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Jan 05 2013

Science is partisan

I have rarely seen such a politically vapid proposition as the one that Daniel Sarewitz managed to get published in Nature. “Science must be seen to bridge the political divide“, he says. He’s worried about the politicization of science, and he seems to think it’s all the scientists’ faults.

To prevent science from continuing its worrying slide towards politicization, here’s a New Year’s resolution for scientists, especially in the United States: gain the confidence of people and politicians across the political spectrum by demonstrating that science is bipartisan.

What the hell does that even mean? Does he think the scientific institutions in this country are all arms of one political party? Has he even considered the possiblity that it isn’t science dogmatically accepting the goals of one political party, but rather, that the other party has so willfully and enthusiastically embraced anti-scientific sentiment that it is not in our own interest to support them?

He cites a letter from a long list of highly respected scientists, including a group of Nobelists, who openly endorsed Barack Obama for president. He deplores this. Why? Because many of them already had a history of supporting Democratic candidates.

But even Nobel prizewinners are citizens with political preferences. Of the 43 (out of 68) signatories on record as having made past political donations, only five had ever contributed to a Republican candidate, and none did so in the last election cycle. If the laureates are speaking on behalf of science, then science is revealing itself, like the unions, the civil service, environmentalists and tort lawyers, to be a Democratic interest, not a democratic one.

Yes? So? There is a reason most scientists tend to vote Democratic: because the Republican party is a puppet of the evangelical Christian right and the irrational reactionary Tea Party. Scientists will tend to vote for the party that best supports scientific positions and doesn’t promote anti-scientific bullshit…not because party bosses are telling them to stay in line, but because that’s what scientists care about.

When your party fields a set of presidential candidates that includes evolution-deniers and climate-change deniers, the casual disregard for scientific evidence is not going to encourage scientists that you are actually on their side. When your party is representated extravagantly by the Texas Board of Education, you’re going to be perceived as anti-science.

Sarewitz ignores all the flaming science-denialism of the far right wing of the Republican party to pretend that both parties are essentially the same.

This is dangerous for science and for the nation. The claim that Republicans are anti-science is a staple of Democratic political rhetoric, but bipartisan support among politicians for national investment in science, especially basic research, is still strong. For more than 40 years, US government science spending has commanded a remarkably stable 10% of the annual expenditure for non-defence discretionary programmes. In good economic times, science budgets have gone up; in bad times, they have gone down. There have been more good times than bad, and science has prospered.

Both parties recognize the utility of science and technology; neither really embrace it, with the Republicans being far, far worse. They appointed John Shimkus to head the Economy and Environment committee; the Shimkus who immediately announced that global climate change isn’t occurring because the Bible promised it wouldn’t. Marco Rubio could babble that there is some legitimate scientific doubt about whether the earth is 6000 or 4.5 billion years old — and he’s a leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. The official Republican party platform in 2012 demanded an end to abortion and stem cell research.

Now why should scientists embrace all that? Are we supposed to pretend that doesn’t matter, because Republican approval of military and industrial research means overall level of funding to NIH/NSF won’t change?

Note that I’m not saying the Democratic party is flawless. Far from it. I’ve moaned about Tom Harkin’s alternative medicine boondoggle before; I know that Democrats are about as likely as Republicans to be anti-vaccination, and are worse about opposing genetically modified organisms. Picking either of these teams of bozos is a matter of compromise, but the differences are clear, and the Republican clowns are flagrantly anti-science, and proud of it.

So Sarewitz piously bleats out this nonsense, and then, as you might expect, offers no serious answers to how scientists are supposed to be “non-partisan.” Here’s the sum total of his advice:

To connect scientific advice to bipartisanship would benefit political debate. Volatile issues, such as the regulation of environmental and public-health risks, often lead to accusations of ‘junk science’ from opposing sides. Politicians would find it more difficult to attack science endorsed by avowedly bipartisan groups of scientists, and more difficult to justify their policy preferences by scientific claims that were contradicted by bipartisan panels.

During the cold war, scientists from America and the Soviet Union developed lines of communication to improve the prospects for peace. Given the bitter ideological divisions in the United States today, scientists could reach across the political divide once again and set an example for all.

“Reach across the political divide”? What? How? Scientists are not a voting bloc in congress. They aren’t trying to reach compromises with a group of people — they’re trying to understand the natural world, and when one party consistently defies reality with theological nonsense, we’re not going to reach out to them. We’re going to tell them they’re wrong.

There is another strategy for members of the electorate to take other than compromise: it is to advocate for the party that best fits the values of your group. Right now, the Democrats, imperfectly and with reservations, does a somewhat better job of meeting the expectations of most scientists. Why the hell should we support an anti-science political party? Because bipartisanship is a virtue unto itself? It isn’t.

Sarewitz is simply a middling idiot.

174 comments

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  1. 1
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Christ. It’s not enough that the science deniers want to de-fund real research. Sarewitz (and the rest of the accommodationists, regardless of the issue) want to “pro-actively” hand over their wallets, put their heads on the chopping block, and ask for another paddling.

    How is it that people like this don’t understand that they cannot save themselves by preemptively giving in?

  2. 2
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I wonder why Sarewitz is not writing to complain that energy and tobacco companies are overwhelmingly supporting GOP candidates and think tanks that exclusively support GOP candidates?

  3. 3
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere: A Study of Public Trust in the United States, 1974 to 2010

    PDF: http://www.asanet.org/images/journals/docs/pdf/asr/Apr12ASRFeature.pdf

    I can upload the podcast from here if anybody wants.

  4. 4
    athiev

    Which party is it that, year after year, demands an end to NSF funding for political science research because in their view Fox News does the same thing but better? How should political scientists make common cause with such an inane existential threat? Science isn’t bipartisan; it’s nonpartisan. But devoted scientists will sensibly act to politically oppose anti-scientific demagogues.

  5. 5
    Jem

    “Even Nobel prizewinners are citizens with political preferences”? My Gods, really!? That’s an unexpected revelation. Definitely need to fix that.

  6. 6
    Gregory Greenwood

    Sarewitz seems to be trotting out more of the standard ‘Golden Mean’ nonsense that so infests American political culture – the argument that the best, most rational position between two opposing viewpoints is automatically and in all cases bang in the middle.

    The problem here is not that scientists are enaging in some politically motivated conspiracy against the GOP, but that Golden Mean blather such as that put forward by Sarewitz is utter tosh – sometimes one side in a debate is simply wrong, and there are few things more guaranteed to ensure that you wind up on the wrong side of any given issue than placing your personal beliefs and preferences on a pedestal while ignoring the evidence. It is obvious to any rational observer that the Republican Party parted company with reality acrimoniously decades ago – why should scientists seek the ‘bipartisan middle ground’ when the GOP has absolutely no respect for the scientific method? Why should scientists pander to GOP delusions at the expense of scientific endeavour just to make nice with people who have stated their disdain for science and scientists on countless occasions?

    The GOP willingly declared war on science and reason when it advanced their cause and rallied their base; it is too late to start crying now that one of their favourite punching bags has the strength to start punching back, and it is nauseating to see anti-science accommodationists like Sarewitz rushing to the defence of the very people who have sought for so long to corrupt or destroy scientific disciplines on the altar of their religion.

  7. 7
    SallyStrange

    In this, as in all matters political, especially the fiscal cliff nonsense, everyone seems to be dancing around the fact that it’s the Republican party that is composed of anti-science morons who cultivate their ignorance and parade their lack of understanding around like a badge of virtue. What is it going to take for the media and the citizenry in general to give those schmucks the cold shoulder for good?

  8. 8
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    As always, the compromise is always to the right, always towards the wrong. Why isn’t Sarewitz asking for any compromise from Republicans? It is always “both sides do it” followed by demands that only one side do anything about it… always the worst thing possible.

  9. 9
    marcikesserich

    The false equivalence of the Republican party’s outright rejection of science and “Some Democrats are hippies who don’t like vaccinations or HMO” is a zombie argument that never seems to die. I know it’s not your intention to paint them as equal, PZ, but I don’t think the key is in counting up which side has more idiots, but looking at what those idiots are doing.

    Liberals, for all their belief in homeopathy, crystals, tinctures, superfoods, channeling, ESP, the evils of GMO, the link between vaccines and autism, and QUANTUM, are largely content to confine their ruin to themselves (save the anti-vaxers, who should be shipped off to try their luck in Calcutta.) They believe perfectly stupid things, but I don’t see them demanding that school boards train every school nurse in acupuncture.

    Conservatives, by contrast, are not content simply to believe in nonsense. They need YOU to believe, or at least keep your mouth shut if you don’t. It’s not just that they’re wrong – they’re aggressively, evangelically wrong.

  10. 10
    Rob Grigjanis

    “Science is bipartisan”. Vapid? It’s surreal. A Goon Show punchline.

  11. 11
    chigau (違う)

    During the cold war, scientists from America and the Soviet Union developed lines of communication to improve the prospects for peace.

    [citations needed]

  12. 12
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    Anti-vaxxers are by no means relegated to the left.

  13. 13
    Matt G

    Science is NON-partisan, not bipartisan. This is not the first piece of BS that Nature has published recently either.

  14. 14
    strange gods before me ॐ

    chigau: Pugwash, for instance.

  15. 15
    No One

    …offers no serious answers to how scientists are supposed to be “non-partisan.”

    That’s easy. Stop interfering with the Republicans profit margin for a start. Then never, ever, point out that they are wrong about anything.

  16. 16
    chigau (違う)

    Thanks, ॐ.

  17. 17
    Ingdigo Jump

    Let me try to distill the logic of the “idiot passcifist”

    A) Isn’t it terrible that people fight so much?
    B) Stop fighting and then we won’t have to fight!

    A is true and I think we can all agree that it is horrible that we all have to fight so much. B is moronic because it’s ignoring that people aren’t just fighting because they’re assholes but because they actually think something is important. It’s basically the child yelling “YOU’RE TEARING THIS FAMILY APART!!!!”

  18. 18
    Ingdigo Jump

    Alternativly it reminds me of the moron players I’d get in HS D&D who thought TN meant they needed to exactly balance every good action with a selfish one and every orderly decision with pulling down their pants and waving their privates at old ladies.

  19. 19
    Crudely Wrott

    Science, happily, ignores politics. In fact, science is likely the most apolitical pursuit of humanity.
    On occasion, a scientist or a practitioner of science, will voice an opinion outside of their field of expertise. Too often, the frightened and frantic practitioners of politics will seize upon such statements to make of them whatever they feel might profit their own partisan goals. Shabby. That is, shabby.

    That they do in no way changes or influences the path of science. It cannot. That fact does not stop profiteers from mangling misunderstood principles and poorly phrased sentiment.

    If science is partisan, then so is true love. If such is the case then we are truly screwed.

    Pro tip: When your own, personal expertise in a nonpolitical field leads you to make a political statement based on nothing else, you are doing it wrong. Authoritative political statements require broad knowledge and wide experience and a working knowledge of politics. Simple observer status does not qualify. Novices and one trick ponies should not try. Also, elder statesmen should be listened to. They usually have broader knowledge and wider experience.

