only slightly better off. We are in the process of fighting off the establishment of a so called “Fox News North”.

  10. RMcbride

    America has definately sunk to the lowest common denominator.

  11. Quatguy

    Bigby….your arguements make no sense. Science and technology research and spending creates jobs. While I am not personally aware of the effectiveness of the global warming committee, surely you must agree that the relatively small expense to maintain the committe is vastly better than saving a few dollars and burying your head in the sand. And your argument about why the US should not act because other countries are not acting either? Classic! First off, large portions of the world are taking positive action and laying the groundwork for the development of 21 century economies. What ever happened to US leadership in the world? Your strategy will make the US even more out of touch with the rest of the world than it already is and you will be so far behind that your technology and economy will be left in the dust. Sad for a country that showed such leadership and promise only a few decades ago. You state that nothing should be done about global warming until your economy improves? I am stating that you should act on global warming to improve your economy. Also, how much was done when you had a great economy only a few years ago? Little or nothing. Things do not generally work that way.

  12. Dave

    Alignment with certain groups is a necessary evil in politics, and doesn’t mean any legislator or legislative body is anti-science. The cost and benefits of science are tremendous, but sometimes you have to mind the purse strings first. Especially after Obama’s congress spent money like a drunken sailor. I mean no disrespect to drunken sailors, who clearly show more restraint than congress.

  13. Dave

    #10 RM – In what country do you reside? How is it better? If you reside in America, you’re free to leave.

  14. QuietDesperation

    I posted a good link that explains it all, but it’s still “in moderation”. Meanwhile, people keep blaiming it on presidents. (eyeroll)

    What ever happened to US leadership in the world?

    We’re tired, and it’s expensive.

    You can take over for a bit. Have at it.

  15. QuietDesperation

    Comments seem borked today. Can’t even go back and fix a typo. It just says “loading” forever.

  16. Sledge

    The Dunning-Kruger effect strikes again. Them there college-learnin’ elitist climatologists clearly can’t understand climate science as well as I, a politician who got elected not because I have a clear understanding of the issues of the day and can intelligently debate my ideas but because I could afford more advertising than my opponent. CUT FUNDING! Sad.

    EDIT: Not that I enjoy discussing politics because it tends to beget screaming matches but the recent Wikileaks cable releases really have ticked off the US government. You know what I say to that? GOOD. Maximum government transparency is good for the citizenry. If you’ve done nothing wrong you have nothing to hide. Sound familiar, Big Brother?

  17. jasonB

    @Quatguy

    Please, oh please stop with the Fox News. How many billions did GE take in bailout money and THEIR news outlets never reported it? Is that a bit of a conflict of interest? You go off on a corporate/government corruption problem and manage to go after the one news outlet that questions the current administration?

    Ever hear of the Journolist? Sure you have. If not look it up. Then tell me how ONE news outlet that doesn’t toe the MSM line is the deathblow to democracy.

  18. dirk

    Being against congress spending unlimited funds on cookies does not make one anti-cookie.

    Neither party cares about science.

  19. Jim

    I’m pretty sure getting rid of the House Select Committee on Global Warming would be horrible. They are probably one of the few government agencies that actually deals with our ridiculous oil dependance. The House Select Committee on Global Warming doesn’t only deal with CO2 emmissions, but also they look for alternative energies. Peak oil is upon us, and once the oil’s gone and we don’t have a back up plan THAT’S when our economy hits rock bottom. People can’t heat their homes, people can’t drive to work, businesses couldn’t function… we’d be toast. Besides, new business in alternative energy sources could bring in a ton of jobs and it also creates a demand for engineers and skilled workers which is always a plus.

  20. Neeneko

    @Quatguy

    With the current republican leadership, while they talk about ‘creating jobs’, it is a bit of a misdirection. They are really talking about creating certain jobs (specifically in sectors that tend to support them). That is why the stimulus package has been so demonized.. it is not that it did not help, it helped the wrong people and created the wrong jobs. They are using kindergarden economic theory since it is nice and simple to explain to people, but ultimately wrong.

  21. EdF

    I don’t blame the Republican party per se. They just currently represent a segment of society that is and has been anti-science for a long time. Once upon a time these same people were represented by the Democrats as Phil alluded to.

    That’s why I see as pointless this bickering about Republicans vs Democrats. In fact, I think it does more harm than good. When one party is attacked, in this case Republicans, the pro-science contingent in the Republican party which I bet is massive, gets on the defensive. We as humans become affiliated and loyal to “our teams”, even if we don’t agree on everything. Sure, something should be done internally in the party, but those things are easier said than done. Much easier!

    Anyway, my rambling point isn’t the Republicans, it’s the people they represent. They are the same ones being voted in school boards, picking books for schools, and taking their kids to their conservative church every Sunday. Change them, change the party.

    By the way, America in general is becoming very irrational when it comes to science. Phil alluded to this as well, but Democrats tend to be the antivax, anti GM food, organic-food-just-because crowd. Global Warming is way more important than those issues (except maybe antivax), but the logic behind the Denialism is the same.

    As a community, we need to be teach everyone how to be critical thinkers, how to be rational in all aspects of life, etc.

  22. Moonhead

    I don’t think there’s been a switch, just a different alignment of priorities. During the height of the Cold War, funding science meant out-competing the Soviets, or a roughly hawkish Republican position. These days it’s more likely to mean providing incentives for high-density housing, public transportation, and alternative energy. These have been progressive priorities for decades. What’s always been lacking is a willingness to stand up for science despite conflicting priorities.

  23. Michel

    The future: Ideocracy (imdb.com/title/tt0387808/)
    And what´s happening in the US is also happening here in Europe.

  24. Quatguy

    jasonB…. While I only mentioned Fox news in my rant as it is perhaps the best known and arguably the worst of the offenders, I certainly do agree that many of the others are not much better. Please believe my rant was not Fox news specific, but referred to most of your major news outlets. While Fox appears to be predominantly motivated by political influences, I would suggest that the others are more motivated by corporate and financial influences. I am not sure which is worse, but both corrupt the ideals of a free press and dilute the intent of democracy. One that I do like however, is the Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS.

  25. Joseph G

    IMHO, the GOP has doomed themselves to irrelevancy among people who respect science. I remember when I was younger, I actually considered myself a Republican, pretty much (I’ve never registered for a party). The party of common-sense in the face of irrational emotionalism, was how it billed itself, more or less successfully (at least, in my mind, at the time). But all that seems to have changed.
    Now the American right is the de facto home of the emotionally-charged argument from the gut, and is tilting at thinly veiled conspiracy theories that make the “OMG Bush is going to put everyone in concentration camps!!11″ people from several years back look almost sane. It’s all about fear now. Where have the pragmatic, conservative optimists gone??

  26. Moonhead

    @EDF

    “but Democrats tend to be the antivax, anti GM food, organic-food-just-because crowd. ”

    You’ve got it backwards. The Antivax etc. crowd tend to be Democrats. They do not constitute a majority nor are their views those of the Democratic Party. Dismantling committees and appointing anti-science heroes like Joe Barton are actions by Republican Leadership, not the fringe. There is a difference.

  27. QuietDesperation

    Stop with this “government needs to create jobs” piffle. That is the single most inefficient way to create jobs. It’s like people have collectively forgotten where government revenues come from.

    Small to medium businesses are the true engine of job creation. All the G-Man can do is things to help- acting to warm the continuing credit freeze, for example.

  28. Joseph G

    @#4 Quiet Desperation: Hear, hear.
    I don’t believe Reagan had any problem funding the sciences (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) and I don’t think he was the one responsible for the Republican party’s courting of the religious right. But then, I didn’t do any research either, so I’m probably being just as simplistic as the other guy :P

  29. jasonB

    Quatguy… First thanks for the clarification.

    Regarding Fox, I really don’t think they are worse than the other. The certainly tilt more right than any of the other news outlets, but hey, there’s a market for it.

    I really DO thinks that PBS by it’s very nature of taking government money has the worst conflict of interest problem of them all. And for the record I really watch very little news on TV. I prefer to read it from various places on line. Much faster.

    But anyway back to work and you have a good day.

