Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 4, 2006
By: Paul Glastris

CRAMMING SCIENCE...Kevin has noted the weird spectacle of President Bush becoming fascinated with science and technology even as his government continues to crush various scientific studies and breakthroughs that run counter to the agenda of his base. The Washington Posts Peter Baker adds more material for those of us trying to divine how, when, and why the president became interested in the decline of Americas scientific and technological competitiveness that has happened on his watch.

Aides said Bush became interested in promoting [his American Competitive Initiative] after a pile of reports stacked up on his desk lamenting the erosion in the U.S. technological advantage globally. The most influential came out in October, issued by a National Academies committee headed by retired Lockheed Martin Corp. chairman Norman R. Augustine. The report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," recommended a dramatic boost in research funding and science education.

Sens. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) followed up by meeting with Bush at the White House in mid-December, urging him to meet the Augustine challenge. Bush agreed, and he outlined a $136 billion, 10-year plan in the State of the Union to double research spending on physical sciences, train more science and math teachers and enact a permanent research and development tax credit.

I love the bit about the reports stacking up on Bushs desk and the intervention by the senators that was apparently necessary to get him to focus. But aside from the frat-guy-who-skipped-class-now-cramming-for-the-exam-the-night-before quality of Bush's personality, there's more to be said about why, until now, the White House has ignored alarming signs of America's relative decline in science and economic innovation. A while back, The Washington Monthly's Nick Thompson provided one important answer: Bush thumbs his nose at science because scientists don't vote Republican. If, in his beleaguered state, the president has changed his political calculation, that's a good thing for America. We shall see.

Paul Glastris 5:57 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (51)

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I'm not holding my breath...

Posted by: pol on February 4, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Discussing why scientists tend not to vote Republican would be very illuminating...and what does that say about the Republican Party, that our brightest and most rational thinkers do not care for it?

Posted by: Neil' on February 4, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

More than likely, its more about reaching out to gain broader support from non kool-aid drinking Republicans. Appealing to the hard right seems to be incurring decreasing returns.

Sens. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) are in the middle of the current Repub spectrum. Bush can reinforce withering support for other issues by giving lip service to scientific programs; promising money that will never be allocated.

Hypocritical political calculation on an exponential level.

Posted by: Keith G on February 4, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush has truly come to his senses on science, it's not just a good thing for America. It's a good thing for the world...

Posted by: litho on February 4, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Would a leopard change his spots? Lucy not pull the football away from Charlie Brown? You know the answer -- Bush wanted to provide an illusion of support for science. If he really cared about science, his admin wouldn't be starving the National Science Foundation and pulling longstanding contracts with the The National Academies.

Posted by: HokieAnnie on February 4, 2006 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

It's one thing to be dense, but this is just ri-goddamn-diculous....

Take a look at the recent electoral map vs the old free/slave state map. Then recall the origins of the current republican party during the civil rights era.

That immediately and completely answers the question "why are republicans so anti-knowledge?

Sheesh.

It's amazing to see the contortions the pansy-asses have to go thru in order to avoid the elephant in the room. Kudos to your bendiness!

Posted by: cdj on February 4, 2006 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK

Dumbya was looking for his pea brain in that photo showing him gazing through the electron microscope. Does anyone think he found it?

Posted by: red_neck_repub on February 4, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

Bush thumbs his nose at science because scientists don't vote Republican.

He also seems to disdain smart people in general.

Posted by: dj moonbat on February 4, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

Bush likes science that makes money for his friends. The concept of doing anything for the betterment of the country or humanity eludes him.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on February 4, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

red_neck_repub: Of course he didn't find it - his brain is sub-microscopic, like a nasty killer virus...

Posted by: Global Citizen on February 4, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

I am a working scientist, and I can tell you that as a community, the contempt he feels for us is miniscule in comparrison to the loathing and disdain we feel for him...especially those of us trying to do some real life-changing and life-saving research using stem cells.