    A successful scientist could be someone who knows most all of what is known about a particular discipline and thereby be regarded as a highly intelligent person. In such a case let that person hold forth on the subject known. To expect that person to be fluent in politics is akin to expecting a cargo pilot to know how to paint like Picasso.

  20. 20
    Ingdigo Jump

    Science, happily, ignores politics.

    You clearly have never had to actually seek a grant

  21. 21
    Ingdigo Jump

    If science has no effect on politics it is useless. Science should damn well effect our politics or else it means we’re a rudderless ship being steered by delusions and hallucinations as much as reality.

  22. 22
    Crudely Wrott

    True, Ing. I never have had to apply for a grant.
    But that wouldn’t be science would it? Wouldn’t that be more like, I dunno, politics?

  23. 23
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Crudely Wrott

    *waves hands indicating a need for you to keep going with that idea*

    You’re very very close to my point

  24. 24
    Crudely Wrott

    Re your 21 Ing, science does influence politics but it does so in practice, not principle.

    For instance, no laws regarding people flying in airplanes were made until science was applied to allow people to fly in airplanes and others to profit thereby.

    There are endless other examples but the pattern should be made clear by this one.

    Oh. Electricity. Telegraph. Telephone. Steam power. Rubber tires. (Oh, shut up, Crudely)

  25. 25
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Crudely

    Your last comment doesn’t make any sense

  26. 26
    Argle Bargle

    Sarewitz needs to read Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science. It’s a little dated and I’m aware that Mooney is not one of the most popular people around here, but the book would give Sarewitz reason to think he was wrong in his political accommodationism.

  27. 27
    Crudely Wrott

    @Ing, 23:

    Ahh. I see that we are thinking along parallels.

    It’s not the science itself or any perceived authority that a scientist or scientists in general might have, it is the social consequences of the application of science that stirs the political pot. And so it must.

    If it were not for the science that creates boxes on wheels in which we can all go whizzing along at breakneck speed there would be no reason for traffic laws and unmarked police cars.

    Science, while not creating knowledge of things, reveals and codifies it. Once that has trickled down to the general population in a form that is easily exploited, like not having to actually walk over to your TV and turn a knob, the conditions of life are fundamentally changed.

    Whenever changes occur in society it seems that politicians are required to tell us what is and what is not appropriate behavior. That being based on a balance of benefit vs. harm. I agree that this is necessary but in my own fashion I regret it. How much better if we already knew.

    Your turn . . . ;^>

  28. 28
    Neil Rickert

    Perhaps I am missing the point here.

    Is the idea that because one of our politically parties has gone certifiably insane, that therefore 50% of scientists must also go insane to prove that they are non-partisan?

    Somehow I prefer the old idea, that scientists are among the more sane and rational members of society.

  29. 29
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    During the cold war, scientists from America and the Soviet Union developed lines of communication to improve the prospects for peace.

    By flattering anti-science politicians? By pretending there were no substantive differences between the two governments? I’m trying to see how this claim is even relevant.

  30. 30
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Crudely

    You’re only talking about major technological developments which is not the entirety of science.

    Empirical data should drive policy.

  31. 31
    consciousness razor

    So Sarewitz piously bleats out this nonsense, and then, as you might expect, offers no serious answers to how scientists are supposed to be “non-partisan.”

    Like several others have mentioned (is wrong), “non-partisan” never gets used. It’s “bipartisan,” as if scientific facts were 1) identical to political policies and 2) that there should be compromises about what those facts policies are between the two big parties.

    Because who really pays attention to how any of this ever happens, or which order it ought to be in? Smear it all together into one concept, and you’re done. As a bonus, Republicans get to be off the hook.

    Given the bitter ideological divisions in the United States today, scientists could reach across the political divide once again and set an example for all.

    “Reach across the political divide”? What? How?

    Well, Congress is full of scientists, obviously, who ought to be reaching across the aisles in their laboratories. The problem is that they’re not working together to discover the right kinds of policies. Maybe we should try what they do at the LHC: collide Democrats and Republicans together to study all the muddle-headed Independents which get produced. Or so I have heard — but of course, it’s exotic and European, so probably no one here will want to do that.

  32. 32
    Nemo

    Science is not non-partisan, even in principle. Science is anti-authoritarian by its nature. If all propositions aren’t open to question, then you aren’t really doing science. Deference to authority and received wisdom are anathema to science. This puts science towards the “left” side of the political spectrum, inevitably. It’s not just recent politics; it’s been true for centuries.

  33. 33
    Crudely Wrott

    Well then perhaps what I’m trying to say can be said briefly.

    The pursuit of science does not rely on satisfying the yearnings of power structures.
    The pursuit of politics does.

    The difference is that science is an honest endeavor and requires an open mind and a willingness to learn as well as a willingness to change assumptions.
    Politics is concerned with maintaining an illusion of wisdom and an imposition of authority as well as a deep seated reluctance to admit error.

    The gap between the two is as broader than the Grand Canyon.

    Sorry to be obtuse above.

  34. 34
    Crudely Wrott

    Nemo echoes my intent with the above.

  35. 35
    Ingdigo Jump

    Politics is concerned with maintaining an illusion of wisdom and an imposition of authority as well as a deep seated reluctance to admit error.

    Can you provide a definition of politics as you’re using the term? We’re not matching here

    My preferred one as it is the most inclusive is ” a : the total complex of relations between people living in society
    b : relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view”

  36. 36
    consciousness razor

    Science is not non-partisan, even in principle. Science is anti-authoritarian by its nature.

    “Anti-authoritarian” does have some political implications, but it isn’t a party or a platform.

    The pursuit of science does not rely on satisfying the yearnings of power structures.

    It shouldn’t. That does not mean that it doesn’t.

    The difference is that science is an honest endeavor and requires an open mind and a willingness to learn as well as a willingness to change assumptions.
    Politics is concerned with maintaining an illusion of wisdom and an imposition of authority as well as a deep seated reluctance to admit error.

    That’s basically what science should be.

    On the other hand, politics shouldn’t have the concerns you describe. It often does, but that doesn’t mean it should.

  37. 37
    anteprepro

    So, if I have this straight: Republicans reject social science, reject science insofar as it is relevant to reproduction and natural resources, reject climate science, but it is Democrats fault for politicizing science. Since they are characterizing themselves as champions of science and characterizing Republicans as opponents to it. It is the Democrats fault that most scientists support Democrats. It is damaging to science if we don’t get the public to believe that the people who reject any science that doesn’t agree with them are still pro-science.

    Despite being a good ol’ super liberal Democrat himself, Sarewitz can’t seem to accept that maybe, just maybe, Democrats call Republicans anti-science because they are . That Republicans reject science because they reject inconvenient facts and don’t care about political affiliation of the researchers. That scientists support Democrats because of the above facts. That this isn’t an issue of bias or smearing on the part of Democrats, but an issue of Republicans blatantly divorcing themselves from reality, in a way that is especially obvious to the people who thoroughly explore the very facts that Republicans go out of their way to distort, discard, or bury.

    You have to commend Sarewitz, good ol’ super liberal Democrat that he is, for the amount of mental contortions and plain denial of simple, obvious facts required in order to reach the conclusions that he has on this subject. It takes talent to get things so ass-backwards.

  38. 38
    johnmarley

    @Crudely Wrott
    Science is non-political. That does not mean that scientists should be. You seem to be conflating scientists with science. As PZ said, any responsible scientist should support whichever party whose policies best follow reality. In the case of the US, that is currently the Democratic Party. Which is why Sarewitz is full of shit.

  39. 39
    consciousness razor

    Since they are characterizing themselves as champions of science and characterizing Republicans as opponents to it.

    It’s not Republicans’ fault that they’re a party of ignorant, authoritarian reactionaries. The Democrats won the coin toss. They chose the light side, so somebody had to play on the dark side (or cowboys and Indians, etc.), lest we deprive ourselves of that wonderful thing known as “bipartisanship,” which is what Congress does on a special holiday once per generation, when instead of obstructing and dismantling everything the other side does, they opt to do nothing at all.

  40. 40
    Crudely Wrott

    Ing:

    My preferred one as it is the most inclusive is ” a : the total complex of relations between people living in society
    b : relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view”

    That seems to be an idealistic view of what politics should be.
    I am speaking in terms of how it is today in America. If you would like some references please talk to the people on Staten Island or visit any Indian Reservation.

    While I share your notion that politics is the complex of relations between people I find that the current practice leaves much to be desired. It has historically. That’s the reason why I regard science more highly. That and the fact that I read a lot of science fiction growing up.

    I have said before that as I grew up I was looking forward to a world where people, by and large, were more informed, more capable and more connected to reality. I saw science as the means to accomplish this. When I did grow up (which I’m still doing) and went out among the people and talked science and accomplishment and the bettering of society I was usually greeted with blank stares. To me, that is the chief tragedy.

    consciousness razor:

    On the other hand, politics shouldn’t have the concerns you describe. It often does, but that doesn’t mean it should.

    But it does have those concerns. Barring a local pol that you might know who is conscientious and a worthy public servant (which all politicians actually are, despite their behavior) the chief news making pols today seem to be obstructionists and deniers. How is it that the people we elect or appoint are that way? Could science possibly help them?

  41. 41
    Ingdigo Jump

    That seems to be an idealistic view of what politics should be.

    Please point out what was idealistic about that

  42. 42
    Crudely Wrott

    Johnmarley @ 38: Thank you for pointing out that distinction. I had overlooked it.

    I did not mean to imply that scientists should not act politically. I did mean to draw a distinction between the natures of science, which is an honest quest for understanding of reality and politics which apparently seeks to create a separate reality. Or several. Depending on which side of the isle they sit. I also meant to imply, but did not say implicitly, that politicians could perform their jobs better if they were a little more scientific.

    I shall keep your admonishment in mind in future comments.

  43. 43
    JohnnieCanuck

    Sarewitz is a liberal Democrat?

    He’s been drinking from the wrong KoolAid fountain. What does he stand to gain by selling scientists and Democrats down the drain like this? Also, Nature loses a little more respect.

  44. 44
    Crudely Wrott

    Ing. By calling your definition idealistic I erred. You are correct in a dictionary sense and I can’t argue that.

    What is more to the point is politics as practiced today, the amount of money it costs, and the lives that it affects.

    In a dictionary sense, the apprehension and application of the “relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view” would find some satisfactory end. By that I mean an end that would sway a preponderance of the populace and would be expedient in creating harmony and profit on a wide scope. That this is not the case currently my view of politics is rather jaded.

    An historical or scholarly overview of politics might show the successes of previous attempts to make laws and distribute wealth and insure the common welfare. However, today, in my homeland, the practice has gone down the plug hole and I am not well disposed to people who visit my town in convoys accompanied by suits with wires coming out of their ears. Can you picture a convention of scientists thus?

  45. 45
    anteprepro

    What does he stand to gain by selling scientists and Democrats down the drain like this?

    A smug sense of superiority over those Lesser Democrats/Scientists/Atheists.
    A cookie from the oppressors whose turds he is endlessly polishing.
    A sick sadistic thrill from seeing people agreeing to submit for more beatings based on his disingenuous advice.

