Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Science and Politics: A Dangerous Mix (Tell Me About It!)

Science and Politics: A Dangerous Mix
By Gregory M. Lamb
The Chrisitan Science Monitor

Tuesday 27 September 2005

'Twisted science' may endanger America's future, one journalist warns.
The Republican War on Science lives up to its incendiary title. The book will undoubtedly raise hackles among conservatives and spawn sharp-tongued counterattacks. But the real test of its efficacy may be whether or not it persuades independents and moderate Republicans that without a new approach toward science America is headed for what the author calls "economic, ecological, and social calamity."


Full Story

We at LANL can only hope that LockMart will not parrot "...the breathtaking audacity of Mr. Bush's 'New Right' in its cynical manipulation of science. In a kind of Orwellian newspeak, they label conventional science as 'junk science' and seek to replace it with what they call 'sound science' - in other words, questionable, fringe science that conveniently props up the interests of big industry and conservative Christians."

With all its faults, at least UC said the right words about supporting real science. What a shame that they dropped the LANL ball for the last several years.
Let's not forget the DOE's love of junk science, namely, polygraphs. And that brings to mind our Dear Governor, who, as Sec'y of Energy joined the rabid Republicans who howled for more of them. (Polygraphs are best used as instruments of intimidation, just keeping them damn scientists off-balance and scared stiff.) Richardson then concluded, in his infinite wisdom (and in the interests of keeping his options for Vice President in 2000 open) that 10,000 polygraphs DOE-wide would be just about right; then he thought it over and said that only 5,000 would be needed; then maybe only 2,000; then 1,000; then 500; then, well, OK, 300! And those were just the Poor Saps in the "Just pee in the cup, you Poor Sap" (aka PSAP) Program. Bill "Fringe Science" Richardson...
I don't think the failure of the federal government in science is that connected to the party in power. The DOE point about polygraphs seems to be apolitical.
I don't buy most of the premises of Greg Lamb, though. He seems to be coming at it from a particular political viewpoint rather than a scientific one (as does most of the main stream media these days).
What do you mean by "junk science" it is obvious that the republicans have some superior scientists on their side. How else could George Bush have created and driven Katrina directly into a Democrat stronghold and then sent Rita into Houston to try to finish off the stragglers. These brilliant minds could easily solve the "global warming problem" but it is obvious that Bush wants to destroy the planet. The U-joint went out in my truck this afternoon but I think that was Cheney's doing. Damn Republicans, I can't wait till Hillary takes over things will be much better with her and the UN in charge. She would only engage in "just" wars like her husband did in Bosnia and Sudan. I feel much safer knowing the asprin factories in Sudan are forever closed.
The big story here is that our colleges are now seeing drastic reductions in
the number of kids who are selecting science careers. At many colleges, the
number of incoming freshmen selecting a Computer Science major is down by
over 50% from just a few years ago. The US scientific pipeline has been cut.

Contrast this to the Asian countries, which are now graduating more good
scientists than ever before. In fact, China now graduates over 10 times
as many scientist and engineers as the US every year! We'll finally wake
up to this problem in a few more years, but by that time, it could be too
late for the US to play catch-up. For example, some of the most advanced
stem cell research in the world is now taking place in South Korea, where the
government places few constraints on this research. Back here in America, the
"leave no cell behind" crowd has hampered stem cell research with outrageous
constraints based on narrow religious viewpoints. The result of this has
been that South Korea is now one of the foremost countries in the area
of cloning technology.

It feels as if the US no longer values science as it once did. The
"dumbing down" of America appears to be in full swing. And, as this
new book indicates, many of the far-right in the GOP appear to harbor a
belief system that is actually hostile to science.

Please keep the blog audience in mind when making comments. LANL employs many of finest minds in the world (just ask them). In the future, please label such posts as "SARCASM" so they don't get confused.


Great points. Worth noting however that the decline in science, math, and engineering enrollments didn't start with this administration. Since the end of the US R&D glory days in the 1960s, enrollments have reflected our society's values and strongly held beliefs --- science is not only hard, it's frequently evil. Watch almost any recent movie; if the bad guys aren't crazed islamofascist terrorists, they're more than likely scientists.