Posted by: Global Citizen on February 4, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK

Also, the NY Times via Josh Marshall. It looks like the big arbitrators of scientific literacy in this country will be 24 year-old non-science graduates from Texas universities and political hacks who think all science must conform to religious dogma.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/04/science/04climate.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

The Big Bang memo came from Mr. Deutsch, a 24-year-old presidential appointee in the press office at NASA headquarters whose rsum says he was an intern in the "war room" of the 2004 Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. A 2003 journalism graduate of Texas A&M, he was also the public-affairs officer who sought more control over Dr. Hansen's public statements.

In October 2005, Mr. Deutsch sent an e-mail message to Flint Wild, a NASA contractor working on a set of Web presentations about Einstein for middle-school students. The message said the word "theory" needed to be added after every mention of the Big Bang.

The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator."

It continued: "This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most."

Posted by: Carl on February 4, 2006 at 6:54 PM | PERMALINK

It is obvious that the first 4 years of the Bush presidency were entirely aimed at winning re-election. Rove's game plan was to play to the Republican base to the exclusion of the rest of the country. That meant playing up the religious goals of the fundamentalists, advancing the neo-cons ideological and ill considered neo-colonial foreign policy and paying off entrenched industralists who paid the most to play. Since all three groups are convinced they can bend truth to fit their own faith based visions it is not surprising that Bush neglected and, where necessary, was hostile to science. After reelection he thought he could build his legacy by killing social security and discovered he couldn't. In New Orleans he also discovered that competence is more important than friendship. His fifth year was a bust. Now with less than 3 years to go, he has realized that his place in history will be pathetic. He probably hopes that a good way to change the gloomy outlook is to do something bold to insure America regains its scientific and technological footing. Hence he is cramming for the final.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 4, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

The idea of Bush trying to get up to speed on science is hill-arious. Kind of a Mr. Magoo Meets Beavis and Butthead thing.

Posted by: serial catowner on February 4, 2006 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

"Lockheed Martin Corp. chairman Norman R. Augustine. The report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," recommended a dramatic boost in research funding and science education."

Good grief, taking advice from the chairman od Lockheed about technology? This guy has done nothing but beg for taxpayer money, and genearally blow it on things other than technology. The fact that Lockheed/Martin, the largest defense contractor is so incopetent is one of the major reasons our technology money is wasted. This is the guy that blows up shuttles, puts bad optics in telescopes, fills milstar satellite space with sand (because they couldn't figure out the microwave stuff), built a stealth destroyer that you could spot a hundred miles away. I mean this nut is still building Trident submarine missiles after they had been reduced by arms treaty.

I worked for this company in Silicon Valley, we called it the Lazy L. Some of us did not even bother to show up for work.

Military technology lags commercial technology by about two generations. Lockheed had one thing going for it, materials scientists.

Posted by: Matt on February 4, 2006 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK

Here's an interesting thing about the thread thus far: it suggests how pervasive has been the influence of George W. Bush on those who most fervently oppose his administration.

There is no comment on whether the Domenici et al proposal might be a good idea, let alone whether all of its details are sound. There is no comment either on ways that it might be maneuvered through Congress whether or not the administration gives it full support. There is not a word on how these three Senators -- two of whom represent Los Alamos National Lab and thus have stronger than normal parochial interests in pushing science education -- came by this particular proposal.

Granted, some of this is pretty inside-baseballish. One would have to pay at least a little attention to the substance of policy (as opposed to the permanent campaign) to be aware of it, and not everyone in the blogosphere does. It is still remarkable how completely Bush's opposition defines itself in terms of the politician it admires least.

Posted by: Zathras on February 4, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Zathras, the subject of the thread is Bush because of his statements in the SOTUA. I agree that related currents must ultimately be addressed, but that's the way thread logic works.

Posted by: Neil' on February 4, 2006 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

What I found particularly disgusting was Bush talking up renewable energy in the SOTU address and then it turns out the next day that they are cutting funding and laying off scientists at our premier renewable energy lab.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on February 4, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Zathras:

You noticed that too, huh?

When Bush comes up with something that a liberal might normally support, it's like watching somebody on ice skates lose their footing and slam headfirst into the sideboards.

