McCain/Palin Continue War on Science

Republicans have frequently been criticized for some of their more serious cases of denial of science, including their denial of evolution and denial of the scientific consensus on climate change. McCain is actually not as bad as many other Republicans here, but he has made some other attacks on science during this campaign. Lawrence Krauss wrote about the attacks on science by both John McCain and Sarah Palin in The Los Angeles Times.

Krauss gave two examples of erroneous comments from John McCain in the debates, explaining McCain’s errors in criticizing a DNA study on bears and his attacks in two debates on what he erroneously described as an overhead projector:

The “overhead projector” in question is in fact a 40-year-old Zeiss optical projector that needs to be replaced at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. The one-ton, 10-feet-long instrument is the central component of the Adler, the first planetarium ever built in the Western Hemisphere. It projects the night sky on the dome of the Sky Theater at the planetarium, which has hosted more than 35 million people since it opened, including more than 400,000 schoolchildren every year. In fact, the request — made by Obama along with others in the Illinois congressional delegation, including three Republicans — wasn’t granted.

If it had been, it wouldn’t have been a waste of government money. The National Academy of Sciences has targeted science education as a key goal in preserving the economic competitiveness of our nation. Similar “overhead projectors” in Los Angeles and New York have recently been replaced with the help of federal funds. McCain’s gleeful attack sends this message: Encouraging science literacy is not worthy of government support.

While Krauss didn’t get into Palin’s views on dinosaurs, he did criticize her for her comments on research on fruit flies:

Finally, last week, Sarah Palin gave her first policy speech, urging the federal government to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Along the way, she too attacked science earmarks by claiming that the shortfall needed to fully fund the act was less money than was allocated to projects that have “little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France.”

Fruit flies can be made to seem like a silly thing to spend money on. But Palin was referring to research at a lab in France supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The subject is the olive fruit fly, which threatens the California olive industry. The U.S. is working with France because that nation has dealt with an olive fruit fly infestation for decades, far longer than California.

Maybe Palin also should have been told that a University of North Carolina fruit fly study last year demonstrated that a protein called neurexin is required for nerve-cell connections to form and function correctly. That discovery may lead to advances in understanding, among other things, autism, one of the childhood disorders that has been stressed by the McCain-Palin campaign.

Krauss concluded:

It is easy to attack what you don’t understand. But politicians would be wiser to attempt to better appreciate how science affects the issues central to our political priorities before rushing to use scientific research and education as a scapegoat in their campaigns.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    John Teets says:

    It seems the war on science is from the liberal side. Science is unimpeded inquiry into demonstrable truth.  Liberals have always impeded this, with a priori assumptions of faith that are unprovable.  These tenets of faith about what happened long ago have nothing to do with applied science, medicine, or any other serious academic study.  Molecules-to-man evolution is simply part of the Secular Humanist Creed that students are expected to regurgitate without thinking.  We would not have Einstein’s theory of general relativity today if he had to repeat ad nauseum – “Newton’s theory of gravity is absolute” and not be allowed to seek alternatives.  

    This and the far from proven theory of MAN-MADE climate change are stifling inquiry through ridicule and the withholding of research grants to those seeking to really get to the heart of the matter without prejudice and the blatant political agenda with which  it is inexorably intertwined.  The is not in the spirit of an authentically “liberal” education.

    I find far more openness to research and new ideas among creationists who admit they don’t have all the answers than among die-hard secularlists who believe their way is the only way despite it changing drastically over all the years I have studied science and despite the fact, there are oceans of facts and the origin of information that their ideas fall woefully short of explaining to any thoughtful individual.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    John,

    You appear to think that the war on science is from the liberal side only because you do not understand what science is. The consensus of the scientific community confirms that it is the conservatives who deny modern science.

    Science is based upon the scientific method, not one’s ideological beliefs. In order to be accepted as science there must be evidence to back up a theory and its predictions must be verified.

    This is the case with evolution. It has withstood the test of time as there is overwhelming evidence in its favor while those who deny evolution invariably base their arguments on non-scientific claims. Evolution now forms the basis of modern biological science.

    Just as evolution is established science, the role of man in climate change is accepted by virtually all scientists who work in the field. Those who deny it are typically people in other fields of science, if they are involved in science at all, and are biased by political ideology and/or connections to the oil industry.

    Creationists are certainly not open in any way to research as they deny all past research and substitute their religious views for all the scientific evidence. There is no scientific basis to their views.

    Science might fall short of explaining the universe to ignorant people such as yourself–and a comment such as yours could only possibly come from an ignorant person–but this is not the case with open minded people who base their views upon the evidence of the scientific method rather than religion and political ideology.

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