While its fun to pretend that W and his legions of web-footed bible thumpers are the case of all this, they don't make any movies and really don't set the direction that society moves in (it is a little scary though that a hatred/distrust of science may be the one thing that the far left and right apparently agree on).

Contrast all of this with coutries like China, India, and Russia which view scientists and science as the engine that will pull them from the third world to the 1st. Look also at the perception of lawyers in these societies -- Indians in particular consider lawyers as generally corrupt parasites that live off the produce of others.

In the US, the good and glamorous guys on TV are all lawyers. We're headed the same direction as England. But the food will probably be better.
The dumbing down of America is a liberal project. The Democrats are in the hip pockets of the teachers unions that resist performance metrics for teachers and students. They think it's more important for little Johnny to have good self esteem than to accurately work a math problem. The liberals think it's okay for for 2+2 to = 5 as long as it makes you happy in the end. The physics books have been shelved in favor of demonstrations of putting condoms on bananas and lectures on how evil our founding fathers actually were. The fact that our universities have become bastions of political correctness more interested in social engineering than mechanical engineering is the root cause of this problem. American students have been slipping for decades and the mindless mantra that it's all Bush's fault makes you sound like the idiots you probably are. There's plenty of blame to go around for the fact that the US is no longer a world leader in science and industry. But, most of the blame goes to the social engineers who siphon off our assets to level the playing field rather than invest in what was proven to work and made this country great in the first place.
You Bush boys (like 9/28/2005 10:06:35 AM) are just GREAT when it comes to shifting blame. For 5 years now, you've controlled the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. For over 30 years, you've controlled the Judicial Branch (remember the 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court in 2000?). For over 10 years, you've controlled the Legislative Branch, since the Gingrich Revolution and the Contract on America. And through most of the time since 1980, you've had a steadily weakening Democratic Party to "oppose" you. How could it have slipped through your grubby fingers so badly?

You say dumbing down is a "liberal project"? What breathtaking hypocrisy! "No Child Left Behind" was subsumed by "No Billionaire Left Behind." Either you Neocons are drowning in denial, or else you just need the perpetual culture wars to stay in perpetual control. I bet on the latter.
I must agree with Anonymous at 9/28/2005 10:06:35 AM: "The dumbing down of America is a liberal project. The Democrats are in the hip pockets of the teachers unions that resist performance metrics for teachers and students." The NEA's solution to all problems in education is higher teacher salaries. I do not see any benefit to come from paying the same incompetent teachers more money. Our educational system will get better when the parents get involved. I will not believe the the 44% drop out rate in the Santa Fe public high schools is achieved without parental consent.
The saddest part of all of this is that the Los Alamos school system is exactly the same as every other K-12 system in the country: science education for the most part sucks, and kids who might otherwise consider science get a bad taste early. I know, since the last of my kids finally got out of the system. The best or worst example was the HS chemistry teacher one of them had who showed videos of recent movies during class instead of teaching. BTW, he finally retired and was promptly employed by the local jobs program: LANL ---- somewhat ironic.
The dumbing down of America is not a liberal conspiracy. Nor is it a conservative conspiracy. It is a conspiracy of people who say things like "It's all george bush's fault" or "it's a liberal conspiracy." Stupidity is when intelligent debate is replaced by name calling. Neither political party has a monopoly on that one.
Look, i hate GWB as much as anyone, but the criticism he is getting for Katrina is largely misplaced. Nagan, the democratic mayor of NO, is far more at fault for the tragic aftermath of the hurricane than Bush.
IMHO, the real problem is a cultural one: that being smart isn't cool. Until that changes, we're sunk.
OK, K. Boland: Is the smartest and most beloved perpetual wartime President in all of history, Jesus W. Bush, your idea of a guy who thinks "smart is cool"? (Be still, my beating heart, for K.'s crushing answer.)
Re Boland's comment:
The reference to Katrina and responsibility for the outcome is very appropriate to LANL and the future. I think Bush and his approach bear major responsiblity of for the Katrina disaster. Here are a few reasons:
1) Priorities. Bush defunded Corps of Engineering work on levee repair and reconstruction in favor of color-coded "Terror Alerts" and all sorts of other BS. Much of it dole-out to his corporate sponsors.