  30. Joseph G

    @#19 EDF: You bring up a good point. It’s important not to throw partisan stones on the issue of irrationality and suspicion of the scientific establishment, all of us at least have neighbors living in glass houses.
    Personally, I live in an extremely liberal area, our town overwhelmingly votes Democrat – and I can’t count how many freaking palmists, tarot readers, astrologers, crystal-healers, homeopaths, channelers, anti-vaxxers, militant organic-only vegans, anti-wifi and cell phone crusaders, etc, there are here. At least most super-religious folks are ok with the branches of science that don’t contradict the Bible; around here you’ve got the sort of people who fall for the Dihydrogen Monoxide hoax. It’s a chemical so it’s baaaaaaaaaaaaad!!!!111

    I’m reminded of a recent incident where California is trying to eliminate this foreign moth before it does damage to our crops. They came up with a quite ingenious solution: instead of insecticides, they sprayed moth mating pheromones around, to prevent the moths from finding each other and mating. Moths have a famously excellent sense of smell, so the amount of material that you need to spray to confuse them is miniscule in comparison to a pesticide-based plan.
    Needless to say, there was quite an uproar about it. People were convinced that they were being poisoned. On the day that spraying was supposed to be taking place in my area, people called the hospitals by the hundreds, complaining of headaches, dizziness, breathing problems, etc etc…
    Thing is, it turned out they’d delayed the spraying schedule. Nothing had actually been sprayed.
    Oddly enough, no one seems to have learned anything from this.

  31. Richard Wolford

    Hmmm, I just noticed comments were turned off for this post, so I turned them on. WordPress does that apparently randomly sometimes. My apologies.

    Says the Big WordPress shill. You’re not fooling me! How much WordPress money have you taken and…crap, never mind, I lost my conspiracy mad lib template, can’t remember if the next word is a noun or a verb.

  32. Utakata

    Alikar @ 7, *Yawn’d*

    “Please stick to actual science stories.”

    *Yaaaaaaawwwwwnnnn!*

    Please stick to science yourself before spouting off silly nonsense.

  33. Doug Little

    Regarding Fox, I really don’t think they are worse than the other. The certainly tilt more right than any of the other news outlets,

    Since when has FOX news actually done any real journalism? From what I see its made up of political ideologues spouting their opinion, which is fine, but call it what it is, it is definitely not a news outlet. Put another way, if you get your news from FOX you must be a grade A moron.

  34. Ron1

    @13. Dave Says:
    “#10 RM … If you reside in America, you’re free to leave.”

    Hmm, don’t be a dick. Instead of resorting to the nationalistic canned response, why don’t you try directly answering to @10’s comment, he’s got a point A good counter argument could be a learning moment for all of us. As for me, I (thankfully) don’t live in America.

    Cheers

  35. Nick

    Plait Said: “I don’t know what happened to cause a major switcheroo here.”

    Like many of the problems we have with the world nowadays, you can point a finger at the fall of the Soviet Union as a contributing factor. Aside from the obvious loss of an international competitor which the west always had to beat, the reduction in defence spending meant that the Californian Republicans (the university educated pragmatists of the republican party) lost the financial resources, and influence, they once had. As a result, the Texan Republicans (your religious right) became a proportionally larger financial contributer and began to use that new financial influence to dictate policy.

    Note: the absolutely last thing I want is for the Soviet Union to come back or for another Cold War to start. The world is still a far better place with the Cold War relegated to the history textbooks.

  36. jasonB

    Okay Dougy Little I’ll bite. With your towering , razor sharp (and in your opinion) near omniscient intellect, were do you get your news from?

  37. Joseph G

    @#28: I watch Fox news (though not as often now that Colmes has left and allowed Hannity to spiral into complete madness). They certainly have their share of ideologues, but I don’t think their actual news content is any different from other major networks. Most of these networks just repeat stories that come in from the wire services, for the most part. Fox just has right-wing commentators as opposed to left-wing commentators, and it gives them more airtime.
    Greta van Susteren is good about plain ol’ reporting, and Geraldo Rivera is a proud Democrat.
    And now they have Juan Williams, who was always one of my favorite commentators of all time, no matter what network he was on. NPR really shot themselves in the foot getting rid of him.

  38. Daffy

    Amazing how Republicans all start clamoring for non-partisanship when their party is clearly in the wrong.

  39. Gary Ansorge

    So soon Y’All(5. Bigby and 12. Dave) forget, it was the Republican President(and friends) in 2008 that set up the Bank and Corporate bailout. Guys, that was only TWO YEARS AGO. How come you can’t remember that? Also, the Republican party had a majority in ’08, so I tend to blame them for everything,,,

    It took 8 years for them to screw things up yet you seem to think Obama can undo that in two years. Come on, a little patience would be nice(though I don’t expect it) but a little honesty from the screw ups who got us in this mess in the first place would be even better.

    Fox Snooze is a propaganda outlet, there’s nothing news worth in anything they do.

    Gary 7
    For REAL news, see Stewart and Colbert(and MAYBE the Washington Post).

  40. Number 6

    RE: “Stem cell research, evolution, climate change, cosmology…” the Republican party can grab a new moniker for themselves — the Ostrich Party.

    Maybe some Capitol carpenters can saw some head-size holes in their Senate and House desks….It’d be more comfortable for them to sit while they bury their heads.

  41. Ron1

    @32 Joseph G Says: “I don’t think their actual news content is any different from other major networks.”

    Going back to @10. RMcbride’s comment … no offense meant, but you should spend some time outside the US and take a look at how some other news organizations present news (ie. CBC, BBC, etc) in contrast to America’s fascination with entertainment as news and false equivalent panel discussions (although even those networks are not perfect).

    As for good interviewers and presenters in the US, I’d recommend (1) Fareed Zakaria, (2) Elliot Spitzer, and (3) Rachel Maddow. (Yeah, Ms Maddow can have her over-the-top moments but she is one of the sharpest mud-rakers on US television and she has no qualms about going after Democrats.)

    All in all, there is actually very little in depth, factual, non-partisan NEWS on US television today.

  42. JMW

    Haven’t read the comments, so don’t know if I’m repeating something someone has already said, but…

    I don’t know what happened to cause a major switcheroo here. Certainly the Republican Party’s aligning itself with the religious far-right explains a lot of that side’s actions, but I don’t know when the Democrats started coming to the defense of science. When I was a kid and becoming politically aware, I liked a lot of the social progressiveness of the left but was disenchanted with the stance on science. Now it’s nice to see those two things aligned better, but I wish the Democrats had the backbone to get more done.

    The reason for the Democrats’ lukewarmitude is that they’re not philosophically committed to the support of science. Instead, they “support” science because it’s a way of distinguishing their brand from the anti-science Republican brand. Let the religious right fade away and moderate republicans return to supporting science – because they correctly recognize the connection between innovation and continued profitability of corporations – and the Democrats would no doubt return to their “isn’t it better to fund social programs” phase.

  43. Often, Republicans are simply SKEPTICAL about science. Many on the left regard the IPCC report as the Sola Scriptura and defend it as rabidly as any Tennessee Baptist defends the Bible (and as rationally). And even if one is convinced that the climate is changing (um, when did it STOP changing?), we can disagree with the appropriate response. A conservative would ask why it’s critical to destroy our economy and our lifestyle for a miniscule reduction in the best guesses about temperature increases.

    Stem cells? The big concern is that of protecting life. Human life is a sacred thing to most religiously inclined folks, and embryonic stem cell research destroys the seeds of that life. Adult stem cell research (where most advances are occurring anyway) is not controversial in the least.

    I think the main problem you have, Phil, is that someone disagrees with you. It’s convenient to paint huge swaths of the country as anti-Science, but the reality is much more nuanced. Someone as dogmatic as you’ve proven to be generally only has room for ideas he’s already accepted, it seems, and doesn’t deal well when those are challenged.

  44. Via Media

    Ironic that you posted on anti-science today. This just appeared on the AAAS website:

    “Plan for Creationist ‘Ark’ Park Draws Paleontologists’ Ire.”- http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2010/12/plan-for-creationist-ark-park-dr.html?ref=hp

    Looks like Kentucky is following Texas off the cliff of doomdom…

  45. BJN

    Reality has a distinct liberal bias. Someone had to say it.

