A Science Committee Full of Anti-Science Ideologues


Ashutosh Jogalekar writes at Scientific American that the House Science Committee is “turning into a national embarrassment.” No, I’m afraid it’s been a national embarrassment for years now, especially on the Republican side. He flags this exchange between a Republican congressman and the White House science adviser:

Several members, for example, appeared to be trying to mock rather than engage Holdren on climate change. “I may want to get your cellphone number, Dr. Holdren,” said Representative Randy Weber (R–TX), “because, if we go through another few cycles of global warming and cooling, I may need to ask you when I should buy my long coat on sale.”

Weber, a freshman from the Galveston area, began his interrogation by asking Holdren whether “when you guys do your research, you start with a scientific postulate or theory and work forward from that? Is that right?” Holdren gamely played along, explaining that “it depends on the type of science, but the notion of posing a hypothesis and then trying to determine whether it is right is one of the tried and true approaches in science, yes.”

But Weber’s question was really just a setup for his concluding statement. “I just don’t know how you all prove those theories going back 50 or 100,000 or even millions of years,” Weber said.

And the fact that you don’t know how they do that is exactly why you don’t belong on a science committee. You could try asking your buddies in the oil industry, whose entire business is predicated on historical geology that goes back hundreds of millions of years. This same committee includes Paul Broun, who has proudly declared that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies from the pit of hell.” 17 out of the 22 members of the climate change subcommittee reject climate change.

Comments

  1. D. C. Sessions says

    To be fair, these people aren’t representative of the entire Republican caucus. They are on the Science Committee (and the Climate Change subcommittee) precisely so that they can fulfill their role of counteracting science and opposing the “climate change” conspiracy. Like the Un-American Affairs Committee, which was formed precisely to counter un-American affairs. Same for the Science Committee.

  2. cry4turtles says

    The hopelessness makes me want to cry. Goodbye Mother Earth as I knew as a child. Wish my tears could replenish your rivers. It’s apparent that nothing will save you now. I’m sorry, so sorry.

  3. colnago80 says

    I recall several years ago then chairman of that committee, Joe Barton, asking Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Chu inane questions about climate change and evolution.

  4. Chiroptera says

    Well, somebody has to stop reality from just doing whatever it feels like. I’m glad that the Republicans are brave enough to take that stand.

  5. raven says

    This same committee includes Paul Broun, who has proudly declared that evolution and the Big Bang are “lies from the pit of hell.”

    You forget embryology. Paul Broun MD, lumps embryology in with evolution and the Big Bang as lies straight from the pit of hell.

    No one is quite sure how embryology got on the list. Theories are that it might have to do with stem cells, in vitro fertilization, or cloning mammals. No one wants to get near enough to Broun to ask him either.

  6. John Pieret says

    Ah, ha! This dufus owns an air conditioning company. Obviously, he is all in favor of global warming!

  7. raven says

    1. It is pretty dismal. These guys are sitting at the top of an advanced civilization produced by science/technology and laughing at it while chipping away at the foundations with a hammer.

    Even their oil and gas money is based on science and technology. Advances in geology, materials sciences, and technology allow us to get more hydrocarbons out of more places. As well as their lifespans. In a century, US average lifespans increased from 47 to 77.

    2. The US lead in science is responsible for its lead in the world. The US with 4.8% of the world’s population spends 1/3 of the world’s R&D budget.

    It’s estimated that most of the per capital GDP of the last century, a 900% increase, was due to advances in science.

    All this is basic knowledge, well known to anyone, and frequently repeated at budget hearings by people like Holdren.

    The US military knows it. To keep on top and keep themselves from becoming box occupants (dead), they spend around 80 billion USD a year in R&D.

    3. A few decades ago scientists were split 50:50 GOP to Democrats. These days only 6% are GOP. Bush’s most successful war was their War on Science.

  8. raven says

    These Tea Party/GOP representatives who are so proud of their ignorance and so contemptuous of science, reason, and education, are just a symptom of the problem.

    They were elected by a majority of their voters!!!

    Vaguely humanoid toads are going to be vaguely humanoid toads. It’s what they are. But they don’t have to be elected to the government of our country.

  9. raven says

    “I just don’t know how you all prove those theories going back 50 or 100,000 or even millions of years,” Weber said.

