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The Death of American Science
What will the consequences be for America as we deny science and embrace ignorance? Fortunately, for humanity the quest for knowledge continues unabated in other countries. If the science denial crowd wins the debate in the US, we may still be able to buy the next innovation from China or India or even Europe. At present, the US, is still the world leader in the pursuit of science but there are pressures leading us to abandon our lead and embrace ignorance as the way forward.
Two situations are working to setback science in America. First and simplest to change is taxes. Scientists and Universities depend on the government to fund their research. When a scientist wants funds for research, he/she must apply for grant money either from the government or from private sources. The government supplies as much as 65 percent of all of the university research dollars. The grant process is laborious and fraught with pitfalls. If the scientist makes a trivial mistake in the grant form, the grant will be rejected automatically. For those grant applications that make it past the front door it will be given a percentile grade. A grade of 2 percent means that it was considered more promising than 98 percent of the proposed projects. The higher percentile score your project receives means there will be a lower chance of being funded. Now enters our budget deficit, Uncle Sam wants to spend less, politicians are insisting that budgets must be cut, food assistance to children? Cut. Defense Department civilian employees? Cut. Wildfire prevention? Cut. Basic scientific projects are being defunded and universities are losing federal money. Now we add "Sequestration" this harmless and victimless government-funding debacle has defunded even more projects. The result is bad news for science in the US. Scientists are scrambling to find funds, many projects have already been abandoned, test animals have been euthanized and labs shuttered. We are no longer looked at as the country to go to for scientific research and innovation. Some scientists are moving to places which have more favorable atmospheres for scientific pursuits. It has happened more than once already, a scientist, educated in an American university loses funding. The Chinese, sitting on a pile of American cash, have been enticing American taught scientists to work for them. What is the benefit to Americans? We get lower taxes and we may get to buy new technologies from China.
The answer to this part of the anti-science debate is simple. If we want to remain at the forefront of technological innovation, we will have to pay for it with taxes. If we are not willing to pay for scientific advances we will have to be satisfied to let China lead.
"A MAN WITH A CONVICTION is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point." So wrote the celebrated Stanford University psychologist Leon Festinger
God was the answer to all the big questions
Three hundred years ago, before the Enlightenment, battle lines were already drawn. Before the Enlightenment, believing in God was the answer to all the big questions of life. God controlled everything. If your crops failed, you must have sinned. If you became ill, God must be exacting revenge. God, either angry or pleased, brought about droughts and floods, famines or feasts. Even when we couldn't figure out what God was trying to do, everything worked out according to God's plan. As they say, "God works in mysterious ways", and that's all you needed to know.
During the Enlightenment, working on foundations built during the Renaissance and as far back as ancient Greece, Europeans found their world was getting bigger. Philosophers, scientists and artists were abandoning traditional ways of understanding the universe and turning to a deductive way of understanding nature based on experiments, observations and repeatability; the scientific method. The authority of the Church was threatened. Earlier, during the 16th and 17th centuries, fear of heretics spreading teachings and opinions that contradicted the Bible dominated the Catholic Church. They persecuted scientists who formed theories the Church deemed heretical and forbade people from reading any books on those subjects by placing the books on the Index of Prohibited Books. During the Enlightenment, people shook off the strictures of the Church. Eventually, the Catholic Church found accommodations with science and decided that the scientific method was doing nothing more than revealing how God worked in the world. Scientists can say "Big Bang" but we say, "And God said let there be light".
UNLIMITED POTENTIAL, VANISHING OPPORTUNITY
Nearly 20 Percent Of Scientists Contemplate Moving Overseas Due In Part To Sequestration
"In the summer of 2013, ASBMB and fifteen other scientific societies conducted a survey of scientists asking questions regarding cuts to nondefense discretionary spending by Congress since 2010. Over 3,700 scientists from all fields of research responded.
Unlimited Potential, Vanishing Opportunity compiles the data from the survey into an easily understandable report that chronicles the difficulties of scientists trying to secure federal funds for research".