    Mostly it’s the smug, I’m sure.

  46. 46
    The Vicar (via Freethoughtblogs)

    Sarewitz seems to be trotting out more of the standard ‘Golden Mean’ nonsense that so infests American political culture – the argument that the best, most rational position between two opposing viewpoints is automatically and in all cases bang in the middle.

    The very notion that the best, most rational position will be the one in the middle of all partisans — as opposed to something which can be determined by examining evidence and applying reason — is, in itself, poison to discourse. The only possible strategy to adopt if policy will be determined by midpoints is absolute radicalism. After all, the further you push towards the extreme, the further you will move the midpoint in that direction. If instead you attempt to actually advocate for the solution you think will actually work, and nothing more, then you are more or less guaranteeing that the middle will be elsewhere, and that the policy based on it will be something you don’t recommend.

    (In essence, this is what has been permitting the Republicans to keep pushing right for the last several decades.)

  47. 47
    Crudely Wrott

    Just one more thing. It seems to me to be just and proper, and I think history bears my point well, that with knowledge of and dexterity with the fundamental forces and processes that make the world go round and that hold the galaxies together, that scientists should speak their minds. They should do so loudly and they should make every attempt to incite others to do so as well. To my satisfaction, there are many scientists who do, many organizations that support them and many regular people who support the organizations.

    To speak to policy and governance is the responsibility of all citizens. Those who are more accurately informed really do have the most authoritative voices despite what the evening news says. A pitiful few years from now Speaker Boener may have a lousy reputation and be relegated to the POG dungheap for all I know. Or he could be held up as a saint. But I have no doubt that for centuries to Carl Sagan and Charles Darwin, to name but two, will long be regarded as luminaries and worthy fellows to emulate.

    If science is partisan, it falls on the side of personal autonomy and widespread cooperation among all people. For the good of all. Not for the good of some.

  48. 48
    Crudely Wrott

    errata: “. . .for centuries to come . . .”

    >grins weakly<

  49. 49
    sc_4a317115d325303b9eecf328f10ae484

    Daniel Sarewitz has been publishing this same malarkey for some years now;
    http://www.salon.com/2010/12/09/no_republican_scientists/

  50. 50
    johnmarley

    I did not mean to imply that scientists should not act politically.

    Thank you for clarifying that, because this:

    A successful scientist could be someone who knows most all of what is known about a particular discipline and thereby be regarded as a highly intelligent person. In such a case let that person hold forth on the subject known. To expect that person to be fluent in politics is akin to expecting a cargo pilot to know how to paint like Picasso.

    seemed to be saying exactly that.

  51. 51
    Rob Grigjanis

    Crudely Wrott @47:

    I’m afraid my view of Sagan was warped at an early age. He introduced me to the godawful Drake Equation, and the ridiculous notion that species capable of interstellar journeys must be benign. I’m sure he did a lot of good besides, but I honestly couldn’t take him seriously after that.

  52. 52
    Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)

    This puts science towards the “left” side of the political spectrum, inevitably. It’s not just recent politics; it’s been true for centuries.

    There’s nothing inherently anti-authoritarian about the left. Left-right and authoritarian/anti-authoritarian a two different vectors if you view them as a line. Hence the needs for qualifiers like”left-wing anarchist” and “right-wing anarchist”.

  53. 53
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @39.consciousness razor :

    It’s not Republicans’ fault that they’re a party of ignorant, authoritarian reactionaries.

    Well, actually it kinda *is* the Republicans fault.

    That’s been their decision(s), the demographic they’ve chosen to pander to and whisper sour misinformations to in denial of reality, eg. on Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating.

    Who else would be to blame for that if not them?

  54. 54
    clastum3

    Isn’t this all just a smokescreen to obscure the single most important fact : an awful lot of science /scientists depend(s) on public money? Scientists will have a natural bias towards tax-and-spend politicians.

    I’ll do them the favour of allowing that sometimes the bias is unconscious.

  55. 55
    Chloe H

    I had no clue that people associated anti-vaccination people with the left!
    I will have to look into this.
    All the people I’ve come across personally (or through friends) who were against vaccinations, always seemed to have various other views that would clearly put them in the right wing, Republican or Libertarian.

    One thing I have noticed from anti-vaccination people, is that they say they think that pharmaceutical companies are pushing vaccines to make money. And a distaste for profiteering is generally associated with the left.
    But there’s even a flaw there, because I think vaccines are the least profitable drugs to make, no?

  56. 56
    John Morales

    clastum3:

    Isn’t this all just a smokescreen to obscure the single most important fact

    No.

    There is a distinction between the politicisation of science and scientists having political views.

    Scientists will have a natural bias towards tax-and-spend politicians.

    By that reasoning, the entire military/industrial complex will have that bias even more, since the entirety of their funding is what you call “public money”.

    Also by that reasoning, you’d expect both scientists at large and the military will support the same politicians.

    (Is that the case?)

    I’ll do them the favour of allowing that sometimes the bias is unconscious.

    Scientists when doing science use the scientific method; the method takes bias into account (e.g. by peer review and replication).

  57. 57
    Crudely Wrott

    Rob Grigjanis @51
    I’m sorry you feel that way. Perhaps this will make you feel better. We are all dreamers of a sort. New knowledge opens up new horizons and at first they seem so close. The truth is always just a little further away, behind that cloud, just over the next ridge. You actually have to walk all the way to the horizon and it is always a longer walk than you first thought. Like trying to touch a rainbow.

    Few of us do; Sagan did. That his enthusiasm preceded his arrival at the horizon is understandable. For his youth, we forgive him. Each of us, like him, has the chance to peek over the edge of the world and gaze into infinity. It’s just a matter of will, and nerve.

    I’ll grant you this, though. It is very hard to describe that vista and much is lost to the clumsiness of language. Those who try are often at a loss. Maybe it’s just a failure to communicate.
    /end struther martin voice/

    It is just this sort of thing that puts politics in its place, or would in a proper crudley wrott world. Second to enlightenment and a servant of it. I see that politics has broken its leash of late and runs rampant not just in the streets but through the banks and the halls of justice and the local cop shop. That is because there is so little enlightenment reaching the millions. If the general population were more science literate and possessed of critical thinking skills I guarandoubledamntee that politics would look a whole lot different. Would that it were so. And if it were so it would be partisan.

  58. 58
    Chloe H

    @ StevoR #53
    See comment #15 “interfering with the Republicans profit margin”

    Maybe you’ve got the cart before the horse?
    Is it not possible that Republicans don’t like science because it reveals truths that might interfere with their economic goals/policies? And therefore seeking the support of anti-science religious people is just about finding political support by exploiting very religious Christians’ fear or dislike of science?

    I don’t know if that’s the case. But it seems more plausible than the other way round.
    Is there a way to see what’s more likely? I don’t know.

  59. 59
    Maureen Brian

    strange gods before me, you were right to mention Pugwash in this context! Though I was a bit juvenile in the 50s and 60s I have a very clear memory of which end of the political spectrum saw them as “nice blokes, if a bit ivory tower” and which end was quite keen for each of them to meet an unfortunate accident and soon.

    One thing Russell, Rotblat and others did manage to do was keep the political classes unconfused about scientific fact, dissuading them from making up whole new sciences (sic) for short-term political advantage.

  60. 60
    mikeyb

    To be fair, republicans tend to support some forms of science as it relates to:
    *military industrial complex
    *improvements in gun manufacturing
    *surveillance state
    *oil fracking
    *improvements in sonography to require dem women to have to see dem babies when pregnant

    just to name a few

  61. 61
    raven

    Isn’t this all just a smokescreen to obscure the single most important fact : an awful lot of science /scientists depend(s) on public money?

    The USA R&D budget is roughly $350 billion. The federal government kicks in about half, roughly $180 billion. Roughly half of that is DoD, military. The military funds science and technology because they want to stay alive and breathing, not dead. Science works.
    tScience runs on money. The most successful project I was involved in spent $300 million.

    It sounds like a lot of money but it pays off.
    1. Our civilization is science based. No science progress, no civilization advancement.

    2. A report from the GOP Bush administration blames science for half of all US economic growth during the 20th century. This is where we went from horses to space vehicles and lifespans increased 30 years.

    3. US exceptionalism and world leadership depends on our lead in science. That is what your federal tax science dollars bought.

    Science does depend on public money a lot. Without it, the USA would head for 3rd world banana republic status. It wouldn’t happen immediately but happen it would.

    All this is well known among anyone with a brain. That used to include the GOP but that is fading rapidly as they wander off into cloud cuckoo land and place ideology and toxic fundie xianity above rational thought.

  62. 62
    raven

    I had no clue that people associated anti-vaccination people with the left!

    Anit-vaxxers and alt medicine woo are orthogoanal to the left right political axis.

    There are a lot of right wing anti-vaxxers and they also tend to be heavy users of quack medicine.

  63. 63
    unclefrogy

    Sarewitz argument makes little sense, the plea for bipartisanship should be delivered to the reactionaries in the republican party.
    There is a distinction between what the nature of politics in general are and the state of politics in the U.S. today.
    I have been thinking for some time that some times lately it looks similar to the 1850′s I hope that is just my paranoia .
    uncle frogy

  64. 64
    glodson

    What Sarewitz seems to ignore is that the is a party that seems to put more wieght on faith.

    The GOP is not waging a war on science. It is a war on reality. Science is just in the way. When one party is hellbent on fighting reality itself when it doesn’t match what they hold true on faith, how can a rational person be non-partisan?

  65. 65
    coldthinker

    3. US exceptionalism and world leadership depends on our lead in science. That is what your federal tax science dollars bought.

    So, as someone who dearly wishes for the friendship of Americans but abhors the imperialist idea of “American leadership”, I should probably start supporting the republicans. Do they accept foreign money?

  66. 66
    glodson

    @65 By how much would you like to see our already bloated military budget increased if they get control?

  67. 67
    coldthinker

    @66
    Perhaps, after a few decades of tea parties, all you’d have would be horses and bayonettes? Or is so that democrat scientists keep developing new hi-tech weaponry for the republican army to use for future invasions?

    I’m sure the military R&D is the last one to go, even if all other science were eliminated. But still, we here outside the US are not that worried about invasions by, say, Guatemala or Colombia, which are probably the republican ideal societies with regard to the religiosity, science education, taxes and income difference.

  68. 68
    Atlee Solomon

    Just because there is another “side” (really, more like an island on Xenu), doesn’t mean that choosing both is right. In fact, with even the “moderate” GOP at such an extreme position on, well, everything… the middle is conservative.

    Buying into the myth of bipartisanship defeats the whole point of science, the search for the truth.

    Unfortunately for Sarewitz, life isn’t in the middle; life is left of the democrats, life is radical.