  46. Gamercow

    Dave(12) Certain legislators are most definitely anti-science. How else do you explain this sequence:
    1)Senator X wants to get (re-)elected
    2)Many of Senator X’s constituents are religious conservatives
    3)Senator X puts forth a bill promoting the teaching of creationism in science classes

    That, to me, is clearly anti-science. The person may not be anti-science, but the actions he is taking to get (re-)elected certainly are. And that is all that matters, in this case.

  47. Ron1

    @38. El Zarcho

    Welcome back, troll. Still waiting for your credentials re your slander of Mann (Evolution is Coin of the Realm, Blogs/Bad Astronomy, November 27, 2010.)

    You pontificate about science (particularly climate science) and yet you refuse to demostrate how you are the expert.

    As for your comment today (@43), “I think the main problem you have, Phil, is that someone disagrees with you. It’s convenient to paint huge swaths of the country as anti-Science, but the reality is much more nuanced. Someone as dogmatic as you’ve proven to be generally only has room for ideas he’s already accepted, it seems, and doesn’t deal well when those are challenged.”

    Have you tried looking in the mirror, or are you just totally clueless?

  48. Terry

    @Alikar 7: That was a great speech by Neil, thanks for sharing.

    By now I’ve finally understood why Phil talks politics on a occasion and I embrace it, especially since he doesn’t censor me when I disagree. Mostly I disagree with the concept that any one party is different from another. I agree that the Republicans are certainly bad for science, when it comes to asking an average republican senator or congressperson to talk about scientific ideas, but are great when it comes to funding scientific research. Bush’s administration ignored science in a lot of arena’s and that was terrible, but science also reaped the benefits of greater funding under his tenure.

    Democratic senators and congresspeople, on the other hand, are probably better to talk about science, because they believe it and talk about it. But they are bad for science budgets because putting money into science programs is directly harmful to their social justice aims. When they have to balance the budgets, and they know that horsetrading will force them to keep exorbitant defense budgets, and they can’t cut education or law enforcement, and the corporate owners of everyone in Washington want them to keep pushing a little bit of money toward Wall Street, the only programs that can still be cut are the arts and sciences.

    It comes down to the two unholy marriages of our modern political parties. Marriage one is the fundamentalist voting bloc to the fiscal conservatives and marriage two is the social justice voting bloc to the environmentalists. Fiscal conservatives want economic development which has been tied directly to science and technology for 400 years, but they have to espouse non-science arguments to get those fundies to believe they are ‘good Christian voters’.

    Meanwhile, environmentalists are often closely tied to science now, despite some neoluddite elements in their ranks, due to the science of AGW, but actually cutting our emissions will disproportionately affect the poor. There is also the secular movement within the social justice side of the house (although plenty of social justice folks come from Christian ideologies) that supports any concept that helps to attack the fundies transgressions into the education system. Unfortunately, social justice spending is not focused on scientific research, and the environmentalist movement seems to have become rapped up in countering industry rather than driving innovation.

    So, the republicans are substantively bad on science will quantitatively good for it and the democrats are quantitatively bad for it will being substantively good for it. Sucks.

  49. Bobito

    The “Republicans are anti-science” paint brush has gotten a bit too wide. It’s really more of a matter of the Church being anti-stem cell research and pro creationism, and Big Oil lobbyists being anti-global warming.

    You hit on one major point, the Religion – Stem Cell research correlation. Certainly an anti-science stance, and an unfortunate extension of the abortion debate. Not much can be done about that one. The church sees it as a sin and there is just no reasoning with religious types… Same goes for creationism, the threat of going to hell for not believing it is just too much to overcome regardless of how silly it is.

    On Big Oil money – climate change, this is where I think the anti-science line gets a bit blurry. Why is it that when oil lobbyist money goes to scientific research that brings up valid arguments against the catastrophic effects of global warming it’s dismissed as “They just paid them to say that” but when money comes from a liberal lobbyist the information is seen as fact? How can all the scientist on one side of the argument be corrupt and none on the other side? As always, the truth will be somewhere in between.

    Beyond those two, I think you’ll find that the Republican party LOVES science when it comes to defense. There is a significant amount of scientific funding to find better ways to kill people / defend ourselves.

  50. Face it. Politicians will take any position that seems likely to garner votes or at least get attention. They are not idealists. They are politicians.
    So in another 20 years, things on pro/anti science could easily shift. Its really just a matter of time.
    The scary day will be if both sides get on an anti sci bandwagon. But happily its not a likely event.

  51. Terry

    Re: Stem cell research. I have no doubt that the science behind stem cell research is amazing. My rejection of spending tax-payer dollars on it is that it is controversial in the source of that material. For a majority of the population that has to pay those taxes for the benefit of the nation, it is unethical to end one human life solely to give another a better lot in life. For a smaller segment of that population, they believe that embroyos are human life.

    I personally find it to be an ethical gray area, but that doesn’t mean that I think that taxpayers that find the research morally reprehensible should be forced to pay for it. Private funding of research was not impacted.

  52. Quatguy

    jasonB@29…..You suggested that the fact that PBS receives money from the federal government is a conflict of interest. Maybe the fact that they get money without strings attached or without major corporate influence leaves them to be free to approach the news with journalistic integrity and not push one agenda over the other. That is how our public broadcaster in Canada works (or is at least intended to work). The CBC get loads of cash from the government but are at arms length and often on the leading edge in reporting news that does not shed the government in a good light.

    On a similar note, that is one thing that I will never understand about the american judicial system (as I understand it). How can one expect a fair trial from a judge that is elected and hoping to be elected again? (Not your Supreme Court judges mind you, which I understand are appointed for life). That could be a huge conflict of interest when the judge realizes that people will look at how they rule when deciding to elect them again! I find that totally unbelievable. In my opinion, all judges should be appointed and then free to act in a way that is consistent with the law without the potential for political influence. Please excuse my political idealism but everyone has to dream don’t they?

  53. Erica

    Oh I can think of plenty of instances of the left attacking science…and as a liberal democrat myself I find this disheartening. Here are just a few off the top of my head:

    The anti-vaccine movement
    The Environmental Working Group
    Proponents of alternative medicine, nutritional supplements, homeopathy
    Animal rights activists (not all but definitely some)

  54. QuietDesperation

    I don’t believe Reagan had any problem funding the sciences (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong)

    It bounced around a bit, but science spending actually went up a bit under Reagan.

    Why is it that when oil lobbyist money goes to scientific research that brings up valid arguments against the catastrophic effects of global warming it’s dismissed as “They just paid them to say that” but when money comes from a liberal lobbyist the information is seen as fact?

    A similar thing happened here in California in the last election. We had Prop 23 to delay the implementation of a bill, AB32, full of new global warming based regulations. All the Prop would have done was delay implementation of Ab32 until the economy improved.

    People voted against it because of a “Oh noes, the Big EEEEvil Oli Companies are backing Prop 23!” campaign, and the mass of voters, being a pack of idiots, bought into it. Seriously, the state legislature has a single digit approval rating (yes, less than 10%), and got completely re-elected. You can blame gerrymandering for much of that, but the voters can still overcome that if they would stop voting the party line.

    The best observation on it was related by a local radio host who was out trick or treating with his kids. He was on a street that had house after house with No on 25 signs sporting oil wells. In front of almost every house with the signs was one or more giant SUVs

    It’s madness. It’s like there’s a virus shutting down everyone’s intellectual capacity. Left, right, whatever. It’s why I call ideology a mental illness, and I expect to someday be proven correct by the psychological field.

    Anyway, putting up a lot of the funding against Prop 23 was millionaire Thomas Steyer who stands to make a lot of money from the alleged “green technology” that AB32 will force the issue on. The local news media NEVER mentioned that. They also never considered that out of state companies might support Prop 23 because, yeah, California “leads the nation” in many things. It’s as simple as that.