It's actually approaching a pathology in some people. If Bush came up with the cure for cancer, you'd see fifty posts here on how Bush was making the population problem worse.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 4, 2006 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

It's difficult to imagine that some monkey blathering about animal-human hybrids is actually sincere in his effort to promote science funding and teaching.

Posted by: Nads on February 4, 2006 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

I have a feeling if anything moves forward it will be with the clean sciences...abiotic and engineering related fields, less controversy. They will still be scrubbing the balance of the sciences through the theocrats as not to upset the religious base. When Bush and company are gone, along with their radical religious administrators, it will be interesting to see how much pandering to the religious right will continue with the remaining republicans. I have a feeling if Bush leaves on a low note there won't be much pandering...the ride will be over. As for the time being, I vote with the first poster...don't hold your breath.

Posted by: Ben Merc on February 4, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

If the facts, the sciences and all of academia are against you, maybe it's time to reconsider your ideology.

Posted by: Memekiller on February 4, 2006 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

Of course he didn't find it - his brain is sub-microscopic, like a nasty killer virus..

Explains why he's calling the shots and you are not.

Posted by: rdw on February 4, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

What I found particularly disgusting was Bush talking up renewable energy in the SOTU address and then it turns out the next day that they are cutting funding and laying off scientists at our premier renewable energy lab.


That's one of the many disastrous effects of the FY2006 budget. That budget was the product of perhaps the most dysfunctional appropriations process in memory -- even worse than the infamous Gingrich government shutdown ten years ago. Bush's initiative will start with the FY2007 request.

The whole initiative is (see the sad story of NREL above) a complete reversal of policy, and it has been put together very hastily. I am a scientist whose research is supported by the Department of Energy. Our grant has been cut every one of the last four years, and DOE was telling us as late as two months ago to expect more cuts next year. Now suddenly the budget request is up 14%, and the people at DOE are as surprised as the rest of us.

Posted by: ColoZ on February 4, 2006 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

If the facts, the sciences and all of academia are against you, maybe it's time to reconsider your ideology.

One never wants to be on the same side as academia. If one is in agreement with the Harvard faculty they are in the wrong.

Posted by: rdw on February 4, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

This bunch has not been very concerned with consensus for the most part.

Posted by: Ben Merc on February 4, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator."

It continued: "This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most."

Posted by: Carl on February 4, 2006 at 6:54 PM

The thing of it is, if he had simply said this much, ""It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe." and stopped right there he would not only not have looked like a religious zealot, he would have provided a defensible argument to boot for Bushco supporters to use. After all, the Big Bang is still a theory, if one that has a remarkable amount of corroborating evidence supporting it to the point it is used as a de facto reality. He could have added that it is important to retain an open mind in how we look at the universe, he could have done a lot with this.

But no, the whole point of this was to service the religious right in America, solidifying the support from the base that has been shaken in the past year, not to mention grasping for more than one should be, another hallmark regarding the Bush Administration. This person is also way too young both in terms of chronological age and more importantly in terms of experience and expertise for the position he is holding. This is a war room media person with one "successful" (in quotes to indicate this is a very qualified use of the word) job since leaving school. Yet there are people that cannot understand how incompetent this Administration can be in governing. This is just one example of literally thousands of positions appointed by Bushco where the person there is being rewarded for loyalty in a political campaign as opposed to actual appropriate skills and proven experience in employing them. Patronage is one thing when the person also has the qualifications to do the job in reality and not just on paper, quite another when even on paper is not the case as is all to often the case in Bushworld.

I think it is a better point to make though that scientists are those that most closely must operate in a reality based environment professionally, and what does it say that this profession as a whole with few exceptions refuse to support Bushco or the GOP. Saying they are the best and brightest while having some truth to it also comes off as a bit elitist and condescending if one is not a scientist, and therefore for political language purposes is counter productive in the current American perceptions of each party and political side.