  69. 69
    ethicsgradient

    Sarewitz could do with taking a more international outlook. He’d see that, in other developed countries, science is not rejected by the major right wing parties. Science is international, and the actions for climate change need to be international too. It’s only in the US that there’s one party with, as glodson aptly puts it above, a ‘war on reality’. He’s being pushing this ridiculous message for years; it’s the worst sort of “both sides do it” sludge I’ve seen. Look at this:

    When it comes to questions like these, political beliefs can map nicely onto different ways of selecting, assembling, and interpreting the science. If you believe that government should intervene in markets to incentivize rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, you can justify your preference with data, theories, and models that predict increases in extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts, and floods. And if you believe, as do many conservatives, that government intervention in markets and in social arrangements should be kept to a minimum, you can find factual support for your views in the long-term unpredictability of regional climate behavior, the significant economic and social costs associated with shifting to more expensive energy sources, and the historical failure of government efforts to steer large-scale social and economic change.

    That atrocious article ends up saying “political progress on climate change requires not more scientific input into politics, but less”. Believing this fool would give the Republicans a permanent veto on any action on climate, or any area involving science, by saying “don’t talk about the scientific facts until these nice politicians have all agreed what they want to do, regardless of reality”. Anyone who thinks modern-day Republicans are eager to resolve their differences with Democrats (or reality) hasn’t been watching the news for the past 4 years.

  70. 70
    Argle Bargle

    From the link sc_[alphanumeric jumble] posted in #49:

    And those rascally Democrats are making it worse! “During the Bush administration,” Sarewitz writes, “Democrats discovered that they could score political points by accusing Bush of being anti-science.["] Oh, heavens! And all the Bush administration did was systematically suppress and misuse science!

    How rude of Democrats to score political points with that fact, and then use the fact that most scientists are appalled with Republican policies to go around bragging about how they’re “pro-science,” just because the other party is one where Jim Inhofe is not only welcome but also the former chairman of the Senate Environmental Committee.

  71. 71
    Drolfe

    [meta]

    CR,

    They chose the light side, so somebody had to play on the dark side (or cowboys and Indians, etc.),

    In this example the light side got genocided and the dark side annexed the light side’s land with the aid of state power and then entrenched racist memes for centuries. Maybe it’s not the best analogy for 21st century politics!

    I snark, but obviously when little kids played cowboys and Indians back in the “good old days” it was and is highly problematic (the old days were bad). Cops and robbers is perhaps better, but still has room for nuance. (“But mom! I had to steal food to feed my family so the robber is the good guy!”)

  72. 72
    roland

    Sarewitz thinks that it is a problem so few scientists are Republican. http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2010/12/lab_politics.single.html
    He is not a scientist but a policy guy, and he’s been living in a bubble for so long that he doesn’t know cause from effect anymore.

  73. 73
    Drolfe

    clastum3,

    Isn’t this all just a smokescreen to obscure the single most important fact : an awful lot of science /scientists depend(s) on public money? Scientists will have a natural bias towards tax-and-spend politicians.

    This is real dumb if you look at the unfunded spending of Republicans vs. Democrats since Carter, i.e., in my lifetime. This would mean that scientists should support Republicans if they want all that sweet, sweet government money. So, hypothesis falsified?

    I’m curious, what if you plotted congressional votes for science funding by party since Nixon? How would that look?

  74. 74
    Drolfe

    I guess I should clarify my critique. Yes, science costs money. It’s certainly not a “bias” unconcious or otherwise to support representatives that will not axe your funding. Unless, say, wanting to be employed is a “bias” unconcious or otherwise. Is that a common usage? I’m biased towards keeping my job?

    As long as Republicans keep stifling science in any way they can, they will not make allies among scientists, generally.

  75. 75
    roland

    The GOP has become the fundamentalist Christian party. There are very few fundamentalist Christian scientists. So you can also ask why is that. “Christian Science” is also very funny. It almost seems like that was invented just to confuse people. “Christian Scientists believe that spiritual reality, or Mind, is the only reality and that the material world – including sickness and death – is an illusion” (Wikipedia). I wish “science” was a protected term.

  76. 76
    roland

    The GOP has become the fundamentalist Christian party. There are very few fundamentalist Christian scientists. So you can also ask why is that. “Christian Science” is also very funny. It almost seems like that was invented just to confuse people. “Christian Scientists believe that spiritual reality, or Mind, is the only reality and that the material world – including sickness and death – is an illusion” (Wikipedia).

  77. 77
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Clastum3@54
    You betray your ignorance of both science and politics. I work in Aerospace–about half of my colleagues are Republican. Of the rest, most are fiscally conservative. What is more, studies show that every dollar spent by NASA generates $3 in economic growth.

    Scientists tend to be pragmatic politically. They favor a strong economy, so that there will be money for good research.

    Quit speaking from ignorance.

  78. 78
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @58.Chloe H

    @ StevoR #53
    See comment #15 “interfering with the Republicans profit margin.” Maybe you’ve got the cart before the horse? Is it not possible that Republicans don’t like science because it reveals truths that might interfere with their economic goals/policies? And therefore seeking the support of anti-science religious people is just about finding political support by exploiting very religious Christians’ fear or dislike of science? I don’t know if that’s the case. But it seems more plausible than the other way round.Is there a way to see what’s more likely? I don’t know.

    Yes, could be I guess. Could be a mixture of both factors in both directions too maybe?

    Thing is, I do think its the Republican party – at least their leaderships fault for being who they are because they’ve sorta taken themselves there and could’ve chosen or opted to go in other better directions instead. Eg. accepting the science of Global Overheating, evolution, etc ..

  79. 79
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    This man doesn’t understand – or has totally lost sight of – the most fundamental aspect of science.

    If scientists want to claim that their recommendations are independent of their political beliefs, they ought to be able to show that those recommendations have the support of scientists with conflicting beliefs.

    No, Sarewitz, they (the scientists and those using their work) ought to be concerned with whether their findings and recommendations have the support of reality. That they’re congruent with reality. We well know that political and economic commitments and ideologies can distort our thinking – science is the set of practices we use to minimize that distortion.*

    This is the same problem I wrote about here, and it’s serious. The natural world doesn’t care about our politics. These people have to get out of their dream world in which reality is a product of ideological struggle.

    *It’s also annoying that he uses the terminology of “recommendations” and “advice,” which has a tendency to lump scientific advising that has political implications in with explicitly political advising.

  80. 80
    clastum3

    Raven @61

    That’s all well and good: I think most people accept a certain level of public funding for science.

    I just fail to see what it has to do with my point, that those who benefit from public funds have a motive for dressing up self-interest as idealism.

  81. 81
    clastum3

    a_ray_in_dilbert_space #77

    Your colleagues sound a very sensible bunch: they hold views that you won’t find aired on pharyngula very often.

  82. 82
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    When it comes to science and reality versus political debates I love the quote here by one climatologist :

    “I like ice also as an indicator of climate change for its political neutrality. Ice asks no questions, presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. Its not burdened by ideology and carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts.”

    - Dr Henry Pollack, geophysicist, University of Michigan.

    Source : http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-wbzK4v7GsM

    ‘Watts Up with Sea Ice?’ Youtube video by Greenman3610 esp. 1 minute 14 secs to 1 minute 51 seconds.

    Although it was earlier prefigured by the likes of Galileo Galilei’s famous albeit apocryphal words :

    “Eppur si muove” (And yet it does move.)

    after recanting his belief in the Copernican theory on threat of torture according to legend. (As cited on Page 334 of Ben Bova’s ‘The Story of Light’, Sourcebooks Inc., 2001.)

  83. 83
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Both quotes in #82 emphasising that there is an actual reality out there that some people (cough, Republicans, cough Religious groups,cough,cough!) can pretend for political reasons isn’t really there or is not happening but science will inform us of the inconvenient or humbling reality regardless of the politics and ideology of the day.

  84. 84
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    I get the distinct feeling that if Daniel Sarewitz was alive in Galileo’s day or shortly afterwards he’d be supporting the Tychonic system as a middle ground compromise between the heliocentric and geocentric astronomical “models”!

  85. 85
  86. 86
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Sarewitz has actually been spewing this sort of crap for decades–since his collaboration with Roger “The Dodger” Pielke (per et fils). For those unfamiliar with the Pielkes, they are among the foremost apologists for climate denialism.

    He seems to be a dimmer, more vapid version of his mentor, Pielke Sr., albeit not quite as dim as Pielke Jr. FWIW, he does have a PhD in geologist, but as near as I can tell he hasn’t published any sort of scientific papers in decades and has scurried into the shadows of science policy.

    As I said before–a cautionary tale of the dangers of sending stupid to college.

  87. 87
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Clastum3,
    My colleagues run the gamut–some are broad and brilliant, some brilliant with blind spots. Climate change in particular seems to present problems for some–in part because they fall victim to the fallacy of argument from consequences. A lot of scientists and engineers are cornucopians who actually think we will someday explore the galaxy rather than live or die on this one planet. It takes a special blindspot for physics to believe that.

  88. 88
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @87. a_ray_in_dilbert_space :

    A lot of scientists and engineers are cornucopians who actually think we will someday explore the galaxy rather than live or die on this one planet. It takes a special blindspot for physics to believe that.

    Really? Why?

    As an amateur astronomer and SF reader and erstwhile writer I think that vision of galactic exploration is a great one and think and hope that we will indeed one day spread well beyond our solar system colonising and creating new worlds. Eg. terraforming Mars a la KimStanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, sending a variety of imaginative and ingenious engineering marvels out into other exoplanetary systems.

    Humans are extraordinary at moving quickly in areas of new technology – remember we went from the Wright brothers first heavier than air plane in 1901 to the Apollo spacecraft in the space of less than 70 years. We’ve already sent robots to the stars in the form of several spaceprobes, landed rovers on Mars and more.

    What do you think is the physical limit stopping this and preventing plausible visionary newer forms of technology such as robotics , cryogenics, life extension, etc .. from overcoming some of the admittedly formidable obstacles in our path to the (other) stars?

    I think you are being far too pessimistic there and under-estimating your co-workers abilities and the rest of Humanity’s potential capabilities.

  89. 89
    billdorman

    I’m embarrased to say I went to high school with John Shimkus.

  90. 90
    No One

    coldthinker

    Perhaps, after a few decades of tea parties, all you’d have would be horses and bayonettes? Or is so that democrat scientists keep developing new hi-tech weaponry for the republican army to use for future invasions?

    They want “American exceptional-ism” but deplore the direction the evidence (on occasion) leads them to. This is why terms such as “operational science” and “micro evolution” are created in order to reconcile reality with desire. They create a container around the tech they like in an attempt to isolate it from the rest of what is, in their view, undesirable.

  91. 91
    david

    As Colbert says “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

  92. 92
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    StevoR,
    Ultimately the limiting factor for human exposure to interplanetary–let alone interstellar–space is exposure to High-atomic-number (Z), High-Energy ions (so-called HZE particles). These can obliterate large volumes of DNA, overcoming any hope of the redundancy we rely on in the genetic code. This results in cancers, harmful mutations, etc. Most recently, they’ve shown that even moderate exposures result in Alzheimers like dementia in mice. What is more, these ions are extremely difficult to shield against–13 cm of Al will only cut the flux by a factor of 2, and even then, you get lots of secondary particles–gamma rays and neutrons–that you can’t shield effectively. Magnetic shielding has been considered, but is not practical for a bunch of reasons (from the size of the magnets needed to the limitations on the materials you can use due to the high fields). Moreoer, the flux increases by roughly a factor of 3x once you leave the protective magnetic/solar wind bubble due to the Sun.