    Once the election was over, a solar panel company, Solyndra, that was touted by the politicians and activists as a model for California’s “green future” saw the writing on the wall for California’s doomed economy, and has decided shutter their old plant and scale back their new plant (built with federal stimulus funds and nothing to do with California).

    It’s all just lies and nonsense. It’s all moot, too, because California will be insolvent soon, and the creditors and courts will take over and maybe we can get a nice system reset.

  55. Joseph G

    @#41 Ron1: You’re definitely correct about the unhealthy obsession with “entertainment news,” though I admit I’m a sucker for a discussion panel. The more arguing the better! My parents always told me that I should have been a lawyer :D Seriously, I do enjoy listening to political polemics, if only so I can construct my own counter-arguments in my head.
    I’m probably a bit crazy :P

    Annnyway, I do like listening to the BBC world service for the reason you described – it’s almost entirely focused on stuff outside the US and Europe.
    Spitzer and Zakaria are indeed a couple of my favorite commentators as well. Maddow has her moments, but she’s a bit too smarmy and sarcastic, at times, for my liking. It’s not easy to do political humor and still be likeable to a wide audience, I think that’s why Stewart and Colbert as as popular as they are :)

    Unfortunately, I think you’re right on the money about the notable lack of a large, trustworthy, unsensationalistic, conflict-of-interest-free source of hard news in the US.

  56. Doug Little

    I get my news from the AP, BBC NEWS, USA TODAY, WSJ.

    Blogs I like Bad Astronomy, Pharyngula, Dispatches, Good Math/Bad Math, The Onion, Panda’s Thumb, Starts with a Bang, Asymptotia, Deltoid and when elections are coming up DailyKOS.

    I like the Daily Show as well although it’s comedy its still better at presenting facts than what FOX NEWS is and doesn’t actually call itself news.

    Radio, I like sports talk although I do listen to NPR as well.

  57. QuietDesperation

    For REAL news, see Stewart and Colbert

    That’s actually a pressing problem in this country today. Half gets its news from Fox and the other half from Stewart/Colbert, and ignorance prevails. Different flavors of ignorance to be sure, but ignorance nonetheless.

    I’ll stick with things like the Economist, thanks. NPRs basic news casts are OK. BBC is good for an international perspective on US events. Christian Science Monitor is quite good. Sometimes I’ll hit Al-jazeera English to see what’s going on in places the other international outlets may not cover.

    For biased sources I go to Cato because they seem to have good analysts. Even if I disagree with their conclusions, they make me think.

    I’ve actually lost my taste for news satire and parody because the real world has gotten so stupid and ridiculous that the satire can’t measure up or it’s just depressing to watch rather than funny.

    For science and tech I go to sources dedicated to such things. Like Discover! :-)

  58. Daffy

    El Zarcho, I, too, am waiting to hear your science credentials (since you slam others for having the “wrong” science degree). Or do you even have any education at all?

    Listening to Rush Limbaugh doesn’t count, despite what he tells you.

  59. Thameron

    @23. Michel

    Quite right – The future is Idocracy with a bit of Soylent Green and Wall-e thrown in for good measure.

    Living in the world right now is kinda like starting down a slide with spikes at the bottom. Bummer for the young.

    It seems to me that a big part of the problem is that human beings often account their value by measuring themselves against something. Once upon a time the United States measured itself against the Soviet Union. People were highly motivated and human beings went to the moon because of it. Doubtless the Soviets spent a lot on science as well. But now what is there to measure ourselves against? Not China considering they fill our stores with ‘goods’. Global warming? Too nebulous and too much personal responsibility and call for sacrifice. Space colonization? Too difficult and too far off. So that doesn’t leave much and people just pace around bumping into each other and getting irritated at small stuff. What our species needs is to receive an alien signal saying ‘we are coming to kill you all’ or alternatively an asteroid or comet on an intersect course. That would wake them up in a hurry. Barring something along those lines there will be no focus. We will just fill our world with plastic and toxins.

  60. Bobito

    Hanity is the problem.
    Olberman is the problem.
    Beck is the problem.
    Maher is the problem.
    etc, etc, etc….

  61. noen

    They are more than anti-science. They are fascists and will destroy this country if they are allowed to rule. That must not happen.

  62. Joseph G

    This thread is great, but it’s depressing the hell out of me anyway.

  63. Bruce

    @QuietDesperation

    A problem with the AB32 is that the CA unemployment rate has only fit the circumstances they list three times in 24 years.

    It was not so simple that way. They way it seemed to be written would not have it implemented anytime soon.

  64. Dan

    @QuietDesperation (54) said:

    “People voted against it because of a “Oh noes, the Big EEEEvil Oli Companies are backing Prop 23!” campaign, and the mass of voters, being a pack of idiots, bought into it.”

    No, people voted against it because it was a regressive bill that would have set up a nearly impossible threshold before implementing the carbon controls that the people of the state desired. Why is that hard for you to understand? I suggest you consider your own bias a little more deeply before accusing the voters of California of being a “pack of idiots”

  65. Chris Winter

    El Zarcho wrote (#43): “A conservative would ask why it’s critical to destroy our economy and our lifestyle for a miniscule reduction in the best guesses about temperature increases.”

    The conservative should then be asked a) why he thinks acting to mitigate the effects of climate change will destroy our economy, and b) why he thinks 97 percent agreement among scientists on the reality of the problem isn’t good enough.

  66. Chris Winter

    Bigby wrote (#5): “This government has been giving money away just as fast as they can. And if it doesn’t stop there’s going to be serious trouble.”

    So I assume you are in favor of letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, thus avoiding a huge additional increment to the deficit.

    Most Republicans in Congress insist that all those cuts must be extended.

  67. Daffy

    #65 Because Rush Limbaugh has stated more than once that AGW is a plot by capitalist hating countries to destroy the U.S. economy. He never specifies who, or how this will help them, but that is neither here nor there, I guess. Right wing talking points don’t have to make sense for them all to cheer in unison.

  68. Joseph G

    @#67: I was once listening to Limbaugh (don’t judge, I drive a LOT for my job and it’s nice hearing a human voice :P ) and he said something to the effect of the following: That scientists had to be wrong about how oil formed, because they say it takes HEAT and pressure, and so much oil is found in the arctic, where it’s cold.
    *facepalm*

  69. Nick

    What would improve the country tremendously is if Fox news got a science loving conservative to join their program. It might be able to convince some of the anti-science republicans to start being rational. It would be even better if the person was still religious showing people that they don’t have to reject god to accept science.

  70. Brian Too

    While my knowledge is definitely spotty when it comes to these matters, doesn’t this date all the way back to President Johnson and the civil rights era? Not that Johnson was anti-science, I simply don’t know. However I do remember a quote from Johnson that once they intervened federally in the south, to support the civil rights movement, the Democrats lost (or weakened) a long-time power base.

    Perhaps Nixon and Reagan were simply taking advantage of a political opportunity. This makes sense from the perspective of the old-time saying that politics is the art of the possible. Also, once alliances are formed in politics, generally it is expedient to unconditionally support your ally, at least in public. That keeps your alliance strong and thereby strengthens you.

    This is one of the more dismaying aspect of politics. Often “the enemy of my enemy is therefore (automatically) my friend”. Strange bedfellows is often the result.

    However I may be talking out of my hat on this one.

  71. EdF

    @69 Nick.

    Completely agree. As a moderate Republican (fiscally conservative, socially middle and environmentally liberal) I certainly feel like I lost my party. And yet I’m not alone. There are plenty of Republicans I know feel the same way, but the Sarah Palin’s of the world have a huge megaphone. Not deliberately, but the media’s fascination for her drowns out reasonable voices. Media thrives on conflict, because we the viewers tune in for it, and it’s pushing moderates off the stage.

    As for religion, we should also keep in mind that for the most part, the old established religions are NOT anti-science. It’s the new born again, Christian conservative ones that are. Most of the old religions have made their peace with science, and many famous scientists of old were religious or even part of the clergy. Embryonic Stem Cell research is different, it butts against a core belief. But otherwise, science and most religions that don’t have a Sunday program get along quite fine.

    One last point about the media that I think is driving this wedge in science, is the insistence of giving each side equal weight in a matter. Creationism for example. It is false to set the stage as equals when debating the two. It’s as silly as having a 50 year old debate a 5 year old over something, it’s not equal.