As for Bush having a pile of reports on his desk lamenting the state of American technological advantage these days, I find that the most noteworthy thing here. He had reports that were not all rosy and sunshine about how America is doing? Wow, who'd a thunk it.

Seriously though, his actions throughout his Presidency on sciences have been either to condemn mad scientists (usually playing to the religious right in these cases) of one type or another, push corporate funded science as the only kind that should be listened to (usually on the grounds they will come up with the most economically viable technologies and environments to create them) or to make grand statements about the importance of technology and America as the world leader in innovation and technological cutting edge but to do little to nothing more than cosmetic support in terms of funding and focus. I suspect this is more of the same, especially regarding the lack of funding resources without tax increases given the current state of fiscal insanity that passes for the American budget process as well as the ballooning deficits both trade and fiscal which in turn is explosively piling up debt, foreign held debt at that with much of it to competitors and in the case of China a potential long term enemy. There was a time in American politics not so long ago about how too much foreign held debt was considered a national security threat, I wonder what happened to that belief? Right, the modern GOP happened.

This was in all probability nothing more than rhetoric, and likely because he had little else to go to on the domestic front these days where he would not sound like a complete and total loon. Even this was pushing it because of his history in this area, but since it is not sexy most Americans aren't as aware of his failings here as they have become elsewhere. However, if one is willing to assume this is real and going to be done and done properly, then yes it is a good thing for America, especially over the medium to longer terms. Indeed, a good argument could be made for it being good for the entire world, as another commentator mentioned already.

It is hard to believe that a President as rooted in Faith as he is though, and a Faith that is not that kindly disposed towards the sciences these days because of challenges to theological beliefs regarding creation and evolution, has suddenly "seen the light" as it were. Not to mention this is a man by his own admission was never much of a researcher, especially where making decisions are concerned. He is a "gut" decider, not someone that decides on the basis of analysis, and that is an approach that is antithetical to scientists where research, observation, experimentation, and forming conclusions from the results is at the heart of their way of thinking/perceiving. I honestly believe that this contributes to his lack of understanding and lack of support for the sciences. For all his language, his actions demonstrate a high degree of contempt for scientists and the sciences unless they agree with what he is saying or wants said in his name. This contempt has always seemed to have a personal edge to it, and I suspect this may well be at least a significant part of why.

Posted by: Scotian on February 4, 2006 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

Tom wrote:
It's actually approaching a pathology in some people. If Bush came up with the cure for cancer, you'd see fifty posts here on how Bush was making the population problem worse.

Do you actually believe this? I thought you were smarter than that. What I see from these posts is cynicism. This President has made other grand proposals that almost everyone could get behind... and then dropped the ball through a lack of commitment and funding. Frankly, given his behavior over the last five years, you would have to be an idiot to believe that he's actually sincere about such a proposal, let alone anything else.

Hey, how's that mission to Mars going?

Posted by: josef on February 4, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

Let's be realistic. Domenici and Bingaman want more funding for Los Alamos and Sandia National Labs, which are in NM and Alexander wants money to go to Oak Ridge National Lab in Tennessee. They are not interested in science, they are interested in, admittedly higher value, pork.

Posted by: Mudge on February 4, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

Why is Bush trying to look so interested in science right now?

Could it be to try and deflect attention away from stuff like this?
http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2006/02/04/outrage-at-attacks-on-nasa-science/

It's PR, like everything with these guys.

Posted by: zed on February 4, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

The pork factor is the eternal constant of the equation, generally speaking in any political atmosphere. But these guys do take the cake.

Posted by: Ben Merc on February 4, 2006 at 9:07 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry, children, God will ensure that everything works out right for us, the chosen people. Haven't you read your manifest destiny assignment?

George Bush, inheritor of the mantle of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison Lincoln and the two Roosevelts. Makes me proud to be a Murrican.

Posted by: Nixon Did It on February 4, 2006 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

Why aren't we debating the merits of Bush's proposals? Because he has a track record. He floats proposals and doesn't follow through. Remember the mission to Mars?