    Couple this with the extremely long voyage times–more than 3-4 generations to reach the nearest habitable planet–and the fact that they would have to take everything with them to survive for that time. Throw in the psychological strain of having it take decades even for a message to reach Earth, and I think you have pretty much insurmountable problems. Then, of course, there is the fact that in about 50-100 years human civilization will be have its population reduced by roughly a factor of 10 and that we’ll likely be living as fairly small groups of hunter gatherers due to our trashing of this planet. But, that is another story.

  93. 93
    Ingdigo Jump

    @StevoR

    Light speed for one is an insurmountable obstacle. Only possible work around depends on unlikly existence of certain particles

    Clostrum is hippy bashing. Claiming liberals don’t care about science or public interest but are just trying to line their coffers. He’s an asshole

  94. 94
    Nick Gotts

    [clastum3 should] Quit speaking from ignorance. – arids

    Asking clastum3 to quit speaking from ignorance is just asking him to STFU. Which is good.

  95. 95
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    David: ‘As Colbert says “reality has a well-known liberal bias.”’

    Actually, for several months, conservatives–on “Conservi__dia”–actually admitted as much in their entry for “reality”.

  96. 96
    raven

    So, as someone who dearly wishes for the friendship of Americans but abhors the imperialist idea of “American leadership”, I should probably start supporting the republicans. Do they accept foreign money?

    In times past you would have been better off learning German or Russian.

    US leadership hasn’t always been a bad thing. We saved the Western Europeans twice from the Germans and stared down the USSR. We put humans on the moon 43 years ago and have robots around Mars and Saturn and one heading for Pluto.

    These days it isn’t much in the way of leadership and what there is isn’t worth much. The USA has the largest lunatic fringes in the world. They even have their own political party, the GOP/Tea Party.

  97. 97
    raven

    That’s all well and good: I think most people accept a certain level of public funding for science.

    I just fail to see what it has to do with my point, that those who benefit from public funds have a motive for dressing up self-interest as idealism.

    Is it self interest to want to live in a functioning nation state that isn’t heading for third world banana republic status?

    If so, all US citizens in theory should be self interested in funding science.

    Science and what it produces, our modern Hi Tech civilization, benefits everyone.

    You do realize that all the stuff of the modern world just didn’t appear by magic don’t you? Your cell phone, computer, the internet, modern medicine etc. is the work of lots of smart people spending lots of money.

  98. 98
    Pierce R. Butler

    Judging from the above comments, poor ol’ Dan Sarewitz has been addicted to the blue pills for decades. (Could the dependence of [much of] geology upon the fossil fuels industry have anything to do with that?)

    But what (by which I mean, what source of funding) could have motivated Nature to offer the world a pitcher of Kool-Aid* to wash down his blue pills with?

    *First typed out as Kook-Aid – ah, the wisdom of fingers…

  99. 99
    Akira MacKenzie

    Ing @ 93

    Clostrum is hippy bashing. Claiming liberals don’t care about science or public interest but are just trying to line their coffers.

    Which is an odd, if not utterly contradictory, position to have when you are a hippy.

  100. 100
    Nick Gotts

    According to Naomi Orsekes and Eric M. Conway’s Merchants of Doubt, a large majority of American scientists in the 1950s identified as Republicans. Since then, however, scientific research has repeatedly and increasingly produced strong evidence that unfettered commercial interests threaten public health and the environment (smoking was the first case, followed by pesticide overuse, acid rain, ozone layer destruction, secondhand tobacco smoke, and of course the really big one – anthropogenic climate change). Since these findings contradict right-wing “free market” ideology, the Republican Party has become increasingly anti-scientific; hence scientists have become increasingly anti-Republican.

    Or more briefly: reality has a leftist bias.

  101. 101
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Akira

    He’s arguing hippy liberals are just as greedy as him and thus their comments can be ignored as lies.

    Disguising self interest as idealism like he said

    Because he’s a nihlist shit who doesn’t get people care about shit

  102. 102
    raven

    Clostrum is hippy bashing. Claiming liberals don’t care about science or public interest but are just trying to line their coffers. He’s an asshole.

    Should have read the thread first. I wasted 30 seconds of my life on a troll!!!

    FWIW, a few decades ago, a lot of scientists were Republican or GOP leaning. I don’t have the numbers handy but for example, one of my professors was head of the county GOP party. The generation of scientists before me and somewhat concurrent with me included lots of people who wore suits and ties as their uniform, lived in the suburbs, and so on.

    Science was and is to some extent tied up with the military industrial complex and the power elites. As one of my coworkers said, “Those people are only liberal at cocktail parties.”

    What has changed isn’t the scientists. The Tea Party/GOP has moved way too far to the right and way too far into the lunatic fringes.

    A party that hates science, scientists, and reality just isn’t going to get much support from its intended victims. No surprise there.

    The only war Bush ever did well in was the GOP War on Science. We all just kept our heads down and hoped he didn’t wreck the country. He did anyway. Some of the current Tea Partiers make Bush look like a brialliant teddy bear.

  103. 103
    raven

    FWIW, a few decades ago, a lot of scientists were Republican or GOP leaning. I don’t have the numbers handy…

    Nick Gotts in comment #100 does though.

  104. 104
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Interesting. I tend to assume a link between Henry Gee and bad choices by Nature in certain areas, but I didn’t think he was involved with this section, so I checked. It appears it’s edited by David Adam, whose most recent writing at Nature is this. (Note the update – “This article has been updated to include details about criticisms of the study” – suggesting this was a grudging addition which isn’t in keeping qith the overall positive assessment.)

  105. 105
    frankensteinmonster

    Science can not be politically neutral because it aims at discovering the truth. And the truth itself is not neutral. If two sides push mutually contradictory claims, the truth “favors” one side, and the other side is simply wrong.

  106. 106
    ChristineRose

    @mikeyb, #60

    To be fair, republicans tend to support some forms of science as it relates to:
    *military industrial complex
    *improvements in gun manufacturing
    *surveillance state
    *oil fracking
    *improvements in sonography to require dem women to have to see dem babies when pregnant

    just to name a few

    Even creationists are pro-evolution when they are in the ER getting an antibiotic.

    As far as the anti-vax/crystal swinging/aura reading/entity channeling bunch, I live in their mist, and they are dems by and large. But they also aren’t in politics. Their idea of politics is to run for the co-op board and try and get the store to stop selling meat. (The GMO and irradiated food battles have long ago been won.) All in all, these people are too cooperative and sincere to be democrats.

  107. 107
    David Marjanović

    SC in particular nails it: Sarewitz seems to believe there is no such thing as reality.

    Science can’t align itself with a political ideology. It’s nailed to the ground, to reality. Parties can choose to align themselves with reality and thus with science, and they can choose not to; science can’t choose.

    Well, actually it kinda *is* the Republicans fault.

    Read the rest of comment 39 instead of stopping after the first sentence, and you’ll see consciousness razor was engaging in sarcasm throughout the entire comment.

    per et fils

    père et fils

    What is more, these ions are extremely difficult to shield against–13 cm of Al will only cut the flux by a factor of 2, and even then, you get lots of secondary particles–gamma rays and neutrons–that you can’t shield effectively.

    It’s telling that Star Trek relies on not just one but several made-up elements as starship material (duranium, tritanium, trellium…). Apparently these were invented in the hope that the Island of Stability around the place where the periodic system currently ends would indeed contain stable and useful elements with magic properties.

    It’s also telling that it relies on the equally made-up di-lith-ium (two-stone-) for the warp drive. Apparently you need Zweistein to overcome the limit discovered by Einstein (one-stone).

    Zefram Cochrane hasn’t been born yet, so I won’t use the word “impossible”, but I’m not holding my breath. For the entire foreseeable future we’re stuck in this solar system, and it’s not clear to me what you hope to accomplish by terraforming Mars or how you’d do that.

    What has changed isn’t the scientists.

    I don’t know about the US, but over here the scientists did shift leftwards from 1968 on. Still, that effect is much smaller than the shift of the Reptilian Party to the right in the same timeframe.

  108. 108
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I thought I remembered that piece having come up on the science blogs, and sure enough it had – when it was cited by Inhofe. It appears Sarewitz has been blowing this particular horn for a long time. The current problem is with some of the editorial choices at Nature.

  109. 109
    David Marjanović

    Science can not be politically neutral because it aims at discovering the truth. And the truth itself is not neutral.

    For once I agree with the frankensteinmonster! :-)

    If two sides push mutually contradictory claims, the truth “favors” one side, and the other side is simply wrong.

    That can happen. But the truth doesn’t necessarily favor one side. It also happens on occasion that all sides (no matter how many) are completely wrong.

  110. 110
    Ingdigo Jump

    I know there’s some talk of a hypothetical warp being more practical than first thought due to some tweaking the idea that gives better math…BUT and this is a big BUT IIRC any real world warp drive idea is contingent on both supersymmetry being correct AND the existence of hypothetical exotic particles (again IIRC it’s particals that have a mass expressed in magnitudes of i) that supersymmetry predicts MIGHT exist. I’m not a physicist so I don’t know the likely hood of supersymmetry or exotic particles but it seems to be a bit of a case of “yes it’s an inch less implausible than we thought! But we’re still talking about a scale of miles”

  111. 111
    David Marjanović

    when it was cited by Inhofe

    Aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh. *facepalm*

  112. 112
    David Marjanović

    I know there’s some talk of a hypothetical warp being more practical than first thought due to some tweaking the idea that gives better math…

    Yeah. People used to think you need a Jupiter mass of “exotic matter” (you know, dilithium) to make a warp drive. Turns out you only need 500 kg of that completely hypothetical stuff – the mass of a small car.

  113. 113
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    It’s also strange that Sarewitz seems to think there’s perfect overlap between people’s identity as scientists and their political identity and choices. As people have said, there are plenty of good reasons for scientists as scientists )and as scientists working on particular questions) to reject and oppose the Republican Party. But they can also be, say, women, gay people, black people, atheists, immigrants, union members, people who care about the environment, people with children in public schools, people burdened with student-loan debt, people without health insurance, or just decent human beings – people in all of these categories have reasons enough as well.

  114. 114
    Rey Fox

    therefore 50% of scientists must also go insane to prove that they are non-partisan?

    No, they have to prove that they’re bipartisan. They have to cater to both of the two particular major political parties of the United States of America, which were born out of our antiquated voting system and various economic and social alliances. It’s all very scientific.

    Isn’t this all just a smokescreen to obscure the single most important fact : an awful lot of science /scientists depend(s) on public money? Scientists will have a natural bias towards tax-and-spend politicians.

    It’s true, the venture of science as we know it and benefit from it depends on the vast amounts of money that can only come from a governmental system. That you choose to throw in the “tax-and-spend” dogwhistle is your own problem.