    With all that said, Phil is right that many of the Republican party leaders in the house are threatening a lot of our science foundation. Phil, I think you should work within the Republican party and help the many many reasonable voices get heard!

  72. Daffy

    #68 And this is the man so many conservatives rely on for their “information.” It would be funny if it were happening to someone else’s country.

    No, it wouldn’t.

  73. Rick

    @71 EdF

    Yours is the position that I hold. I consider myself an “Orthodox” Republican (I believe in fiscal responsibility and in small government), but I do have libertarian leanings.
    My girlfriend is a strong liberal. And every so often, the issue of politics comes up. And I have to explain to her over and over again that the Republican party has changed. I don’t know when, and I don’t know why (well, maybe a little), but I remember a distinct time when being a Republican meant you stood for common sense and reason as opposed to the Democratic party which stood for lofty ideals without a grounded base in reality (I’m only expressing the way I saw it and I’m not looking for a debate on this topic).

    That’s why I am a Republican. And I sometimes mourn for the death of those ideals of small government and good common sense within my party.

    And while the phrase is trite in this day, I really do feel there’s a silent majority, on both sides, who despite some minor ideological differences, just want the sensationalism to end and the rationality to begin anew.

  74. alejandro c.

    o.k. suppose global warming really exist, which is the solution??? The solution of Mr.Obama was cap and trade.
    In 2009 Democrats have a majority of 70+ votes in Congress. Cap and Trade was approved by a majority of only 8 votes… all of them from REPUBLICANS!!!that means that nearly 70 DEMOCRATS voted agains the bill… then the Cap and trade died in the Senate where Democrats (until the election of Scott Brown) have a philibustering’s proof majority.
    why Mr Obama and the Democrats did not pass the bill when they have a golden opportunity?? i don’t know i’m not an american citizen.
    please i do not defend the Republicans, but i think the Democrats are not so innocents. and mr.plait, you are a good scientific, but (sorry) a bit naive politically speaking..

    again

  75. QuietDesperation, look what you did there:
    “A similar thing happened here in California in the last election. We had Prop 23 to delay the implementation of a bill, AB32, full of new global warming based regulations. All the Prop would have done was delay implementation of Ab32 until the economy improved.”

    Perhaps. But that’s not why the energy companies, mostly out of state, poured money into Prop23. They weren’t doing it out of a sense of state fiscal responsibility!

  76. Hot Chocolate

    The scientific method helps mankind discover and elucidate the truth about the physical world. Politicians and other social entities who feel that our science’s best current estimate of reality rebuts the positions they advocate and/or prefer may be anti-science, at least on the pertinent issues.

  77. Gary Ansorge

    57. QuietDesperation

    “That’s actually a pressing problem in this country today. Half gets its news from Fox and the other half from Stewart/Colbert, and ignorance prevails. Different flavors of ignorance to be sure, but ignorance nonetheless.”

    I know I’m biased but Stewart and Colbert make me laugh, showing just how funny human critters really are,,,and how pathetic. I’ve been seeing the exact same behavior for nearly 3 generations, so none of this is a bit surprising. What DOES encourage me is that we can still laugh about it.

    Most of MY news comes from all the links I follow from the Yahoo news blurbs. I end up on the Scientific American site, then Physics Review, the Christian Science Monitor, etc, etc.

    Gary 7

  78. James

    I used to support the Democrats, but after their shameful reaction to Wikileaks, they should have apologised for the things that were said, instead of attaking Wikileaks and vowing to cover things up better in future. That doesn’t sound like the land of the free to me. I no longer support either party.

  79. To our Republican friends who wonder what happened to “their” party: did you vote for the Republicans anyway?

    If so, stop complaining. You are the problem.

  80. The Democrats may not be rabidly attacking science, but they aren’t exactly enthsiastically defending it, either — because they’re suffering from their own peculiar detachment from reality.

    To our Donkeycratic friends who also wonder what happened to “their” party: why do you keep going back for more abuse?

  81. QuietDesperation

    @AB32 fans

    It will bankrupt the state, send jobs out of the state and accomplish *NOTHING* on the global warming front. It is idiocy. It is political. It is NOT scientific. For all the lamentations about science, when it comes time to write the legislation, the science is suddenly kicked to the curb.

    The air quality board, which drives much of this stuff, has been shown to be incompetent and utterly politicized. The guy who did a report on particulate emissions, for example, was shown in the media to have faked his credentials to get hired, got his “degree” from an online “university” that basically just prints out a degree and mails it to you, and nothing happened. I think he’s still employed by the board. You fake your credentials like that in the private sector and you are fired and might even have a fraud lawsuit on your plate.

    I am definitely not denier, but some of the support for economy stomping legislation is just as much faith based as any religion. There will be no massive influx of “green jobs” to anywhere except China and other cheap labor pools. *You* are the guys failing to open your eyes and minds. Use your power of “first sight” as Terry Pratchet calls it. Learn to see things exactly as they are uncolored by your own politics and biases. *I’m* the one criticizing the side I’m on in this issue.

    No, people voted against it because it was a regressive bill that would have set up a nearly impossible threshold before implementing the carbon controls that the people of the state desired. Why is that hard for you to understand?

    The world you live in… are the unicorns pink or blue? If you think Joe/Jane Average voter thought about anything on the ballot that deeply you are living in a complete fantasy world.

    I suggest you consider your own bias a little more deeply before accusing the voters of California of being a “pack of idiots”

    My “bias” is firmly that GW exists. I’m just able to call my side on the carpet when they come up with useless crap and start letting the politics eclipse real science and basic economic common sense. AB32 will hurt everything and help nothing. It is “feel good” legislation championed by an outgoing governor who is looking for a legacy after his miserable term, and supported by people who think we can legislate out way out of the GW situation.

    We need technological advancement. Technological advancement need the engine of economic growth behind it. AB32 is a hammer where a set of jeweler’s tools is required.

    Perhaps. But that’s not why the energy companies, mostly out of state, poured money into Prop23. They weren’t doing it out of a sense of state fiscal responsibility!

    No, they did it because California supposedly “leads the nation” in legislative ideas, so they wanted to nip this one in the bud, and I can hardly blame them. So it’s fine with you that some investors supported the bill so they can profit from selling “green technology” to the state? I guess I need a playbook as to which Big Money is bad and which Big Money is more equal than others. No, wait, never mind. I don’t actually traffic in the “evul rich guy” bogeyman. I’m actually looking to see how to get in on the guy’s investment funds.

  82. Jeffersonian

    I don’t know what happened to cause a major switcheroo here.

    Karl Rove. The man behind the curtain who discovered strict formulas for appeasing GOP districts with skewed reality bites, third rails and false memes.

    nothing will get done in the next two years

    Just because the GOP has a slight majority in the lower house? History doesn’t support this. Things look different once you get just a few months away from the midterms when the true gladhanding, cronyism and special interests come back into play for the GOP. Much more worrisome is the GOP consolidation at the state and local levels.

  83. Lawrence

    Neither political party has improved over the last twenty years or so – there is no long term planning beyond what is going to happen to effect the next election cycle (which at this point never ends anyway). I used to be a staunch Republican until the moderates were basically thrown out of the Party by the ultra-conservatives (and we stopped being fiscally conservative).

    At this point, no one seems to speak for me. And I really get worried reading the comments over at Fox (which I do for fun, but now it is bleakly depressing) – where the party line seems to be “deport anyone who isn’t white or Christian.”

  84. Gary Ansorge

    To solve these problems, we really need talented scientists and mathematicians. Unfortunately, this is where those talented people have gone,,,

    From;

    STEVE HSU 12/01/2010

    “Even the brightest graduate students in maths and physics know that their chances of assuming a position like that of their PhD supervisors are slim. For the last 20 years the cream of the crop of physicists leaving the field has gone on to positions in finance, typically in places such as New York or London. Once there, these individuals become hedge-fund managers, derivatives traders and risk managers, to take just a few examples from my own cohort.”