There is a cost associated with making grand proposals that go nowhere, and with being actively deceptive and incompetent. Show me a Bush administration initiative that has been competently executed and that has lived up to its initial billing. Then we can talk about whether this specific idea is a good one. I'll predict that it will turn out to be much smaller than advertised, and that it will largely be used to reward his friends. If not, it would be good news indeed. And, perhaps, one time Lucy won't pull away the football when Charlie Brown runs up to kick it.

Posted by: Marc on February 4, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: If one is in agreement with the Harvard faculty they are in the wrong.

Certainly Bush's habit of taking economic advice from the likes of Harvard professors Greg Mankiw and Martin Feldstein lends credence to your theory.

Posted by: alex on February 4, 2006 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

Scientists don't vote Bush because they know better. Republicans just need to keep firing up their base (that Karl Rove is a genius!), and thumb their noses at everyone else. Don't worry though, the Independants are aligning themselves with the dissent.

Oh, but is this some grand plan that Rove has in store? Will he pull the curtains and reveal something that will propel the Republicans to a generational reign? No. The Republicans have failed, because they are not the small-government conservatives they suckered themselves into believing. It would be in the country's best interest to go Democratic.

Posted by: Boorring on February 4, 2006 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

"It's actually approaching a pathology in some people. If Bush came up with the cure for cancer, you'd see fifty posts here on how Bush was making the population problem worse."

Ha. Not bad. And it's unfair to suggest that what really would happen is that Bush would declare a GWOC - a Global War on Cancer - and respond by sending thousands of underequipped docs out to fight, for some reason, chicken pox. He certainly wouldn't propose a Healthy Body initiative based on the unquestionable truth that one can't get cancer if you're already dead (with ensuing business shunted to Halliburton-affiliated funeral home chains . . . although it's a good bet that we'd be hearing a fuss from those scientists - gov't or otherwise - who'd refuse to follow the official line that being a Traitor and Thinking Unpatriotic Thoughts is what really causes cancer.

Most likely what would happen is that the President would make some big announcements about funding and resolve (probably in front of a backdrop emblazoned with optimistic anti-cancer slogans, and then late that Friday the news would trickle out about major cuts to gov't-funded cancer research.

But yeah, pathology, right. Boy, are we embarrassed. And after the Right was so polite and principled during the Clinton years . . . but really, there is a grain of truth in this, or at least in Zathras' comment. It's rather a waste of energy*. Seriously, Bush is more or less a known quantity (although it will be interesting, in a few decades, after extensive archival research and unclassifying of documents (one hopes)). What gets people a little . . . upset is he - and his administration - is so much of a Boss Tweedledum. A perfect mix of corruption and incompetence - murderous incompetence, when it comes to that.

Look, it's basic common sense. In everyday life, after someone lets you down/screws up/lies to your face enough times, you eventually stop giving them the benefit of the doubt. There's a name for people who won't, though, no matter what . .

* I do think it would be an interesting exercise if we all just ignored him. Completely. Oh, not the crappy policies institutionalized corruption, neo-patronage, etc., and Operation Smoking Gun Yellowcake I mean Democracy, just any mention of the guy. Irrelevent. Pointless. Barely there.

Posted by: Dan S. on February 4, 2006 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

"The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," Mr. Deutsch wrote, adding, "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator.""

And Mr. 24-year-old-presidential appointee doesn't just get what "intelligent design" is supposed to be about (anti-evolutionism in a fancy dress and cheap perfume) - he doesn't get that the whole Big Bang shebang is possibly the most biblical-sounding, non-religious-contradicting idea in modern science. I mean - Fiat stuff!

What a frickin' buffoon.

(Yes, definitely, stress the open-ended, questioning nature of science, explain what theory means, etc. No argument there.)

What next - someone's gonna start kvetching about gravity, because it's not NASA's place to make a declaration such as this about the existence of gravity that discounts angels carrying the planets around the Sun?

Numskulls.

If the b.s. seems to hit us abnormally hard and fast, it's only because they're crapping off the shoulders of giants.