The Truth About Global Warming - Science & Distortion - Stephen Schneider
American Science as it was
Today, certain Evangelicals, politicians and radio talking heads want to return to the beliefs of pre-Enlightenment Europe, rejecting science and answers based on examining evidence. Faith in God alone will provide answers to any problem created by people. God didn't tell us that he used evolution to develop species so it didn't happen. Dragons were real animals in Biblical times. (Maybe Solomon kept a dragon as a pet.) The Earth is only six thousand years old and scientists are just too stupid to figure out the earth's real age. Dinosaurs and people walked the land at the same time, ("I saw the footprints and they look just like a person's footprint"). Vaccines? Vaccines don't work and they cause autism. This is in spite of the fact that Smallpox has been wiped out by vaccine worldwide. Measles is very rare in the US but it still exists in countries where children haven't been vaccinated. The movement in this country may actually bring measles back to America as our kids don't get vaccinated but good parents don't believe in science and don't care about evidence.
We're afraid to drink tap water so millions of us drink bottled water contaminated with BPA. We pay as much as 9 thousand times as much for bottled water as we do for tap and 25 to 30 percent of bottled water comes straight from municipal tap water systems. Bottled water is required to be tested less frequently than tap water for bacteria and chemical contaminants, and FDA rules for bottled water allow for some contamination by E. coli or fecal coliform bacteria. The EPA is charged with keeping our water supply safe but the budget cutters want to defund the agency and the sequestration has already cut into the EPA budget.
Many of us believe Global Climate Change doesn't exist. Wait, years of rising temperatures have convinced some to admit the climate is changing so maybe Global Climate Change is happening but people had nothing to do with it. With a world population of about 7 billion souls, we are adding about 88 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every day yet there are those who believe that we are not affecting the planet. Even the most remote places on earth show signs of human pollution yet we are not responsible for any of it, and, even if we are responsible, God will fix it for us.
GOP must "stop being the stupid party"
Are you being duped by Exxon Mobil? This PDF report "identifies how strategies and tactics used by ExxonMobil mirror the well-documented campaign by the tobacco industry to prevent government
regulation by creating public confusion about the link between smoking and disease".
The danger of science denial
"Global warming can't destroy humanity
"Global warming can't destroy humanity
because flood won't kill mankind",
said GOP Representative John Shimkus (R-IL), who opposed cap and trade
legislation because God would not allow the Earth to be destroyed by global
warming. This fellow must be reading a different Bible from the one I
have. I thought the Bible said the God would not destroy humanity with a flood.
I don't think the Bible says that we won't damage the environment ourselves. Shimkus is making a typical strawman argument.
It is impossible to find any authority saying global warming will destroy
humanity. They are however warning us that sea levels will rise making many cities
uninhabitable, droughts, floods, heat waves, wildfires
and less winter snow may turn fertile plains into dust bowls, and if water for irrigation
disappears, golden waves of grain may revert to prairie grasses. Humanity
however is expected to survive, unlike the many animal species we destroy. It is nice though to be assured by Shimkus
that God will come along and clean up the mess we made. Pollute as much as you
want, God, is now a cosmic chambermaid and he will clean up after us.
Global Warming Facts
Do you know more about science and technology than the average American?
"Take our 13-question quiz to test your knowledge of scientific concepts. Then see how you did in comparison with the 1,006 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions in a national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine".
The results of this quiz are appalling, at the bottom only 20 percent of us know which gas makes up most of the atmosphere and more than half of us think that lazers focus sound waves.
So, How did you do?
Will China Lead?
For right now, the good ol' USA is still at the center of science and technology. Do we really want a generation of people that deny the advances of science? Who will be the engineers in this brave old world? If we do nothing, because we have lost faith in education, science and evidence, we give an advantage to our rivals. Perhaps we can buy the next technological advances from China or India or Europe where they still embrace progress.
The climate change debate has become a polarized political battle that changes an important issue into an irrelevant circus with religious aspects. Waiting for catastrophe and denying the evidence from science and your own senses is not a solution, it is placing a religious faith in talk radio and politicians funded by big oil.
Copyright Lee H Raynor