    They’re making lots of money,,,on paper, unfortunately, they’re not actually producing anything real and it’s the real “stuff” that creates jobs.

    Gary 7

  85. Scott S.

    Sigh… lets just do away with all the things science has done for humanity and see where believing in a bunch of ancient writings gets us… that will be the quickest way to see how well prayer/belief stacks up to actual facts.

  86. Chris Winter

    Joseph G wrote (#68): “I was once listening to Limbaugh (don’t judge, I drive a LOT for my job and it’s nice hearing a human voice :P ) and he said something to the effect of the following: That scientists had to be wrong about how oil formed, because they say it takes HEAT and pressure, and so much oil is found in the arctic, where it’s cold.”

    I sympathize. When I drove across Texas, back in about 1994, I couldn’t pick up any FM stations on the car radio most of the time, and all the AM stations were talk radio carrying Limbaugh. It was a long drive.

  87. Chris Winter

    OT but I didn’t have time to hunt up the relevant thread.

    An excerpt from a Q&A by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange:

    Q: Mr Assange, have there ever been documents forwarded to you which deal with the topic of UFOs or extraterrestrials?

    Julian Assange: Many weirdos email us about UFOs or how they discovered that they were the anti-christ whilst talking with their ex-wife at a garden party over a pot-plant. However, as yet they have not satisfied two of our publishing rules.
    1) that the documents not be self-authored;
    2) that they be original.

    However, it is worth noting that in yet-to-be-published parts of the cablegate archive there are indeed references to UFOs.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2010/dec/03/julian-assange-wikileaks
    Julian Assange answers your questions
    The founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, answers readers’ questions about the release of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables

  88. Mark

    I am so tired of left vs. right.

    Why does science have to be politicized?
    Why do people like poster #5 (bigby) create false dichotomies between fixing the economy and funding science?
    Why do people like poster #12 (Dave) make dumb, irresponsible statements, generalize complicated issues, and pretend like they’re speaking about things they’re knowledgeable about, yet they haven’t done a damn bit of research beyond what they heard on fox news?

    Unfortunately, I work for the TSA, and with the recent body scanner controversy, I’ve realized that people on all sides of politics-“normal” people, democrats, republicans, libertarians-whatever people align with, will believe what they want to believe as long as their political leaders tell them to believe it, regardless of how much evidence is there to support it. They’ll believe things in spite of loads of evidence showing them they’re wrong.

    There is one truth in all of this, and that is the facts. Science and logic are our best bets at discovering the truth and it’s a shame politics will take that away from us too.

  89. QuietDesperation

    generalize complicated issues

    The world is very complicated, and most people can’t deal with it. I think it’s a form of Toffler’s “Future Shock”. People try to filter out the details to get to something digestible. One side concludes global warming isn’t happening (wrong) and the other thinks we can toss some legislation and wax symbolic at it and do good (also wrong).

  90. alejandro c.

    From the NewScientist (link:http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn19808-were-waiting-mr-president.html)

    “We’re waiting, Mr President
    15:10 03 December 2010 by Peter Aldhous
    A US government report on a pressing environmental issue is edited to falsely imply that scientists had peer-reviewed and supported the central policy recommendation. Almost 1 in 4 government scientists working on food safety say they have been asked by their bosses to exclude or alter technical information in scientific documents during the past year.

    These incidents sound as if they come from the dark days of George W. Bush’s presidency, when complaints about political interference in government science reached a crescendo. But in fact, both refer to the behaviour of the current US administration, led by a president who famously promised to “restore science to its rightful place” in his inauguration speech of January 2009.”

    Please read it!!!!!

  91. QuietDesperation

    To solve these problems, we really need talented scientists and mathematicians. Unfortunately, this is where those talented people have gone

    Man, is that ever true. I’ve been trying to get some R&D funds at work by evangelizing the concept of FPGA based super computers (no processors, only FPGAs- orders of magnitude more parallelization than PC based clusters), and my investigations have shown one of the biggest potential markets to be the finance industry. I’ve already converted the Black–Scholes model to SystemVerilog and compiled in to some Xilinx parts. Wish me luck. It could be the project that takes me to early retirement. :-)

  92. mrbarney
  93. Nigel Depledge

    Bigby (5) said:

    And if you are worried about greenhouse gases take a look around the world — the biggest offenders are the ones with damaged and hurting economies.

    Yeah, right. Somalia (for example) has a pretty damaged economy, and they’re emitting far less CO2 than the USA.

    Yes, I know you’ll say we produced the majority of greenhouse gases. True. But measured against GDP?

    What relevance is GDP? GDP is a pointless measurement. It’s just how fast money is shuffling around from one bunch of bankers to another.

    The USA is the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gasses. That’s the relevant measure.

    And what about other pollutants? You think we’re even in the same league as China, India, Cuba, Russia, etc? They have no pollution controls at all.

    Wrong. Most of these countries do have pollution controls in place. They are merely not what we might call stringent. They see what we in the west have achieved by using high-fossil-fuel industrialisation and they want a slice of the same pie.

    If we’re going to have any success in reducing global emissions of greenhouse gasses, we need to get our own house in order first.

  94. Messier Tidy Upper

    please, spare me once again the lie that President Obama is killing manned spaceflight

    But BA that cliam is NOT a lie but personal opinion and one that is widely held for pretty good reasons.

    When Obama took over the US manned space program had a space shuttle and a plan set for tehfuture which was starting toactually take shape – Bush may not have funded it enough but it was there.

    Under Obama the shuttles are retiring. Yes that’s not all Obama’s fault but he has failed to keep them going or have them replaced by an American public space agency manned launch vehicle.

    Obama is however directly responsible for ending the Constellation lunar return plan. That to me, is unforgivable.

    There’s no lie in stating that because of Obama’s decisions NASA won’t be flying its own astronauts on its own rockets into the indefinite future.

    Yiou have yourslef admitted in that link you gave there that :

    Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) hammered over and again the idea that Obama is trying to kill the manned space program. That is not true, and in fact the current situation (including the five year gap between the Shuttle and any follow-on rocket system) started in the Bush Administration. Constellation has been in trouble for some time, behind schedule and over-budget. I’m of the opinion that Obama’s plan to defund Constellation does not kill the manned space program as Culberson said it will.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Culberson is representing his community many of whoem have no doubt expressed their intelligentand well-founded opinion that OBama’s plan is bad for the USA’s manned space program

  95. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ myself above – D’oh! Sorry about that. It was supposed to be edited (& expanded) but the last edit obviously didn’t work. :-(

    ***

    BA, you have yourself admitted in that link you gave there that :

    Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) hammered over and again the idea that Obama is trying to kill the manned space program. That is not true, and in fact the current situation (including the five year gap between the Shuttle and any follow-on rocket system) started in the Bush Administration. Constellation has been in trouble for some time, behind schedule and over-budget. I’m of the opinion that Obama’s plan to defund Constellation does not kill the manned space program as Culberson said it will.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Culberson is representing his community many of whoem have no doubt expressed their own intelligent and well-founded opinions to him that Obama’s plan *is* bad – even catastrophic – for the USA’s manned space program.

    Neil Armstrong among many others incl. Jim Lovell and NASA’s first space & perhaps greatest flight director Chris Kraft who oversaw the Apollo era all think Obama’s space policy stinks.

    Neil Armstrong for instance is on the public record here :

    Obama ‘errs over space’ [Headline]

    WASHINGTON : [caps original] Neil Armstrong .. says US president Barack Obama is “poorly advised” on space matters, renewing criticism of a plan to abandon a project to return US astronauts to the Moon.

    Appearing before a Senate committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, Armstrong said Mr Obama’s plan to end the Constellation program and cut space efforts appeared to be made without input from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the President’s Science advisor.

    “If the leadership we have aquired through our investment is allowed to fade away, other nations will step in where we have faltered. I do not believe that this would bein our best interests.” Armstrong said.

    Source : Page 71, “Obama errs over space” in ‘The Advertiser’ newspaper, 2010 May 14th.)

    It is worth noting that Armstrong is notoriously reclusive and reticent about commenting publicly so for him to come out so strongly really means a lot.

