We’re not done yet

The crappy Republican version of health care went down in flames (yay!), but don’t get cocky, kids. We’re not done. The Republicans still control everything, and they’ve got less flashy, less public, sneakier plans to destroy everything you hold dear.

Like science.

Lamar Smith is still chair of house science committee, which is a ridiculous state of affairs in itself, and he spoke openly about his plans at a Heartland Institute conference — that’s right, the Heartland Institute, that far right source of outrageous denialism and lies. If that’s the “heart” of our “land”, then this land is in the terminal stages of congestive heart failure.

Here’s what he had to say, though:

Next week we’re going to have a hearing on our favorite subject of climate change and also on the scientific method, which has been repeatedly ignored by the so-called self-professed climate scientists, Smith told the Heartland Institute’s 12th annual conference on climate change in Washington, D.C.

Wait, what? A Texas Republican politician is accusing scientists of not giving him the result he wants because they ignore the scientific method, and he’s going to have a hearing on the scientific method? Does he think he can pass a law to change how science works? Yes, he does. He’s also going to juggle the terminology to undermine meaning, shamelessly.

Emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump, Smith appears increasingly comfortable dismissing those who disagree with his stance on any number of issues under the purview of his science committee, from climate research to the use of peer review in assessing research results and grant proposals. And one key element in his strategy appears to be relabeling common terms in hopes of shaping public dialogue.

He wants to somehow exert political influence on what research gets funded.

Smith also signaled that he plans to turn up the volume on his criticism of federally funded research that doesn’t fit his definition of “sound science.” In particular, he expressed support for writing legislation that would punish scientific journals that publish research that doesn’t fit standards of peer review crafted by Smith and the committee (although he didn’t say how that would be accomplished).

It is definitely the case that science has been and always will be influenced by politics and culture, but legislators, who clearly are not elected for their scientific acumen, are isolated from specific control — they own the purse-strings, but disbursement is handled by peer review, by the community of scientists themselves. When politicians meddle, they usually just end up exposing their own ignorance: see also Democrat William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award, which was usually a great embarrassment, or Republican Sarah Palin’s stupid remarks about fruit flies. Just on general principle, keep these yahoos away from stuff they don’t understand.

Oh, and look, he’s using the phrase sound science. I haven’t heard that one in a while. For a long time, it’s been an easily spotted tell that you’re dealing with a crank.

When used by scientists it means robustly supported science, confirmed by multiple peer-reviewed studies. When used in politics (generally by wingnuts) it means ideologically sound science, i.e. a euphemism for industry-funded pseudoscientific bullshit.

Smith is quite the happy vulture as he looks forward to feasting on the corpses of our natural resources and our scientific establishment.

In fact, as Smith told one audience member who worried that Trump might renege on some to his campaign promises, the sky’s the limit when it comes to dismantling the past 8 years of environmental regulations.

“I think the president has ushered in a permanent change in the political climate,” Smith asserted. “And by that I mean I think he’ll keep his promises and that he’ll do exactly what he said. You’re seeing that in his appointments, like Scott Pruitt at EPA, for example. So … I don’t think you’ll have any disappointment on any of those issues.”

The wreckers are still in charge, and we all have a long fight ahead of us.


  1. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Opposing AHCA was not the only motivation for March For Science. Let’s see if it can be as influential as Women’s March.
    Resistance is a force
    Science works no matter how often they deny it.

  2. dhabecker says

    What scientific method did Lamar use to support his conclusion that the scientific method has been ‘repeatedly ignored’? Does me think he actually read and disseminated each and every one to find flaws, or did he use the same sources of information Trump uses? “I read it somewhere from a very reputable source.”

    Read Time mag.; you’ll think you’re in the Twilight Zone.

  3. archangelospumoni says

    The Heartland Institute is vile. One of their leadership people essentially tried to buy my wife’s beloved “great books” college, Shimer about 8 years ago. Donate a little, get folks nominated to the board, etc. Sneak in.

    They failed but I learned how evil, filthy, stinking, vile, fetid, putrid, horrible, nasty, and rotten they are.