2) Management. Previously FEMA had been led by experienced people. Bush's first appointee was his former political campaign manager Allbaugh. He stayed two years. Since then he has worked as lobbyist (Halliburton et al). Allbaubh was followed by the now infamous "Brownie". Loyal Republican yes. Compentent or experienced no.

3) Resources. 40 - 50% of the National Guard resources are in Iraq, including heavy equipment needed for levee and flood work.

4) Motivation, Inspiration. Bush took nearly a week to get on the ball....that about says it all. Now the real looting is underway under their 'supervision'. The philosophy: stand by, let it destruct, now loot the public resources.

LM has a different MO but they are part of the same crowd. "Tax breaks for those who don't need them; poor kids go to Iraq; only a sucker does not take advantage."

Whether you consider this from priorities,resources, leadership or motivation .... we have seen where this style and philosophy of leadership goes.

Does this have any connection with LANL and the future? I think so.
Hey, you goddamn atheist commie liberals! Stop ganging up on Boland! (Now, what was the middle thing?)
9/28/2005 03:14:52 PM -- GWB is the exact opposite of "smart is cool." This is a guy who takes pride in being a C student. In a direct contrast, the most recent Democratic president was a Rhodes scholar, and is widely regarded as being an extremely intelligent man. It is obvious that stupidity is not a liberal conspiracy. Apparently you missed the part about my dislike for GWB. But the ideal of fairness is more important to me than picking on Bush, even though it's so easy to do.

Is Bush doing a terrible job? Absolutely! However, there are others who are just as much at fault (in this particular instance), and don't seem to be getting the same level of criticism.
How about the job Bush's Administration is doing on...LANL?
The specifics of what happens to LANL is well below the level of presidential worries. Both political parties are to blame for using the Lab as a political football. As I have said before, both Bingaman and Domenici are trying to duck responsibility here. Bingaman refuses to admit that I have contacted his office at all eventhough I sent a letter to his Santa Fe and Washington offices as well as posting it here. Domenici won't acknowledge the matter at all hoping that it will just go away. Neither of them want to confront the corruption that has all but destroyed this laboratory. As a former staunch Republican I can tell you both parties disgust me.

John N. Horne
I tend to think all politics is evil, but at least the Republicans are appealing to ideals (individual responsibility, integrity, decentralization of power) instead of the Democrats' stock-in-trade of resentment ("blame the Republicans for your bad choices"), manipulation ("you should feel guilty for having money, now give it to me"), pseudoscience ("global warming causes earthquakes, tsunamis, and male pattern baldness"), groupism ("Bush hates black people"), conspiracy mongering ("blood for oil"), and non sequiturs (Bush's position on Kyoto having even a theoretical connection to Katrina).
Hmmmm, Dug, let's look into this matter:

* Individual Responsibility: (See Under) - Bush/AWOL/National Guard

* Integrity: (See Under) - Tom Delay/Indictment/Texas

* Decentralized Power: (See Under) - DHS/Patriot Act/Terri Schiavo

Notice that the GOP now controls ALL facets of our government, but still
have no problem in blaming the "liberal Democrats" as the boogie man for
all that goes wrong in this country.

If you're going to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. The
current leaders of the GOP can't do this. On the other hand, they
have certain other attributes, as demonstrated here:

Bob Cesca: Bigotry In The Name Of Jesus H. Christ - AP Press


Beware the GOP "Toe Monster", people. Oooga, booga!
At 9/28/2005 03:14:52 PM, K. Boland pointed out that George Bush was a C student. Well, that makes him as good as what the Democrats have offered. Kerry's grades were no better. Ted Kennedy was expelled from Harvard for cheating.
Some people are C-grade students because they are dumb. Others are C-grade
students because they are really smart (but somewhat lazy) and see no reason
to work at getting a high grade. Which camps do you think Dubya and Kerry
fit into? You don't need a Ph.d in "nukclear" science to figure this one out.
That's nucular
Kerry figured out that he could marry more money in five minutes than he could earn in a life time.
And Bush was born into it!

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