    So, BA, are you really meaning to call Neil Armstrong, Chris Kraft and others liars here? Are you really saying their legitiamete and considered opinions in this area are a deliberate falsehood? :-(

    You have the right to your opinions – and others have the right to theirs.

    You are free to disregard and disagree with Neil Armstrong, JimLovell, Chris Kraft etc .. if you are determined to do so.

    But that doesn’t make what they are saying lies.

    The Republican party is not ideal – no politicial party is – but it is far better in many folks eyes incl. mine when it comes to space flight and human space exploration that the Democrat party alternative. In terms of space vision, G. W. Bush at least had a clear vision and plan for the future. (Even if it is true that he didn’t fund it well enough. :-( )

    The evidence (& the assessments of many great Amercians with real expertise in this NASA / space exploration area) seems to strongly argue against that being the case for Obama.

    BTW. When it comes to the mire of politics I’m certainly no fan of either side and am very cynical and sick of the lot of them. Politics is a game to manipulate people’s emotions and minds into winning popularity contests. Obama is no saint and no messiah. The Republicans are not evil incarnate, not even Dick Cheney, just flawed, selfish, political actors trying to con people into voting for them just like the Democrats are. Please try to remember this. :roll:

  96. Messier Tidy Upper

    @45. BJN Says:

    Reality has a distinct liberal bias. Someone had to say it.

    No, reality is what is left when *all* the political / ideological bias from all the various political factions has been removed.

    All politicans always try to spin the facts to suit their confected ideological “narratives” and talking points.

    There is no such thing as a good or honest politician. There’re all out there for power and money and personal ego. None of them, either side, can be trusted or really cares about serving the people or their nation. Every election is always a choice between the lesser of two evils – and still gives you an evil of some kind or other. Whoever you vote for you get a politician – and politicians cannnot be trusted and will usually mess things up badly. Any and all of them.

    The older I get and the more I see and read about politics the more convinced I am that this is so & the more cynical about the whole “magisteria” of politics I feel.

    Only one person has ever entered Parliament (“Congress” as the Amercians call it) with honest intentions :

    That person was Guy Fawkes whose intentions were to blow the building & all inside it sky high! ;-)

  97. Gary Ansorge

    93. QuietDesperation

    “It could be the project that takes me to early retirement”

    Hopefully, you will then have sufficient resources to do something interesting,,,like build a nuc powered space craft(I’m a BIG fan of the nuclear light bulb thruster).Unfortunately, my resources extend only to paper, pencil and a Mac.

    98. Messier Tidy Upper

    “Reality has a distinct liberal bias. Someone had to say it”

    ,,,or, as my Son would say, “reality is for people that can’t handle science fiction”.

    Thomas Jefferson once noted that “Professional politicians will be the death of the Republic”.

    Looks like he was right,,,

    Guy Fawkes? Was he a student of Tom Jefferson?

    My opinion is that anyone who actually seeks political power should be tarred, feathered and run out of town on a rail. Then we should institute a draft for political office. Unfortunately, that might mean Phil would be a prime candidate for such. Poor guy,,,

    Gary 7

  98. QuietDesperation

    Hopefully, you will then have sufficient resources to do something interesting

    FPGA processing superclusters running neural nets so I can pwn the Wall Street bad boys *isn’t* interesting?

  99. Staying on the reality theme…

    “Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it”.

    I deplore fuzzy science whether its people doing a poor job of questioning global warming, anti-vaxxers, Congresscritters trying to get alternative medicine into the health bills, creationists, people distorting environmental issues, etc. Different issues tend to have different constituencies who go whacky on them, but since many of them are religion based, our current ne0-conservatives tend to have the lead so to speak.

    Bob Inglis (R, SC) was on Science Friday last week. He is one of the Republican voices who accepts the science of climate change. Unfortunately, he is an outgoing Representative.

  100. @99 — Guy Fawkes was part of a group that wanted to establish a Catholic theocracy in England.

    He may have been the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions, but those intentions were not *good*.

    @Various economic commentary — the best way to create jobs is to spend money. Governments are big and risky spenders, meaning that they have the power (and, some believe, the responsibility) to spend heavily in times of economic difficulty. This comes coupled with a responsibility to recollect the invested money in times of abundance.

    Basic research is in desperate need of funding from governments. This is in large part because of its massive positive externalities — it is of no particular use to investors, but only benefits humanity at large. This situation justifies (if not necessitates) the use of government’s considerable and unique powers of persuasion, since the social good outweighs the economic cost.

    Similarly, grossly negligent ecological behavior is in desperate need of being punished by governments. This is in large part because of its massive negative externalities — it is no great problem for investors, but only harms humanity at large. Targeted taxes, and to a lesser degree effective regulation, can bring these externalities home to investors’ pocket-books where they can do some good.

    QD — if you’re so dissatisfied with California, why don’t you leave? I’ve heard Idaho has a booming economy, and you’d likely find their politics more agreeable.

  101. I would actually end welfare and all “progressive” programs and use all the money to fund science and research. So I guess I am neither Republican or Democrat.

  102. Jay Cee

    >You have a giant global network right at your fingertips

    and sometimes what is on it is even true ;-)

  103. Wait, but Phil, you’re wrong about something. Democrats aren’t coming to the rescue of science. They’re keeping quiet and trying to be more moderate while the Republicans foam and scream over this thing and quickly destroy the country.

  104. Terry

    @102 JediBear –

    @Various economic commentary — the best way to create jobs is to spend money. Governments are big and risky spenders, meaning that they have the power (and, some believe, the responsibility) to spend heavily in times of economic difficulty. This comes coupled with a responsibility to recollect the invested money in times of abundance.

    This is an example of Keynesian philosophy and the problem is that even neo-Keynesian philosophy recognizes that you have to pay down debts between busts, as you said. We didn’t and so spending even more we risk putting ourselves in another stagflation period rather than “buying” another boom. You can’t spend your way out of a bust if every bit of money that you have is coming from debt. You are just hiding your economic instability the way a family might do with payday loans or paying credit card bills with new credit cards. What you need is a firm belief that you can handle your debt, which the U.S. still has… barely. It won’t for ever.

    The Austrian school, on the other hand, suggests that firm, sustainable growth only comes when you save money for the things you want to buy. Our budgets must be balanced to do so, but we can’t balance the budgets as long as we keep paying money out faster than we can earn it. More complicated, adding taxes will only slow down the recovery at this point, meaning that even if you add taxes, you won’t get a significant increase in revenue (if my taxes go up, I’m likely to spend less. If I spend less, the corporations make less profit. If corporations make less profit, the government gets less in corporate taxes).

    @103 Eric:

    I would actually end welfare and all “progressive” programs and use all the money to fund science and research. So I guess I am neither Republican or Democrat.

    Actually, that is much more a Republican argument, but you’d need the whole wanting to force everyone else to believe in your god or at least agree that anyone who doesn’t are immoral and should be controlled. If you don’t believe that, you are more of a libertarian.

    As far as ending Welfare, we can’t do that. What we need to do is turn welfare into something that is both productive and encourages people to get off of welfare. A “workfare” program, similar to the civilian conservation corps, is better. Can’t wait for the Army Corps of Engineers to fix the levees, get some workfare bodies to do it. Much as welfare sucks, though, the real crisis facing our nation is social security, not welfare. Welfare convinces people to stay poor, but a small segment of people are going to always go for easy money and no matter the spending, you can’t fix that. Social security can’t be changed to ‘convince’ people to work rather than taking the money. The people who are generally on social security have mostly already PUT IN their due, but the government wasn’t good with their money. Even so, by 2030, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will be the entire federal budget, if current obligations are not changed. There won’t be ANYTHING left for research funding.

  105. Well, up to a point, Lord Nickle. People tend to forget that the greatly overpraised Al Gore endorsed the teaching of creationism during his presidential bid, and his ludicrous film was tossed out in the British courts for having nine major errors.

    The Republican anti-science is so crass it’s self defeating. It’s the subtle stuff that’s more dangerous.

  106. QuietDesperation

    QD — if you’re so dissatisfied with California, why don’t you leave?