  4. handsomemrtoad says

    But sound science is very important! Acoustics, and the biology of hearing, and vocal anatomy.

  5. johnmarley says

    Hmm… The name Lysenko comes to mind for some reason. I can’t see this turning out any better.

  6. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Repair and Amend ACA. ACA1.0 is flawed, absolutely.
    Add clauses to reduce premiums without reducing coverage.
    Reduce the profits the insurance providers can reap.
    Only grim reapers take profit from sick people, not humanitarians.
    Update ACA to ACA2.0 (Repair and Improve) ACA, rather than (Repeal and Replace), which failed big time.
    – Defeating AHCA is not success, was only disaster avoidance.

    The “car” still has a “flat tire”, fixing the tire is preferable to smashing the car into smithereens (aka AHCA) and still needs to happen.
    Work is NOT done!!!
    We must continue working on it.
    Healthcare, and insurance for it, is vital to the well being of the citizens of this nation. We are so far behind the developed world we are “developed” in name only.

  7. dhabecker says

    Republican health plan was defeated because;
    A. They are stupid.
    B. We’ve been played.

    The only way Trump can fulfill his promise of better for less is to keep Obamacare and force congress to improve it. Maybe wait till 2020 when Dems will be back in control of congress.
    Hmmmm either way, works for me.

  8. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    A word of caution to folks who think the only important stuff happens at the federal level. Think down ballot too.
    Where I live in Chiwaukee, the present mayor was defeated in the democratic primary by a long-time alderman, and there is an independent candidate, another alder(wo)man, who is also running.
    In this case, the democrat is offering pie-in-the-sky proposals, but the city lacks the monies to pay for them. The independent isn’t interested in the pie-in-the-sky proposals, and is more of a practical person. Even if it means more taxes to pay for aging sewer and water pipe replacement. (I have lead pipes into my circa 1920 house). The practical person will get my vote, as she is an old-fashioned fiscal conservative, meaning balance the budget, even if it means increasing taxes.
    Local politics count. Get out and vote. I will.

  9. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 9:
    exactly: vote for the policies proposed, regardless of the part affiliation. Too many are locked into following The Party, allowing it to drive them over a cliff.

  10. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Too many are locked into following The Party, allowing it to drive them over a cliff.

    And sometimes the unscrupulous politicians will be chameleons and change parties to keep getting elected locally.
    My present alderman, may he suffer a plague of boils, has changed from a republican to democrat as the make-up of the area became more blue since I first moved here. He is why I won’t vote for democrats blindly.

  11. Reginald Selkirk says

    I suspect the Republicans are going to attack Obamacare in a different way: cut its funding (such as the Medicaid expansion which makes a large fraction of the subsidies possible) and then point their fingers and claim the program is failing because it is deeply flawed.

  12. wzrd1 says

    @Reginald Selkirk #12, that option has been discussed online. Trump simply has to refuse to pay for those subsidies, hold them up and have the insurance companies drop those whose subsidies aren’t forthcoming.
    Or more likely, those insurance companies drop the marketplace entirely.

    You’ll know when something that dastardly is forthcoming, as Trump will put out another howler, like “Obama stole my cookie!” and the press will analyze that, while ignoring the actions of his administration.
    As usual.

    There is one upside, the press are beginning to catch on and Trump has lost quite a bit of political capital with the defeat of TrumpCaresLess and voter anger.
    Now, to avoid complacency, lest we lose momentum.

  13. bondjamesbond says

    Should not Darwinian evolution qualify as a science before someone who teaches Darwinian evolution can complain about science not being supported?

    Darwinian Evolution Fails the Five Standard Tests of a Scientific Hypothesis – video

  14. F.O. says

    A word of caution to folks who think the only important stuff happens at the federal level. Think down ballot too.
    Local politics count. Get out and vote. I will.


  15. emergence says

    I’m a biology student, but I still think that it’s important that I understand climate science and climate change. Does anyone here have any advice on what I should do to understand them better?