  115. 115
    Ingdigo Jump

    Yeah. People used to think you need a Jupiter mass of “exotic matter” (you know, dilithium) to make a warp drive. Turns out you only need 500 kg of that completely hypothetical stuff – the mass of a small car.

    Yeah like I said that is a BIG step forward….provided the material even exists. So there’s justification for being more optimistic but not that much

  116. 116
    Ingdigo Jump

    It’s true, the venture of science as we know it and benefit from it depends on the vast amounts of money that can only come from a governmental system. That you choose to throw in the “tax-and-spend” dogwhistle is your own problem.

    The dogwhistle was the soul of the arguement.

    Also can someone inform me what the fuck the alternative is for a government?

    Tax and not spend? Making it a Kleptocracy?

    No Tax and Spend? Impractical

    No tax and No spend? Then what does the Government DO?

  117. 117
    dianne

    So, does the author of this article think that scientists become Democrats just to piss the Republicans off or what? The Reps keep decreasing funding for science and taking non-reality based positions, not to mention their underlying anti-intellectualism. Why would any sane person, much less a working scientist, want to align with them?

    Incidentally, I would claim that pretty much any death of a national level politician that isn’t an assassination is a suicide. If they’d funded the NIH better, a whole lot of research wouldn’t be dropped and a lot of people–including senators, representatives, and presidents–wouldn’t be dying or going to the ICU with complications.

  118. 118
    Ingdigo Jump

    I mean, taxing and spending is the POINT of a government. It’s what it’s supposed to do.

    Collect necessary taxes for upkeep of social needs (roads, police, military, education, public health, minting coin) and spending it on things that benefit the public.

  119. 119
    Rob Grigjanis

    David @107: “For the entire foreseeable future we’re stuck in this solar system”

    And extraterrestrials in our galactic neighbourhood breathe a collective sigh of relief!

  120. 120
    dianne

    A couple of dog whistles for the Republicans about why they need to fund science: The only reason that the US has an advantage over other industrialized countries in terms of science is the NIH and NSF. Pharma spending is about the same per capita in the US and elsewhere. But the US spends–used to spend–more public money on science than other countries and so maintained a leading position in science. The Republicans are throwing that advantage away and making the US more and more irrelevant on the global stage. I suppose that will eventually solve the immigration “problem” as no one will want to move to the US any more.

  121. 121
    brucegorton

    Science is inherently political.

    Politics is all about how society chooses to deal with reality. Science is an incredibly good tool for judging reality.

    Science cannot be apolitical because it shows the results of policies and whether they have achieved their end goals. This is why Republicans hate the sciences, because the sciences have a nasty habit of revealing that Republican talking points are utter bullshit.

    It is also why they hate education, the judiciary, good journalism, and just about every other avenue whereby a voter can get informed on just about any subject.

  122. 122
    Ingdigo Jump

    I work in the research industry and let me tell you, we do almost entirely gov spending. A lot of them are for programs that are very likely to have very positive results…but the biggest one is a DOMA that everyone agrees is most likely a waste of money (trying to research a solution to a problem that can be solved now with conventional means) or would make the world a worse place if it succeeds.

  123. 123
    Ingdigo Jump

    Sorry hit send too soon: my point was DOMA and defense spending are INCREDIBLY wasteful and sometimes very ill conceived or unlikely to benefit the world at all

  124. 124
    Ingdigo Jump

    err DOD not DOMA

  125. 125
    brucegorton

    Ing:Intellectual Terrorist “Starting Tonight, People will Whine”

    Reckless trading. Borrow money with no intention of paying it back.

  126. 126
    MikeG

    Well, Ing, W did the whole “no tax and spend” thing. I like to call it borrow and spend.

  127. 127
    Ingdigo Jump

    @MikeG

    On paper even that isn’t too bad, provided you’re spending on something that will pay off eventually. Middle Eastern occupation? Not so much

  128. 128
    MikeG

    True. With interest rates essentially zero, some borrowing for infrastructure spending would be great right about now.

  129. 129
    Ingdigo Jump

    Also IMO tax cuts and incentive and tax loopholes should be seen as a form of spending as they’re a potential cost (by not taking this funding we are cutting off other avenues to spend it, so it’s equivalent to taking it and then giving it back to the industrys/persons in question in the form of investment)

  130. 130
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I rescind my #113. It’s true, but not really on point or responsive to his argument.

  131. 131
    frankensteinmonster

    It also happens on occasion that all sides (no matter how many) are completely wrong.

    .
    That’s why I used the word contradictory as opposed to contrary to exclude this possibility ( http://atheism.about.com/library/glossary/general/bldef_contradictory.htm )

  132. 132
    kayden

    Even if 100% of scientists voted for the Democratic party, why would that be a problem? I expect that scientists, like every other “interest” group has reasons why they support one political party over others — reasons which make perfect sense to them.

    Does Sarewitz want scientists to vote for politicians who make flippant comments like “women have a way of shutting down their reproductive organs if they are legitimately raped”? Or politicians who deny global warming? He seems to want to shame scientists into voting against their interests.

  133. 133
    Rich Woods

    @raven #96:

    US leadership hasn’t always been a bad thing. We saved the Western Europeans twice from the Germans and stared down the USSR.

    Saved Europe twice? You were late to the party both times. If you (well, to be more precise and less personal, your ancestors) were truly interested in saving Europe the US would have become involved out of principle, like the people who formed the Eagle squadrons did (rather than declaring them criminals). But instead the US government(s) had to wait until it was forced to act by a change in public opinion after very specific and tragic circumstances (although its fair to say that people like FDR and Henry Stimson did provide some support to the UK in WW2 without waiting for popular US support).

    This is an old meme and I always feel uncomfortable in puncturing it (we have a lot of shit like that over here, such as certain tabloid papers frequently referring to the French and Germans in derogatory and war-reminiscent terms whenever they think they can get away with it), but it does need to be punctured. Jingoism is no substitute for a recognition of actual history — I’m English so I should know!

  134. 134
    coldthinker

    raven @ 96′

    Basically, I agree that the Americans have contributed some fabulous things to the world, do so today and will do in the future. This is why I’d hate to see American science ripped of its resources.

    But I strongly disagree with your examples and abhor the word “leadership”. The US has no right to lead other countries. I like to see the US as an ally, but my accepting it as a leader would be, in theory, somewhat treasonous.

    In times past you would have been better off learning German or Russian.

    That’s true, in fact German was the first foreign language for my grandparents. And now a lot of business savvy Northern Europeans choose Russian for their kids’ first language. In a decade, it will be Chinese. However, the assumption is that everyone will pick up English anyway one way or another.

    US leadership hasn’t always been a bad thing. We saved the Western Europeans twice from the Germans and stared down the USSR.

    The US contribution to the war was essential, and I’m glad that your (great)grandfathers did it. But the Nazi Germany was really beaten by the Russians, not the US nor even the Western powers put together. What you say is a lamentable American myth not shared by any Western European I know and horribly insulting to the millions of Russians who died in the prosess. It is one of the ghastly ironies of history that Europe was saved from the Nazis by a psychopathic dictator, who was arguably even more horrible than any Nazi.

    However, not the US nor any other did a thing the help the Finns to fight off first the Russians and then the Germans, which we had to do all alone. Well, some expatriates did send a few cans of tuna, so thanks.

    As for the later cold war era, it is how you look at it. The Russians were a scary power, but recalling my childhood emotions, we were a lot more afraid of the American nuclear cowboy bravado than the Russian chess player machiavellianism.

    We put humans on the moon 43 years ago and have robots around Mars and Saturn and one heading for Pluto.

    This, to me, is the greatest thing about the US. I believe no other culture would have had the adventurous nature to accomplish this. Not to mention the technological resources. A bit ironic again that the Apollo program needed the Nazi scientists to succeed, but I suppose without NASA von Braun would have been building nukes.

    These days it isn’t much in the way of leadership and what there is isn’t worth much. The USA has the largest lunatic fringes in the world. They even have their own political party, the GOP/Tea Party.

    The teabaggers are beyond my reasoning, but how about you decent Americans quit this intolerable talk about “leadership”? Even a fab guy like Neil deGrasse Tyson seems to care more about who’s number one in science, not about the science itself. Why is it so hard for the American mind to accept that we are in this world together, with common problems for all of us to solve?

  135. 135
    Ingdigo Jump

    This, to me, is the greatest thing about the US. I believe no other culture would have had the adventurous nature to accomplish this.

    Wow all those other countries that helped with Curiosity will be surprised to learn they lack the adventurous nature to do what they did. America: credit stealing twits

  136. 136
    Nick Gotts

    I may have misremembered some stuff @100, since I can’t after an initial search find the bit in Merchants of Doubt I thought I recalled. Here is an article by the same authors – Oreskes and Conway – on the shift in American scientists’ political affiliations between the late 1960s (when the proportion voting for Nixon in 1968 was roughly that of the electorate as a whole) and now (or at least, 2009) when only 6% identified as Republican and 9% as conservatives (compared to 52% as liberals). In the book, Orsekes and Conway note that the arms race and Vietnam War began the process of shifting scientists leftward, so it’s reasonable to conclude that most were probably Republican-leaning in the 1950s, but I haven’t found any actual numbers from that decade.

  137. 137
    Nick Gotts

    However, not the US nor any other did a thing the help the Finns to fight off first the Russians and then the Germans, which we had to do all alone. – coldthinker

    You’re putting out your own national myth here: Finland voluntarily allied with Nazi Germany in its 1941 attack on the USSR, and stayed allied until Germany was in no position to do anything about Finland concluding a separate peace – which it was very lucky to be granted by Stalin.

    Moreover, raven’s claim of the US “saving the Western Europeans from Germany” in two world wars has some foundation (setting aside the fact that Germany is part of western Europe), despite the primary importance of the USSR in WWII. In WWI, Germany and its allies defeated Russia in 1917, and would probably have defeated France and Britain in 1918 without American financial and logistical help (most American troops arrived after the crisis point of April-June 1918). In WWII, Hitler might well have defeated the USSR if he hadn’t been obliged to divert resources to the expected struggle with Britain and the USA; and Britain would almost certainly have had to leave the war without American help even before the USA entered the war.

  138. 138
    raven

    But I strongly disagree with your examples and abhor the word “leadership”. The US has no right to lead other countries.

    The US leads mostly by example. It’s just a fact that we spend 1/3 of the world’s science R&D and have the results to show for it. It’s just a fact that the USA with 4.8% of the world’s population has the world’s largest economy.

    Very rarely is anyone forced to go our way. The few exceptions like Vietnam and Iraq were disasters that I opposed with some effort.

    But the Nazi Germany was really beaten by the Russians, not the US nor even the Western powers put together.

    Revisionist history. The US provided the money and materials, the Russians provided the manpower.

  139. 139
    Amphiox

    The Soviets provided a lot of their own money and material too.

    Without any US involvement the most likely outcome would have been Britain being knocked out of the war, but the USSR winning over Nazi Germany eventually, maybe 2-3 years later than what really happened. That would have resulted in the entirety of continental Europe being occupied by the USSR.

    So perhaps the most accurate description is that the US saved Western Europe not from the Nazis, but from the Soviets.

