The political war on science

Over the weekend, we saw yet another protest against the current direction of politics in the United States, and again it’s justified . The protest was in regards to a topic that has been widely disagreed on for years: science.
For as long as can I remember, politicians have been generally clueless about “science”. To be clear, science isn’t some guessing game about reality, a liberal conspiracy, or anything of that nature.
Science is a systematic method of understanding the world around us. To suggest that sometimes findings are wrong is fine (with proper evidence to support your criticism). What is not fine is suggesting that because you do not like the truth, or choose not to understand it, means that it is “wrong”.
A classic example was shown back in September 2014, where Republican members of the House of Representatives committee on Science, Space, and Technology actively rejected facts about climate change and the overwhelming science that supported the theory that we are causing it.
At the time, Representative Larry Bucshon explained that he didn’t believe the scientific literature because, “all the climatologists whose careers depend on the climate changing.” Basically, scientists can’t be trusted to talk about science.
It’s worth mentioning that the Daily Show with Jon Stewart had found Bucshon’s top three campaign donors were large energy companies, including Koch, Inc.
Thankfully, we’ve moved away from such insanity, and into a much more intelligent discussion about whether or not this universally accepted truth about climate change is actually a huge hoax by the Chinese to kill jobs in the U.S.
The biggest twist is that, while we try to save coal jobs (that are really not coming back anyway), China is actually stepping up their renewable energy development to beat the U.S. technologically. They got us with the old blackboard-conspiracy-lunatic double cross. How tricky of them.
I completely understand wanting to save people’s jobs in coal country (but we already know those aren’t going to make a comeback). I understand wanting to be more fiscally responsible. I understand that disagreements about what science “proves” are often justified.
What is impossible to explain, however, is how the current administration is actually addressing any of those things.
Firstly, we aren’t seeing any changes in fiscal responsibility.  While President Trump has made huge cuts to things like the EPA (and put people in control who have actively tried to end it), he wants to add $54 billion to defense spending. The defense budget is already $600 billion (54% of discretionary spending). That $54 billion is a gallon in a swimming pool.
At the same time, that $54 billion could fund multiple organizations, which usually have budgets of a few hundred million to just a few million. That’s thousands of jobs and millions of man-hours of work that are being cut to add nearly nothing to defense.
That’s called an opportunity cost, and it’s enormous. And all of that goes without talking about money for the border wall that won’t work.
Then there’s the disagreements about scientific facts. During the protests, Donald Trump released a statement, which said, “rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.” He couldn’t be more correct. And we’ve known that, because during the last few decades we have had rigorous debate and research about global warming/climate change and have found that it exists and that humans are causing it. 97% of scientists agree. The only people who are blinded by ideology are those that think that thousands of independent studies and scientists agreeing is negligible.
I will say that I appreciate the bill President Trump signed to fund a NASA mission to Mars, which is about $20 billion. At least among all of these budget cuts, he still recognizes the benefit of having a common goal as a country. Still, there’s no reason he should be cutting NASA’s funding in other programs.
Nothing about our behaviors recently suggest that we are being responsible. We are not cutting our debt. We are not saving jobs which are outdated. We don’t need more money in the already gargantuan military budget.
Destroying America’s scientific community will not save the country from things you’re concerned about.