    Weber R TX does have some ways of finding this out. He could go to the library, read Wikipedia, check it out on Google, ask people who do know to explain it to him in 3rd grader level language.

    He could repeat grade school, high school, and go to college. These days one can even get degrees online.

    But it in his murky world, it is better to stomp out a few candles and sit in the dark than learn anything about the world.

  10. says

    Unfortunately, I fear that this is classic representative democracy.

    Since far fewer than 17 out of 22 Americans reject climate science, it’s not exactly representative. Our system of government is unfortunately loaded with status quo bias, monied elite bias, and disproportionally represents low population areas.

    In this case though, the main culprit appears to be that the Republican leadership deliberately stacked the committee with the biggest idiots and assholes it could find. Either as a big fuck-you to the science committee or to keep them away from the other committees.

    More evidence that the two parties are just alike!

  11. says

    “I just don’t know how you all prove those theories going back 50 or 100,000 or even millions of years,” Weber said.

    I’m not sure exactly what he’s even getting at, but is he seriously saying that we have no way of knowing what happened fifty years ago?

  12. freehand says

    Well, to be fair, if we have:
    1. A suspect whose gun fires bullets with markings identical to the bullet found in a dead person’s body, and
    2. The same suspect has a finger which produces a print identical to the bloody one on the victim’s refrigerator, and
    3. A video recording that seems to show the suspect entering the victim’s apartment, but
    4. No eyewitnesses, then
    …we routinely let the suspect go, for how could we prove our hypothesis that he murdered the dead man?

  13. eric says

    The GOP also tried to essentially gut the NSF, by (1) requesting a budget that would’ve cut their social science spending by 40%, (2) demanding they publish the names of any reviewer approving a grant (presumably so they could later attack/bully anyone approving a grant they didn’t like), and (3) requiring all grants to show some real, concrete benefit within a few years. Fortunately, NSF and its allies in Congress were able to restore most of the spending and get rid of the last two requests.

  14. naturalcynic says

    We fail to appreciate the bravado of the congresscreep from Galveston, where sea-level rise will have its most immediate effect.

  15. caseloweraz says

    Chiroptera: Well, somebody has to stop reality from just doing whatever it feels like. I’m glad that the Republicans are brave enough to take that stand.

    In the noble tradition of King Canute.

  16. caseloweraz says

    Several members, for example, appeared to be trying to mock rather than engage Holdren on climate change. “I may want to get your cellphone number, Dr. Holdren,” said Representative Randy Weber (R–TX), “because, if we go through another few cycles of global warming and cooling, I may need to ask you when I should buy my long coat on sale.”

    For those who have seen Tin Man on the SciFi Channel (“SyFy” *sigh*): Longcoats!

  17. D. C. Sessions says

    We fail to appreciate the bravado of the congresscreep from Galveston, where sea-level rise will have its most immediate effect.

    By then he’ll be long out of office and have cashed in so he doesn’t have to live there.

  18. colnago80 says

    Re caseloweraz @ #17

    As I understand it, King Canute was well aware that he could not stop the tide. He was doing that as a demonstration of that fact to the audience,

  19. johnhodges says

    I’ve recently heard the same argument from several sources, including a book by a longtime Exxon scientist, that seems to have become the standard argument among CC deniers. The argument goes, that changes in Earth’s climate are driven primarily by changes in the sun’s brightness, which are strongly correlated with the length of sunspot cycles. Further, by observing the pattern over recent centuries, we can predict a major cooling of 3 or 4 degrees Centigrade over the coming decades (the next two sunspot cycles). So, the argument goes, whatever warming there may have been (or not) in the 20th century was not caused by CO2, and even if it was, more CO2 going forward would be wholly beneficial, helping to moderate the catastrophic cooling that we would otherwise expect. I know that real climate scientists have already answered this (see for example http://www.brighton73.freeserve.co.uk/gw/causes.htm#solarcause )
    But I’d suggest someone with access to the data please make a new graph to serve as a standard reply to this argument. Put sunspot cycles, global temperatures, aerosols, and Greenhouse gases (CO2 equivalents) on one graph, covering as far back as we have sunspot data. The post-1970 “hockey stick” should show up clearly, obviously correlated with GHG’s and not with sunspot cycles.

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