  140. 140
    Ingdigo Jump

    Very rarely is anyone forced to go our way

    I’m sorry Raven but this is pigshit ignorance.

  141. 141
    jnorris

    Reach across the political divide”? What? How?

    An easy solution: every scientist seeking a government grant must include ‘conceal/carry training and licensing’ and put handguns and semi-autos on the equipment list. Nothing says bad-ass bipartisan physicist like a gun rack and AR-15 over the particle accelerator!

  142. 142
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Does Sarewitz want scientists to vote for politicians who make flippant comments like “women have a way of shutting down their reproductive organs if they are legitimately raped”? Or politicians who deny global warming?

    Or politicians – the Texas Republican Party – who put opposition to the teaching of critical thinking in their platform?

    ***

    In the book, Orsekes and Conway note that the arms race and Vietnam War began the process of shifting scientists leftward, so it’s reasonable to conclude that most were probably Republican-leaning in the 1950s, but I haven’t found any actual numbers from that decade.

    It would be really difficult to get good data on scientists’ real political attitudes from the ’50s (really, from 1945-1960). As several books have discussed, that was a very difficult and dangerous time for scientists to express, even privately, liberal (much less further left) ideas or openly oppose policies.* It’s actually interesting to go back before that, as Wang does, and look at the efforts (mostly from scientists who came of age in the ’30s) for a more democratic, open, nonmilitaristic science in the US and how these were smashed. Thinking about that history is making me even angrier with Sarewitz.

    *Many would probably have been wary of answering even an allegedly anonymous survey honestly, and would have had good reason to be wary.

  143. 143
    w00dview

    Anit-vaxxers and alt medicine woo are orthogoanal to the left right political axis.

    There are a lot of right wing anti-vaxxers and they also tend to be heavy users of quack medicine.

    See, scientists? Alternative medicine has reached across the political divide and look how popular it is now! That’s true bipartisanship. You folks sure could learn something from them!

  144. 144
    coldthinker

    Ing @135,

    In the midst of all the criticism let’s not deny praise when it’s due.

    The American adventurous mindset was essential to the success of the Apollo program. Of course, the US also enjoyed the technological and intellectual resources of a huge industrial nation, it was undamaged (actually furthered by) two world wars, and the large population was united by a common language and culture.

    Without these essentially American things, the first human on the moon would be a Chinese taikonaut around 2029, not 1969. So, whatever one thinks politically about “American leadership”, the US space program has so far been beyond comparison.

    As to the success of the Curiosity, it was undeniably the expertise of NASA that put it on Mars. No other space program is capable of this feat at the moment. While some essential scientific equipment is provided by other countries — I was thrilled by the fact that some of of was built practically in my neighbourhood — the mission was still mostly funded by the US.

    But I did find it infuriating that the administrator of NASA chose not to celebrate this as a triumph of the international scientific cooperation, but instead turned this fact into a humiliating political bravado about American leadership.

  145. 145
    Nick Gotts

    Revisionist history. The US provided the money and materials, the Russians provided the manpower. – raven

    Largely wrong. The crucial time in the Nazi-Soviet war was the autumn of 1941, during which little material reached the USSR from outside, and Soviet-built tanks proved their superiority to German models.

  146. 146
    ck

    Ing:Intellectual Terrorist “Starting Tonight, People will Whine” wrote:

    Very rarely is anyone forced to go our way

    I’m sorry Raven but this is pigshit ignorance.

    Exactly. Just because the U.S. rarely marches troops into the streets to get their way, that doesn’t mean they don’t force countries to comply with what the U.S. wants. Let’s just say that U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, was not very popular in Canada because of the way the U.S. administration at the time (Bush, the second) issued not-so-veiled threats through him to the press. The man must’ve been completely tone-deaf when it comes to Canada, though, because nothing inspires Canadians to oppose more than an American politician saying, “you must”.

  147. 147
    Ingdigo Jump

    Without these essentially American things,

    FFS: these are not “essentially” American things.

    I’m American but I refuse this fucking myth that freedom and ingenuity are our inventions. It’s bullshit.

    And while we’re at it let’s not praise American adventure spirit for Apollo; let’s praise the Soviets for whom without with a pissing contest would have never motivated us to get to the moon so quick.

  148. 148
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    coldthinker:

    The American adventurous mindset was essential to the success of the Apollo program. Of course, the US also enjoyed the technological and intellectual resources of a huge industrial nation, it was undamaged (actually furthered by) two world wars, and the large population was united by a common language and culture.

    Without these essentially American things

    Why do you think that technology and intellectual resources are essentially American things? Do you suppose no other countries on Earth have both to a greater or lesser degree than the U.S.? What makes both essentially American?

    Don’t forget you’re commenting among people from across the globe, so American exceptionalism isn’t blindly accepted here.

  149. 149
    Jadehawk

    the US? “united by a common language”? when was that supposed to be the case, and especially when was that supposed to be the case in such a way as to make it an “essentially American” quality?

  150. 150
    maddog1129

    I think Sarewitz is right about one thing: everybody, regardless of political affiliation, should be taught that science is the same and works the same for everyone, regardless of political affiliation. There are a lot of people who deny scientific reality. Scientists are the ones who know, and are in the best position to educate laypersons about that scientific reality.

  151. 151
    PatrickG

    SC (Salty Current), OM @ 113

    But they can also be, say, women, gay people, black people…

    Don’t be silly. Everyone knows all scientists are cis white males. That’s why they should be willing to support the Republican Party!

    But seriously, I was really struck that Sarewitz seems to think “scientist” means “a person who is 100% defined by doing that science work and has no other attributes worth noting”.

  152. 152
    Ingdigo Jump

    @maddog

    I like the version of Sarewitz you’ve hallucinated over the one we have

  153. 153
    Jadehawk

    what was essential to the success of the Apollo program was that the US was in a pissing contest with the USSR, and the soviets got a human into space first, freaking the living fuck out of the US. I’ll grant the part about not being wrecked by two world wars, though. that’s quite the advantage, and one it shares with only very few other western countries (and none as populous as the US)

  154. 154
    cyberCMDR

    OK let’s see what sciences the Republicans can accept:
    Biology? Definitely not, with that evolution thing.
    Geology? They keep insisting that that the world is older than 6000 years.
    Astronomy? There can’t be objects farther away than 6000 light years, because the universe isn’t old enough for the light to get here! Besides, the A Beka books clearly state that the sun does not use fusion, so all of it is wrong.
    Physics? Well, we can strike nuclear physics, because radioactive dating is obviously wrong.
    Genetics? We’ve been mapping out how species have been changing by studying their genomes, so that has to go.
    Chemistry? Maybe, as long as it isn’t tainted by biochemistry (evolution again)
    Medicine? Don’t experiment with anything that might become an embryo, and any research performed on lower life forms is wrong because we are NOT related.
    Climatology? God controls the climate, so why bother?
    Paleontology? Nothing older than 6000 years, so nothing for them to study.
    Archaeology? Only if it supports the stories in the Bible.

    Hmmm, probably should scratch all of them. We can’t have any research disproving what we already KNOW! Just focus on building the next iPad.

  155. 155
    raven

    Zhukov:

    “It is now said that the Allies never helped us . . . However, one cannot deny that the Americans gave us so much material, without which we could not have formed our reserves and could not have continued the war . . . we had no explosives and powder. There was none to equip rifle bullets. The Americans actually came to our assistance with powder and explosives. And how much sheet steel did they give us. We really could not have quickly put right our production of tanks if the Americans had not helped with steel. And today it seems as though we had all this ourselves in abundance.”

    That American lend lease was critical to the Soviets in WWII is a mainstream history view at least. I did check with google to see what the found of all knowledge had to say.

    Zhukov was the top general in the USSR at that time.

  156. 156
    tomh

    @ #55
    I had no clue that people associated anti-vaccination people with the left!

    They shouldn’t. The vast majority of vaccination exemptions for public schools, which is what really matters in the vaccination world, are for religious reasons. In most states the only justification allowed for an exemption is a sincerely held religious belief. And most of these sincerely held beliefs are held by (politically) right-wing Christians.

  157. 157
    raven

    Zhukov again:

    The Soviets inarguably did the HEAVY LIFTING. This commentary is in no sense to denigrate their massive contribution. But don’t kid yourself. If it weren’t for the USA’s massive production capabilities, Germany and Japan would probably still own half the world.

    Stalin writing to Truman:

    ” The agreement on whose basis the United States of America provided the Soviet Union with weapons, strategic materials, and foodstuffs under the terms of Lend-Lease throughout the war in Europe played an important role in, and to a considerable degree helped bring about, the successful conclusion to the war against our common enemy, Hitler’s Germany.

    Stalin then says they paid for the war materials with Russian soldier’s blood. Which is true.

  158. 158
    coldthinker

    @138 raven

    The US leads mostly by example. It’s just a fact that we spend 1/3 of the world’s science R&D and have the results to show for it. It’s just a fact that the USA with 4.8% of the world’s population has the world’s largest economy.

    Won’t argue the merits with you. But ”setting an example” is not really what is understood by the word ”leadership”. After a devastating war, Japan became a miraculous example of economical and technological accomplishment, but doesn’t claim any kind of ”leadership”.

    My point is that, firstly, the word is so politically loaded that it should be discarded in science (which is the joint effort for all humanity if there ever was one) and secondly, it emphasizes one’s position in a silly competition instead of the actual level and significance of the accomplishment.

    And with a global environmentaI catastrophe looming and said 4,8% of the world’s population using about 21% of the global resources, I wouldn’t consider the economic wealth the ultimate bliss. I respect the American ingenuity where I find it. But the USA as a country is a political entity, the most responsible of which is to create a healthy society for its citizens and treat other nations fairly as possible. In this societal health department, there’s really not all that much in the USA that I would want to model my society after.

    The US provided the money and materials, the Russians provided the manpower.

    Yeah, the Russians used American tanks and bombers. This is just bullshit and you know it. And sorry, but the word ”manpower” in the context of 26 million dead people is a bit facetious.

  159. 159
    coldthinker

    @ 148 Tony

    Why do you think that technology and intellectual resources are essentially American things? Do you suppose no other countries on Earth have both to a greater or lesser degree than the U.S.? What makes both essentially American?
    Don’t forget you’re commenting among people from across the globe, so American exceptionalism isn’t blindly accepted here.

    A bit funny that after all my criticism thereof, I’m now accused of defending American exceptionalism. My allusion was to the Apollo program, and undeniably the USA is an exception in this regard.

    You seem to miss my point, which was to think of a few things that America had going for it between 1945 and 1969, as opposed to European and Asian countries. Within this timeframe, the US did not have to start from scratch with its population, cities, factories and academic facilities half destroyed. Instead, the US had its infrastructure and educational system intact, its people fed, healthy and employed — the US actually even gained a lot of serious brain power from European refugees. Considering where Europe, Russia, Japan and China had to pull themselves out of since 1945, it is fair to say that the US had an industrial and technological advantage.