Posted by: Dan S. on February 4, 2006 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

"And Mr. 24-year-old-presidential appointee doesn't just get what "intelligent design" is supposed to be . . ."

should be

""And Mr. 24-year-old-presidential appointee doesn't just not get . . . "

All the negativity is getting to me, I guess . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on February 5, 2006 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Increasing urgency? Reports stacking up on his desk? Hmmm, that reminds me of something....

Oh yeah, that whole Katrina thing!

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

So the guy in charge doesn't see a problem until he's literally confronted with undeniable evidence of said problem.

No wonder his public appearances are secured like a super-max prison lockdown. Can you imagine what might happen if he faced an entire auditorium full of the wounded?

To describe the maimed survivors of this ugly new war, a graceless new word, polytrauma, has entered the medical lexicon. Each soldier arriving at Tampa's Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center, inside the giant veterans hospital, brings a whole world of injury. The typical patient, Dr. Scott said, has head injuries, vision and hearing loss, nerve damage, multiple bone fractures, unhealed body wounds, infections and emotional or behavioral problems. Some have severed limbs or spinal cords.

No way he'd want to see any of that.


Posted by: vetiver on February 5, 2006 at 12:35 AM | PERMALINK

vetiver...

Or, how about Richard Clarke's report that sat on "Condi's" desk for 6 months prior to 9/11 ( along with names, dates etc...)

It would appear there is a legitimate source for our collective pathology, ya know some pathologies are very healthy.

Posted by: Ben Merc on February 5, 2006 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, we Bush enthusiasts are often quite interested in "SCIENCE" insofar as the pursuit of science is actually related to the truth of actual propositions in this existence.

SCIENCE is nothing if not a consensus-based group undertaking. Unfortunately, it is the consensus of of many SCIENTISTS that lay people, especially politicians, get no final say on any SCIENTIFIC proposition, no matter how much it effects the quality of their lives.

As a reasonably educated lay person, I am told I must accept a whole number of propositions that will effect my quality of life, basically because I am told that only a backwoods yahoo would dare harbor an opinion common among specialists who hold advanced degrees in certain subjects and are lucky enough to be employed full time in those areas (such as Robert Hansen at NASA.)
It isn't hard to see that, to a certain degree, what is really controversial here is the idea of whether generalists should ever call out specialists on anything.

Let's consider some typical issues:

1) It has been proven that people are born to be homosexual and that social conditioning, subsidies, cultural approval, and higher education brainwashing play no role in the sexual behaviors that people experiment with or adopt. A society has no particular legitimate reason to tailor its social reinforcement to favor and encourage monogamous heterosexuality.

2) It has been proven that global warming is caused by human activity and that, therefore, human activity must be severely regulated and curtailed, no matter how drastic the economic impact on their lives.

3) It has been proven that Northern and Western Spotted Owls and other such "species" are deemed to be species by virtues of some self-consistent and clear biological standard. This standard need not take into consideration any lack of differentiation in common Spotted Owl genomes, i.e., "Northern" Spotted Owls may possess DNA that is 99.99 per cent indistinguishable from common Spotted Owls, yet the alleged "Northern" variety must still be accorded distinct species-hood.

4) It has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt that
(a) something appeared from nothing by a complete, meaningless random chance
(b) matter then spontaneously self-organized
into living matter by similar accidents
(c) if all of the constants and physical-chemical parameters that necessarily must be "just so" to produce life are present, that also is a meaningless accident
(d) life then evolved into intelligent life of absolutely extraodinary complexity by chance, and this is such an obvious proposition it should never be challenged in a science class.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on February 5, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

if mike cook considers himself reasonably educated, why does he find science which is unsuopportive of his bigotry and politics objectionable?

presumably, he is also interested in facts ... but from his post, it appears as if mike and his ilk are far more interested in propaganda than in any actual enlightenment, or in any greater truth.