    Two reasons:

    1. I have 20 years vested in my current employer. Another 5 and I when I retire it’s with full medical coverage.

    2. Personally, I’m doing great, but I’m allowed to care about things other than those that affect me personally, yes?

    I’ve heard Idaho has a booming economy, and you’d likely find their politics more agreeable.

    Typical attempt at pigeonholing. Fail. I don’t follow an ideology. I just call them as I see them based on reality. That’s part of being a skeptic and pro-science. Just because I disagree with you on something doesn’t mean I’m your exact opposite in all things.

  107. QuietDesperation

    I would actually end welfare and all “progressive” programs and use all the money to fund science and research.

    Agreed, but only if we can use the former welfare recipients in the scientific experiments. :-)

    So I guess I am neither Republican or Democrat.

    No, you’re a bit closer to the Supervillain party. ;-)

  108. Terry

    Friend of mine just pointed out that Republican anti-science and Democrat anti-science are both akin to the rest of their philosophies. Republicans generally fund science better, allowing greater heights, but don’t encourage teaching of science better, allowing a greater degree in difference of knowledge between haves and have-nots (in this case having knowledge instead of money). The Democrats want greater uniformity of knowledge, bringing everyone up to a median level of scientific knowledge, while cutting funding and slowing down the overall development of scientific knowledge. There is less overall scientific development, but more scientific knowledge as a whole. I guess the Libertarians would be the worst of both worlds, cutting funding and not enforcing a median level of scientific knowledge.

    If given the option, and if that is an accurate picture, I think I’d prefer the Republican model. Its the difference between the freedom to be an idiot or a savant. I prefer freedom everytime. I think its up to the individual to educate themselves, though it is up to society to make that education available. Government funding to pay for better college science programs and investment in scientific research projects is more important than any program to help people know the difference between Copernicus and Tycho Brahe. The breadth of scientific knowledge in society does little to probe the outer reaches of human knowledge; it is the tip of the spear that pierces the veil. The most important thing that we can have is a willingness to make better spears.

  109. Keith Bowden

    Re: Embryonic Stem Cells. (This has come up a few times in this thread, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to ask a question.)

    How does using discarded tissue equal murder?

    This is an honest question. I’ve never understood this stance. No one is making or urging people to have sex and abort anything. No one is mixing eggs and sperm for the express purpose of making embryos to slice up. (I could understand the argument from those standpoints. Not agree with it, but I would understand.) How is using cells that are going to be discarded anyway a moral quandary? I don’t see a difference between this and harvesting whole organs from a full-grown corpse. We don’t consider them to be murdered by the doctors, they’re already dead.

  110. Dave

    90. Mark Says:

    “Why do people like poster #12 (Dave) make dumb, irresponsible statements, generalize complicated issues, and pretend like they’re speaking about things they’re knowledgeable about, yet they haven’t done a damn bit of research beyond what they heard on fox news?”

    Looks like you made a dumb, irresponsible statement that generalizes me.

    “Unfortunately, I work for the TSA, ”

    No surprise.

    “I’ve realized that people on all sides of politics… …will believe what they want to believe as long as their political leaders tell them to believe it, regardless of how much evidence is there to support it. They’ll believe things in spite of loads of evidence showing them they’re wrong.”

    Looks like you made another dumb, irresponsible statement that generalizes everyone.

    “There is one truth in all of this, and that is the facts. Science and logic are our best bets at discovering the truth and it’s a shame politics will take that away from us too.”

    You need a bottle of Hater Aid.

  111. fred edison

    Denying the problems of reality is cheap and easy. Acknowledging and confronting the problems of reality is expensive and hard. It’s clear the Republican House majority has chosen the former path in their pseudo-service to the people of America. If this generation doesn’t address the critical issues surrounding climate disruption, you can be sure your kids and their kids will have no other choice but to live with and suffer for our extraordinary irresponsibilities of not working to fix and/or alleviate their future environmental calamities.

    When the Republican climate deniers (Boehner and cohorts) say “dismantle the House select committee on global warming,” they are really meaning “we’ll leave the escalating environmental problems for future generations to contend with, because we’re too busy living our lives and won’t be bothered with it all.” What a selfish, self-defeating, and failed philosophy of leadership in Washington that is. I will bet hyper-emotional Boehner won’t bother shedding a tear about it, either.

  112. QuietDesperation

    How does using discarded tissue equal murder?

    There’s just people who think every embryo is a potential human.

    See “Every Sperm Is Sacred” by Monty Python. ;-) Actually, it’s quite an accurate satire.

    If I were in charge, there’d be vast government embryo farms that sell them for research at a profit.

  113. QuietDesperation
  114. Terry

    @113 Keith Bowden:

    How does using discarded tissue equal murder?

    Quiet Desperation is quite correct that some people believe every embryo is a potential human. The “every sperm is sacred” satire is funny, but doesn’t really address the central reasons why they believe that. For most who believe that every embryo is a human, it comes from a religious standpoint. For the Catholic Church, life begins at conception, and in the case of embryos, before implantation. For other faiths, there are somewhat different interpretations, but the majority believe conception to be the moment life begins.

    The counter-question is “Why should we have to abide their religious beliefs?” The answer to that no one is forcing you to do so. On the other hand, government funding of stem cell research is the moral equivalent of forcing the religious to support what they believe to be the murder of innocents. The grounds for all lawsuits and political posturing against stem cell research has been against the federal funding of research, not against the research itself.

    How is using cells that are going to be discarded anyway a moral quandary? I don’t see a difference between this and harvesting whole organs from a full-grown corpse. We don’t consider them to be murdered by the doctors, they’re already dead.

    This is two part, and the second is easier. The difference between stem cell harvesting and organ harvesting is that, in most cases, the full-grown individual had a choice in the issue. The embryonic life that was terminated early did not. On the first part it is just as much a moral quandary in allowing the embryos to be discarded. The moral evil of letting these embryos be discarded can not be rectified by letting them be used as a salve for ailing bodies.

    Look at it this way, you ever watch Soylent Green? How about read Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”? If you first accept that embryos are people, as those who believe such think to be true, then there is no difference between harvesting people to feed the masses and harvesting people to heal the masses. It is disgusting to those who believe in that interpretation of the Bible. Worse, in the eyes of the religious, it seems to be just the sort of evil that people “without God” lead themselves into.

  115. Sean H.

    @82: Because the alternative doesn’t like people who are either gay, not male,poor, non-religious, or read books that aren’t the Bible, by Ayn Rand, or by a talk show host(or all of the above). If the GOP had decent proposals for me to look at then I’d feel like I had more choice between voting Democratic or Green(and hoping there are enough conservative dems in the senate to block gun bills). Until then they’re pretty much the worst choice anyone who doesn’t fit a very specific mold could choose.

    @Dave: So if I don’t like someplace I should leave it, eh? What if I was born here? Am I allowed, pretty please, to take part in the civic process or is that only for people who cosplay?

  116. QuietDesperation

    On the other hand, government funding of stem cell research is the moral equivalent of forcing the religious to support what they believe to be the murder of innocents.

    The government funds all sorts of things I think are stupid and horrible. How come the Sacred Spermers get a break and I don’t?

    @Dave: So if I don’t like someplace I should leave it, eh?

    I know. Telling someone “so leave!” is such a trite thing to say. Some people put down roots, or maybe a location has other benefits (e.g. early spring-like weather in December) so we'[d like to see things get better rather than just abandon ship. When you are older and with a career you can’t “just leave” in many cases.

  117. Colin

    @120 QuietDesperation:

    The government funds all sorts of things I think are stupid and horrible. How come the Sacred Spermers get a break and I don’t?

    Because society is still overwhelmingly influenced by people with Christian morality and murder is a concept that we don’t want to take lightly?

    How about: Laws exist to prevent federal funding for abortion AND invasive embryonic research. One of those laws bans any research that would create a human embryo for the purpose of research or any research which would destroy a human embryo. It was passed by congress in 1995 and can’t be overturned by presidential fiat. If you don’t like that law, ask your congressman to have it repealed. Until then, it is the law.

    Or, you can continue to insult everyone who believes differently than you and hope that they feel sheepish enough to just change their minds and ignore their morality.

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