    My claim that the USA had also more intellectual resources available is based on the size of its literate population within its borders, much greater than the other industrial countries. And the scientists of say, the Apollo program, were easily available to work for a common goal. Russians had a comparable educated population, so they were a vanguard nation too, up to a point. The Western Europe was not united, but separated into small countries with little or no common scientific or technological goals. The intellectual resources of French and Italian universities were not as available to Swedes and Belgians as those of Yale and Harvard to Texans and Californians. Not to mention the fact that having the same language and somewhat common culture, it’s much easier for a Californian to move her brain power to Massachusetts than for a Norwegian to Portugal.

    Today, arguably China has the advantage of the greatest intellectual resources available to one nation. However, the world has become much less culturally divided than it was in 1945-1969, so even the ever quarrelsome Europe has been able to come together to create facilities like CERN.

    However, it is admittedly just my non-scientific and non-American personal experience that certain temerity, risk-taking and adventurousness are much more admired and encouraged in the US than in Europe. Insanely expensive projects like the Apollo program would have met much more opposition in the European post-war culture. So, culturally the idea of boldly going where no one has gone before — whether one should or not — is in my mind typically, though certainly not exclusively, a very American thing.

  160. 160
    DLC

    The saying that “science has a liberal bias” is not so. Science itself knows no such political division. Scientists do have political divisions and political biases, plenty of them, and they’re within their rights to have them. However, what you do see is politicians running headlong away from any science they don’t like. Which, for most republicans seems to be any science other than ballistics. How can an evolutionary biologist (for example) come to a meeting of the minds with a politician, when that politician does not believe in anything discovered by evolutionary biology since 1855 ? How can you reach accord with, or even polite detente with someone who thinks the laws of physics were snapped into place some 6000 years ago ? How can I describe particle physics to someone who thinks carbon-14 is the work of Satan ?
    Science isn’t partisan, but half the people in politics are so far gone into fantasyland that they can’t see reality anymore.

  161. 161
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    but half the people in politics are so far gone into fantasyland that they can’t see reality anymore.

    Half? You are an optimist….

  162. 162
    raven

    To prevent science from continuing its worrying slide towards politicization, here’s a New Year’s resolution for scientists, especially in the United States: gain the confidence of people and politicians across the political spectrum by demonstrating that science is bipartisan.

    Getting back to the original subject, science didn’t get politicized. Sarewitz is blaming the victim!!!

    It was politicized by the GOP for religious and idealogical reasons.

    About all GOP presidential candidates didn’t accept evolution, except for Huntsman and he came in last. This is grade school science. The age of the earth, global warming, etc. are just facts that the party of Oogedy Boogedy religion denies.

    It wasn’t the Science War on Bush. It was the Bush War on Science.

    Sarewitz is an idiot.

  163. 163
    Chloe H

    @ raven #162 – re blaming the victim…
    That’s exactly what I was thinking when I first read this! Like it’s scientists’ faults that things are so politicized? Because that’s exactly what you’re saying if you say scientists have a responsibility to… well, play politics. Makes no sense at all really.

    But I don’t blame the religious people in the right for the hysterical denial of global warming. I blame the corporate interests for gaining their support by getting them riled on it. I honestly think global warming denial comes down to money making originally, and a lot more, than religious beliefs, and the religious people were just swept up in it because of their other anti-science interests.

  164. 164
    brucegorton

    Okay….

    WWII: The Russians did most of the fighting and dying in that war, and to be honest about it, it is a wee bit distasteful how Americans tend to take it as being they saved Europe’s ass, whereas they only did it because Hitler declared war on them due to his alliance with Japan. Lets get real here, it wasn’t American largesse.

    Cold War: Mostly bullshit that was designed to keep American voters willing to pay taxes towards a bloated military budget, and in the 1950′s looking the other way when the government decided the first amendment didn’t apply to Americans with alternative economic views. The Soviets did not particularly want to nuke anyone, and the major threat of the Soviet Union was to Soviet citizens, who had been pretty much sold down the river by the allies in the aftermath of WWII.

    America’s major benefit to the world hasn’t particularly been a spirit of adventure, but rather a spirit of sharing represented first by America’s constitution (which has influenced every constitution since) and second by its approach to publicly funded science, opening it up to the world at large.

    It is not that Nasa has built probes that reach out to the outer solar system that signals what is great about America, but rather that Nasa releases its data free of copyright. In America’s citizenry you see these open values in the better side of the hacker community, and in its liberal movement. What is good in America is shown by those who argue for the civil rights of others, and for the wellbeing of others.

    What is negative tends to be demonstrated by the frankly xenophobic, degrading patriotism promoted by the right wing, yet even this isn’t entirely without merit as it shows that America can include those whose views are profoundly against the common good without entering a civil war.

    America at its best doesn’t lead the world by force, or by staring other powers down, but by example. Unfortunately the same arrogance that can produce the best of America, produces its worst in those who refuse to believe that America has flaws and thus isn’t a model for the rest of the world in all things.

    There is a basic laziness in too much of American discourse, where Americans demand their nation be respected as the best of all nations, but refuse to do the work involved in making it the best. This is ultimately the left-right divide, wherein the left for all its faults recognises that being the best is hard work, and hard work isn’t particularly a conservative virtue. It is much easier to maintain the status quo, than deal with your own injustices.

  165. 165
    dianne

    It’s just a fact that we spend 1/3 of the world’s science R&D and have the results to show for it.

    Gewesen. The US is spending less, other countries are spending more. And, of course, a lot of US R&D goes into fairly useless stuff like defense development, so the US’s effective rate is even lower.

  166. 166
    Crissa

    In 2003, Republicans changed the security protocols such that scientists that emigrated to the US from Russia – the very guys who invented the Russian ballistic missile system – could no longer actually touch their works at NASA. They could, however, still work on their own writings and ‘assist’ but the security protocols said they were no longer allowed alone in the room with the materials.

    The materials they had written.

    This is the party that scientists should support?

  167. 167
    w00dview

    I honestly think global warming denial comes down to money making originally, and a lot more, than religious beliefs, and the religious people were just swept up in it because of their other anti-science interests.

    While I mostly agree with what you are saying here, I think the paranoid anti gubmint hysteria and blind market worship on the right has become a matter of dogma for many. Anything that suggests the failures of the glorious market (such as AGW) is blasphemy and is utterly forbidden to even entertain the notion of acceptance. It is why libertarians are usually vulnerable to this form of woo. Free market fundamentalism is the major block to doing anything on climate change. So I think it is religion that is the main motivation for climate change denial only it is not Abrahamic in origin. However the combination of right wing economics and Christianity in the US has certainly made market fundamentalism more potent and dangerous. It is these combined ideologies which makes acceptance of climate change so difficult in the US.

  168. 168
    David Marjanović

    what was essential to the success of the Apollo program was that the US was in a pissing contest with the USSR

    Pissing at the moon !!

  169. 169
    David Marjanović

    the two particular major political parties of the United States of America, which were born out of our antiquated voting system

    Rather out of the lack of separation of head of state and head of government.

    That’s why I used the word contradictory as opposed to contrary to exclude this possibility ( http://atheism.about.com/library/glossary/general/bldef_contradictory.htm )

    Thanks, I didn’t know that word.

    Saved Europe twice? You were late to the party both times. If you (well, to be more precise and less personal, your ancestors) were truly interested in saving Europe

    That’s beside the point. The question is whether they did, not whether they wanted to.

  170. 170
    Crissa

    Re: 154 cyberCMDR 6 January 2013 at 2:47 pm (UTC -6)
    (and others)

    You’re focusing on young-earthers, who are conveniently ignored – we both know they’re far more common than right-wingers will admit – but you could make the same argument using pure corporatist’s positions.

    Biology says that how we’re using GMO, factory farming creates superbugs which is something they don’t want to be told. Geology says that drilling is fraught with danger and that you might not want to build somewhere. Astronomy is too complex for them to sell and the Scientific Method costs money and ‘hurts’ them lining their pockets.

    So we don’t even need to get as far as the religious nuts before we find Republican interest groups shunning Science.

  171. 171
    jamesmartin

    So many comments I might as well not leave one. Still P.Z. is right (if a bit left).

  172. 172
    alwayscurious

    Not done reading comments, but I’d like to point out a fundamental difference between military & non-military governmental projects: secrecy. Military research has a tendency to be kept secret–even if only out of general principle. When we, the general public, are really lucky & promise to play nice, they will release a few tidbits to the rest of us. Non-military government science research is, by & large, public and thus participates in the free flow of idea interchange that is the science we know & love. In my way of thinking, the DoD’s research is more along the lines of private companies doing research–information made publicly available if & when it suits their purposes.

  173. 173
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @93.Ing:Intellectual Terrorist “Starting Tonight, People will Whine” :

    @StevoR, Light speed for one is an insurmountable obstacle. Only possible work around depends on unlikly existence of certain particles.

    Or relativistic travel velocities, asteroid arks and multi-generational jounreys, Bussard ramscoop starships, wormholes, tachyon /Higgs boson /drives and perhaps other things we have’t even thought of yet.

    The speed of light is certainly a major obstacle but I don’t consider it insurmountable.

    @92. a_ray_in_dilbert_space :

    StevoR, Ultimately the limiting factor for human exposure to interplanetary–let alone interstellar–space is exposure to High-atomic-number (Z), High-Energy ions (so-called HZE particles). These can obliterate large volumes of DNA, overcoming any hope of the redundancy we rely on in the genetic code. This results in cancers, harmful mutations, etc. Most recently, they’ve shown that even moderate exposures result in Alzheimers like dementia in mice. What is more, these ions are extremely difficult to shield against–13 cm of Al will only cut the flux by a factor of 2, and even then, you get lots of secondary particles–gamma rays and neutrons–that you can’t shield effectively. Magnetic shielding has been considered, but is not practical for a bunch of reasons (from the size of the magnets needed to the limitations on the materials you can use due to the high fields). Moreover, the flux increases by roughly a factor of 3x once you leave the protective magnetic/solar wind bubble due to the Sun.

    Again, I agree that’s a huge obstacle but disagree that we can’t overcome it with sufficient ingenuity and innovation and advanced technology.

    Maybe we can get better magnetic shielding or use asteroids to live inside? Or cretae wormholes or something.

    I think the hardest obstacles when it comes to space travel within and beyond our solar system aren’t scientific but political and economic.

    Couple this with the extremely long voyage times–more than 3-4 generations to reach the nearest habitable planet–and the fact that they would have to take everything with them to survive for that time. Throw in the psychological strain of having it take decades even for a message to reach Earth, and I think you have pretty much insurmountable problems. Then, of course, there is the fact that in about 50-100 years human civilization will be have its population reduced by roughly a factor of 10 and that we’ll likely be living as fairly small groups of hunter gatherers due to our trashing of this planet. But, that is another story.

    It is indeed. But interconnected too. Travel into space has already helped boost our understanding of our ecological issues back on Earth and working to create ecologies and maybe terraforming could potentially also help us fix our environmental woes here.

  174. 174
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ ^ last sentence clarification :

    create ecologies ..

    For example on the Moon, in O’Neil Colony type space stations / space settlements and on the planets, asteroids and moons such as Mars, Mercury, Callisto, Ceres, Titan – maybe even Pluto!

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