Posted by: Nads on February 5, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

i echo a previous comment
there is not content behind such presidential remarks; these are just nice sounding bites that are thrown off to make him sound reasonable while the policies are not
who can criticize `clear skies`

Posted by: David Mace on February 5, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

"1) It has been proven that people are born to be homosexual and that social conditioning, subsidies, cultural approval, and higher education brainwashing play no role in the sexual behaviors that people experiment with or adopt"
Acctually, not at all. I think everyone would agree that at least the first three factors have major impacts on gay people (who the evidence suggests may indeed be "born gay," but I didn't think there was an ironclad case yet), making their lives too often full of homophobic crap and generally discriminating against them.

. A society has no particular legitimate reason to tailor its social reinforcement to favor and encourage monogamous heterosexuality."
Well, most states want a growing/stable population for all sorts of things (from cannon fodder to simple survival), and encouraging monogamy may reduce conflict, etc. What states - or even 'society' wants may not always match what is in the best tradition of American freedom.
More to the point, what do you have against gays/gay marriage?

#2 - Global warning
When you go to the bathroom, do you wash your hands before preparing food?
Isn't that a constraint on human action?

#4 - The only point here that actually has to do with evolutionary theory is (d), and nobody except creationists insist that evolution happens by "chance" alone. Natural selection, after all, is the opposite of chance, but is more a natural counterpart to the logic of the marketplace. The whole point is that organisms that are better adapted to current conditions get to pass on those traits. Nothing chance or random here (besides the chance nature of life itself)
What mutations occur - for example - may have to do with , as far as science can legitimately say, chance events, but even these follow natural laws - physics, chemistry, etc.

"what is really controversial here is the idea of whether generalists should ever call out specialists on anything."
Generalist: I don't think my kids should be vaccinated - vaccines represent a risk, etc.
Specialist: Well, there's always a risk, and I understand your concerns about the influence of Big Pharma, but let me tell you, not vaccinating your kids is a much, much greater risk.
Generalist: You're just a specialist! Foo on you!
Cut to news report on (almost forgotten childhood scourge) epidemic in Generalist's community, where after a number of parents decided not to have their kids vaccinated, the overall protection of having enough kids vaccinated that the ones who weren't were pretty safe just collapsed, with multiple deaths.

I mean, it is a valid point Cook's making, having to do with the failability of science and the abuses of policy (such as in the current administration, which does claim scientific cover for many decisions, albeit science that almost no actual scientists support), and the role of science education, and science-for-the-people stuff . . .
Pity he had to spoil it by giving pretty crappy examples.

When should you listen to experts? It's a difficult question. Most folks (outside of ideologically-charged debates
#1-#3,732) probably think it's almost always a good idea, but history does give multiple examples of experts -even expert consensus - that should have been ignored.

An important aspect is people's role - cultural and social capital, really - vis-a-vis "the experts." Are they at least potential colleagues or neighbors? Hirelings? People who show up at meetings to tell you what you have to do if you don't want this or that bad consequence to come to your family?

In relation to the original post, there's the worry that any concept of legitimate expertise is just being eroded in a sort of cunning pr-fueled triumph of right-wing industry-supported relativism.

Great.


No doubt the increasing crap and trouble brought about by global warming will be blamed on evolution-teaching, spotted-owl supporting gay people. That will really help, let me tell ya!

Posted by: Dan S. on February 5, 2006 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

When the administration emphasizes the word "theory" they intend the colloquial meaning of a "wild ass guess". In science we use the word theory to mean a tested hypothesis which is the best fit to the known data. A theory is almost always open to change as new, more reliable, more detailed or more extensive data becomes available. I've heard it said that science is the art of thinking carefully. That is why science and the Republican base will always be at odds.

I agree with several of the posts above. Bush tends to toss out various initiatives in the SOTU and they just disappear like pebbles dropped down a well.

The shame is that there is so much that could be done. Could you imagine if we redirected the money spent in Iraq to research and development?

The education proposal he put forward silly. I think we need to first figure out how to motivate kids to study then we could spend money on implementing that. The articles I've seen lately have discussed kids who are chronically failing math because they don't pay attention, don't do homework, don't show up for class.

