Next week, voters are widely expected to give the House back to Republicans. There’s also a reasonable chance the Senate will change hands as well. One of the areas that will suffer the most if and when this happens is science and technology.
It’s not just that science based programs and research funding will be cut. Those programs were slashed dramatically under the Bush Administration, and the weak economy has not allowed Obama to restore many of them. Rather, it is the country as a whole that will suffer.
Under President Bush, science was repeatedly purged, censored, twisted, and manipulated to back politically motivated objectives. Scientists were fired or defunded for not reaching conclusions that were ideologically aligned with the administration. Science was not seen as a quest for objective understanding and technological progress, but at a means to a pre-defined end. It’s no wonder scientists hailed the election of Barack Obama who promised that scientific thought and research would play a crucial role in his government.
Yet the going into the mid-term election, the GOP continues to promise that they will return the country to the dark days of science where profit and religious doctrine will hold sway and data can stay in the back room with the geeks.
This is seen most clearly in the denial of anthropogenic global warming. While 92% of climate scientists find the data supporting man-made warming credible, exactly 0% of current or prospective Republican Senators or Congressmen do. As a result, they’ve vowed to not only kill any sort of carbon based energy policy, but have promised to hog-tie the EPA so they will be unable to regulate carbon dioxide under existing laws despite the Supreme Court ruling that not only is it legal for them to do that, it is their obligation. This position is not motivated by science, but rather by profit for the existing industries.
Republicans have promised to block any attempts at net neutrality regulations despite evidence that such policies would foster innovation and spur development of new technology based industries. The reason being that such regulations might erode profits for existing business models. Something the current corporate titans don’t want to have to deal with.
The GOP has more recently come out against funding development of rare earth minerals outside of China. This despite the dependence of high tech devices and projects on such minerals. The danger being that China currently produces 97% of the world’s supply of rare earths, and has strongly indicated that it will hold them hostage should countries such as ours demand currency adjustments or changes meant to create a fairer trade balance between China and the rest of the world. In this case, the motive for stalling the initiative is purely political, as it thwarts a potential accomplishment the Democrats might claim.
In addition, the Republicans have their unfounded morality based opposition to stem cell research. And further still, the desire to teach our children that science is only useful when it doesn’t lead you to uncomfortable conclusions like evolution or the big bang.
This is not a condemnation of conservatives. By definition, conservatives are disposed to preserve the existing condition. They are the natural political brake assuring that choices are made carefully and cautiously. But the current GOP position is not really conservative at all. They want to take us backwards. Back to the dark ages of reason where superstition reigned.
Many on both sides of the aisle pine for the time when the economy ran strong, the middle class flourished, and the US was an unquestioned superpower on the world stage. All those things are directly attributable to this country being the science and technology powerhouse on the planet. Those days are behind us… and the Republicans seem intent on keeping it that way.