Rob Sheldon on science and the US election
|November 9, 2016||Posted by News under Culture, Science|
There’s been a lot of hyperventilating by the intelligentsia about the consequences of a Republican sweep of House, Senate and Presidency. Many fear that Republicans in general, and Trump in particular are “anti-science” and will put America back in the stone age. For those of you new to American politics, I’d like to dispel that myth and throw some cold water on the
First, universities and research scientists are by no means neutral politically. I’ve lost 3 jobs at universities both public and private, in part for being a Republican. Sociologists who measure these things had a nice paper in 1996 or thereabouts where registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans on the Stanford faculty by 4:1 (in economics) 8:1 (in physics) and 16:1 in humanities, but 99:1 among untenured faculty. And that was 1996, at a private school known for its conservatism. In the past 20 years things have only gotten worse. My own anecdotal experiences at 6 different universities and colleges only confirm that private Christian colleges are no exception to the general trend. Starting about 10 years ago, I even stopped getting interviews for academic jobs that I am eminently qualified for.
So if “scientists” are feeling threatened, there’s a very good reason for it, and it has nothing to do with being “anti-science”.
Second, science funding under Republican administrations always increases. Why? Because the economy is doing better, and the many social programs like universal healthcare, or minimum wage increases are not sapping the treasury of “discretionary” spending (that is, the shrinking portion of un-mandated spending).
Furthermore, under Republican administrations, agencies like NASA are less likely to be used for political gain, such as this administration’s boast that NASA increased the self-esteem of Muslims. Therefore the claim that Democratic administrations are “pro-science” doesn’t translate into more research dollars, it translates into more PR efforts to manipulate science agencies for political gain, which arguably is anti-science, and undeniably reduces funds for actual research.
Third, many in political establishment see the value of science as a discreet tool for political gain. (How many Republicans in past elections were characterized as unfit for office because they weren’t Darwinists?) As non-conservative scientists such as Richard Lindzen of MIT have pointed out, global warming is not about science, but about political power.
As everyone on this list knows, Darwinism is not about science but about religious ideology and power. The same is true in the arcana of physics modelling: of string theory, of inflationary “dark energy” cosmology, of WIMP dark matter, of planetary origins, of Mars planetary science, of in-space propulsion, to name a few that I know a little bit about. Each field is driven not so much by facts and science, but by turf battles for decreasing federal funding, which justifies the half-truths and unstated modeling adjustments.
In the US, “Science” has hitched its wagon to one particular political party, and declared all other politics “anti-science”, so the real meaning of the “anti-science” epithet is the “anti-politicization” of science.
Therefore, there is no “anti-science” tendency or desire in the Republican party or Trump in particular. There is a desire, however, to separate science from politics, which may nigh well be impossible now.
Tell your European colleagues not to flee America, but instead emigrate here, because there probably will be a lot of job openings available. This is potentially the most pro-science administration since Vannevar Bush wrote President Truman the report entitled “Science — the Endless Frontier”.
Time will tell.
See also: Nature: Scientists “stunned” by Trump win Why? Doesn’t that speak poorly of the powers of the scientific method?
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