Posted by: JohnK on February 5, 2006 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

Even if this were to go through, it would be too little, too late. China and India, and the EU, are already light years ahead of us in the numbers of strong scientists and engineers that they graduate. Plus, I have strong doubts that this sort of bill would ever see the light of day or, if it did, that there would be enough widespread support to actually move it past all the technical and logistical hurdles that would arise for hiring so many teachers and pushing so much R&D all at once.

Remember, this is the President whose strongest supporters express a vociferous hatred in the direction of Charles Darwin, and doubt the dinosaurs were actually around hundreds of millions of years ago. Plus, they're strongly against stem cell research, doubt global warming despite all the evidence for it, and in general voice an anti-science agenda at every opportunity. This was pure political showmanship, plain and simple, just like Bush's pledge to move away from oil.

Posted by: Eli on February 5, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

The thing about public education is that you take tax money from everybody and then inculcate a curriculum that is popular with maybe 51% of local voters, or maybe not even that.

Now, I'm not really a Darwin-hater. I just happen to believe that half of the "genius" in human genius is not merely having a good new idea, but knowing when to give up on an old idea. I'm kind of thinking that the idea of natural selection (mostly acting through competition) promoting the best of mutations that come along randomnly and by accident has been given unwarranted credence the last several centuries.

To me it is more than likely that a "Gaia" hypothesis is going to turn out to be closer to the truth--that living things really do cooperate an awful lot. I happen to believe that the universe is shot through and through with mystical and supernatural doings, most particularly the phenomenon of "synchronicity."

Even if I don't put all paranormal phenomena into a monotheistic context, I still would tend to believe that there are no partially mystical universes. God may create certain mechanisms and then pay no mind to them for a space. Perhaps supernatural powers like to be "surprised" at how certain situations work themselves out in the mortal sphere.

At any rate, somebody in one of these threads was snearing at Bush for proposing a manned mission to Mars and then abandoning the idea because some "experts" insist it would cost at least $450 billion and all the Mars humans would die of radiation exposure.

Pooh! In September my patent should be published that will facilitate much lower costs for all space. If my good idea gets beat out, it will only be by maybe a better idea coming along, because I know my concept will work. My idea will have some stiff competition, however, because some really innovative schemes are out there fermenting away.

As for the radiation problem, that's only a complication of weight as you can either carry enough shielding (I'd use titanium mined on the moon) or create strong magnetic fields, or maybe use a double hull and fill the space between with ozone, or something. Not insoluble, at any rate.

Posted by: Michael L. Cook on February 5, 2006 at 10:52 PM | PERMALINK

No comment.

Posted by: Dan S. on February 5, 2006 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

"Bush thumbs his nose at science because scientists don't vote Republican. If, in his beleaguered state, the president has changed his political calculation, that's a good thing for America. We shall see."


First, Bush never changes a political calculation.

Second, scientists will never vote for this guy at this point, not even some traditional GOP types that I know here in Texas. It is way too late. Take it from me, I am a working scientist and spend my whole day around other scientists.

This is an interesting place. For a left-leaning site, it seems to bring out a lot of wingnuts. Wingnuts they are, however, and wingnuts they will remain. One reason that the community of scholars tends to lean overwhelmingly to the left of center (but not so far as the wingnuts thingk) is that in that business you have to get your facts straight. You can't just make shit up.

Posted by: Ba'al on February 6, 2006 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

But engineers do.

And just in case anyone thought for two seconds that any of this:

"Bush agreed, and he outlined a $136 billion, 10-year plan in the State of the Union to double research spending on physical sciences, train more science and math teachers and enact a permanent research and development tax credit."

was about jobs you'd do well to notice he's also asking for huge increases in....wait for it.....HB1 visas. Jobs yes, but not for Americans.

Indians and Chinese.

Again.

Might raise salaries and we can't have any of the little people getting a taste of the goodies, right?

Posted by: CFShep on February 6, 2006 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Tbrosz, how's that Mars mission, that Bush mentioned last SOTU, going?

Wanna lay money on whether or not any of the alternative fuels research gets more funding?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 6, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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