  16. emergence says

    John Morales @18

    Thanks for the suggestions. I’m wondering if some of my college classes would help out too. I expect that learning a lot of basic physics and chemistry would be useful for understanding science in general. I’m currently taking a Quantitative Methods for Biology class, and the material on how statistics and models work in science seem to be applicable to more than just biology.

  17. KG says


    Only an ignorant idiot such as a creationist thinks there is such a thing as “the Five Standard Tests of a Scientific Hypothesis “. You show by referring us to a video (which incidentally you do not appear to have successfully linked or embedded) rather than making your argument yourself that you are also a moral and intellectual coward.

  18. mostlymarvelous says


    If you’re interested in a topic by topic series – and you’re prepared for a bit of brain pain – Science of Doom is useful. There’s a nice 4 part series of posts on Earth’s Energy Budget. Unsurprisingly, Atmospheric Radiation is in 12 really meaty parts. And lots of other nifty things to get your teeth into.

    If you just want to get a good overview, The Discovery of Global Warming by Spencer Weary is as good as you’re likely to get.

  19. mostlymarvelous says

    That would be Spencer Weart‘s book. (Though sometimes the topic can get a bit weary.)

  20. Rob Grigjanis says

    bondjamesbond @14: Using Tom Wolfe as an authority on science is like using steel wool as toilet paper. Utterly unsuited for the purpose.

  21. blf says

    Those so-called five standard tests of a scientific hypothesis (see @14 and @20) are claimed to be from Tom Wolfe’s excruciatingly bad book, The Kingdom of Speech, and are claimed to be†:

    ● Has anyone observed the phenomenon […] as it occurred and recorded it?

    ● Could other scientists replicate it?

    ● “Could any of them come up with a set of facts that, if true, would contradict the theory (Karl Popper’s ‘falsifiability’ tests)?” ([S]et of facts that, if true is a quite rubbish statement as “facts” are considered true, except when they are “alternative”; whether it is the alleged source (Wolfe) or the document’s author(?) who wrote that I have no idea.)

    ● “Could scientists make predictions based on it?”

    ● Did it illuminate hitherto unknown or baffling areas of science?

    Two are reasonable, if loosely-stated, expectations, the other three are Wolfe (if that is indeed the origin) making things up and / or borrowing the misconceptions of others (e.g., the first item, observation, being very reminiscent of Ken “piglet rapist” Ham), or misunderstanding the point.

      † This list is taken from a Generalissimo Google™ document whose link is given at the video. I am assuming the video and document are closely related. The document consists mostly‡ of alleged quotations which, supposedly, show evolution does not meet any of the five listed items. A lot of it looks like fairly bog-standard cretinist IDiocy, so I assume some of the quotes are invented or mined; even if all happen to truthfully presented, they do not show what is claimed, do not form a coherent argument, and start from at least one bad premise (the above list).

      ‡ After the above list and argumentation-by-quote-misunderstanding / -mining, there is some babbling about science requiring magic sky faeries because magic sky faeries make possible, or allow, reasoning &tc, or some such gibberish. Also argued by quotations.

  22. monad says

    And all this science they misunderstand
    Not doing their job five days a week
    In such a timeless term
    It’s lonely here on earth. :(

  23. unclefrogy says

    very apt comparison and a good cleansing laugh after watching just a little of the linked vid.
    uncle frogy

  24. Pierce R. Butler says

    … keep these yahoos away from stuff they don’t understand.

    Which latter includes just about everything on Planet Earth.

    But I don’t think any of them understands outer space any better.

    What to do???

  25. Crudely Wrott says

    As a member of America’s most prolific family and a proud bearer of the surname Smith, I am deeply offended by the very existence of Lamar Smith. Not to mention his appointment to a cabinet office that demands, DEMANDS! a functional brain in control of the basic tenets of the scientific method.
    The time to bring back the pillory and to arm children with over ripe tomatoes is at hand.
    Humiliation is more effective than bombs borne by robot planes or lethal injections. Isn’t anyone paying attention?