Is Science a Special Interest Group for One Party?
A commentator in the world’s leading science journal advised that science needs to work harder at becoming bipartisan.
Daniel Sarewitz, whose pointed commentaries are often critical of science as it is compared to how it should be, wrote a disturbing “World View” column in Nature (Jan 3 issue) – disturbing, that is, for American Democrats. He accused both individual scientists and scientific institutions of neglecting Republicans and conservatives, appearing to overwhelmingly support the Democratic party.
Science must be seen to bridge the political divide
Scientists in the United States are often perceived as a Democratic interest group. For science’s sake this has to change, argues Daniel Sarewitz.
To prevent science from continuing its worrying slide towards politicization, here’s a New Year’s resolution for scientists, especially in the United States: gain the confidence of people and politicians across the political spectrum by demonstrating that science is bipartisan.
Sarewitz discussed how key spokespersons for science are often very partisan, simply assuming that the Democratic Party is their friend, and the Republican party the enemy.
That President Barack Obama chose to mention “technology, discovery and innovation” in his passionate victory speech in November shows just how strongly science has come, over the past decade or so, to be a part of the identity of one political party, the Democrats, in the United States. The highest-profile voices in the scientific community have avidly pursued this embrace. For the third presidential election in a row, dozens of Nobel prizewinners in physics, chemistry and medicine signed a letter endorsing the Democratic candidate.
He tallied the record and found that “Of the 43 (out of 68) signatories on record as having made past political donations, only five had ever contributed to a Republican candidate, and none did so in the last election cycle.” That’s not right. Nobel laureates are “citizens with political preferences,” he said, and should not treat science like a political football. “If the laureates are speaking on behalf of science, then science is revealing itself, like the unions, the civil service, environmentalists and tort lawyers, to be a Democratic interest, not a democratic one.” Ouch!
Sarewitz went on to describe how historically, science has prospered under both parties. “The claim that Republicans are anti-science is a staple of Democratic political rhetoric, but bipartisan support among politicians for national investment in science, especially basic research, is still strong,” he said, providing some statistics.
He voiced a theory about why Republicans get a bad rap: they typically oppose “social science,” not so much science per se. That’s because “they believe [social science] tilts towards liberal political agendas.” Compounding the trouble is that social science is invading more and more scientific initiatives: “As scientists seek to provide policy-relevant knowledge on complex, interdisciplinary problems ranging from fisheries depletion and carbon emissions to obesity and natural hazards, the boundary between the natural and the social sciences has blurred more than many scientists want to acknowledge.” When leading scientists enthusiastically align themselves with the Democratic party, it’s no wonder that conservatives are suspicious that “all science is social science” when it comes to “contentious issues such as climate change, natural-resource management and policies around reproduction”.
One-party science is “dangerous for science and for the nation,” he warned. A healthy national scientific enterprise needs to be bipartisan. Sarewitz rebuked the scientific community about this in no uncertain terms:
The US scientific community must decide if it wants to be a Democratic interest group or if it wants to reassert its value as an independent national asset. If scientists want to claim that their recommendations are independent of their political beliefs, they ought to be able to show that those recommendations have the support of scientists with conflicting beliefs.
Bipartisan science, by contrast, would benefit science and the nation. “Politicians would find it more difficult to attack science endorsed by avowedly bipartisan groups of scientists, and more difficult to justify their policy preferences by scientific claims that were contradicted by bipartisan panels.”
Sarewitz ended with an unfortunate analogy, comparing his advice to bridge the divide with Republicans with the historic attempts of scientists during the Cold War to bridge the divide with Russian scientists. By implication, this might suggest the Republicans are like the Russian Reds (even though “red” is the current color of the Republican party), when in fact communism is more aligned with far left ideology.
Other than that, this article is important, not only for its good advice, but for reinforcing what CEH has alleged for a long time – that scientists and academics are (to an overwhelming degree) willing agents of the liberals, leftists, and the Democratic party (see 9/07/2012, 8/22/2012, 7/06/2012, 8/07/2011, 10/14/2010, 7/05/2010, 9/28/2008, or search on Democrats in the search bar). Notice these same people are predominantly Darwinist, too. Unless parity is achieved, scientists and their institutions have lost credibility to claim science is an “independent national asset” providing value to all Americans.
One can detect a faint undertone that Sarewitz is more concerned about loss of funding than about political balance. “In the current period of dire fiscal stress, one way to undermine this stable funding and bipartisan support would be to convince Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, that science is a Democratic special interest,” he worried.
Well, guess what Sarewitz left out of his equation. When does scientific funding go up? In a booming economy! Republicans should be seen as the greatest friends of science, because they strongly support growth of the private sector by reducing taxes and regulations. When business thrives because entrepreneurs are not punished with stifling taxes and interference, the economy surges, and government becomes one of the key beneficiaries. More growth means more jobs. More jobs means more taxpayers. It doesn’t take high tax rates to increase revenues: it takes a growing and expanding pool of successful businesses and the jobs they create. A strong economy (the Republican model) is the very boost science needs. That’s when revenues are strong, lifting all ships, including science funding.
The redistributionist path we are on under the current administration, though, will damage science along with the rest of the private sector, because all ships will founder on the rocks. President Obama is intent on “fairness,” by which he means taking from the wealthy and handing it out to the poor. This doesn’t spread the wealth around (remember that phrase from his conversation with Joe the Plumber); it spreads the misery around. It reduces incentive to take risks. The economy falters, joblessness rises. The President cannot be blind to the fact that taking all the money from the wealthiest Americans would only run the government for a few days or weeks. He knows that increasing taxes on capital gains does not increase revenues. But he is stuck on “fairness” regardless; everyone should be equally miserable, including scientists.
The Democrats own this economy now. As the debt skyrockets into unprecedented trillions (more than incurred by all previous presidents combined), scientists are getting hurt along with every other American. The value of the currency drops as inflation threatens to rise. Everything becomes more costly. Scientists will have to argue for the smallest cuts rather than affordable increases, with the spectre of complete economic collapse looming on the horizon – a time when all scientific funding by the government would be a fool’s luxury, last on the priority list. The economic crisis America faces, along with many of the world’s democratic nations bent on “equality of outcome” instead of “equality of opportunity,” is being exacerbated by liberal policies. Scientists who align with the Democratic party have a death wish; they love what is destroying them. Instead of pampering the goose that lays the golden egg, they slay it in greed.
As for hoping that scientists will heed Sarewitz’s advice to become more bipartisan – that’s funny, it’s so unlikely. If anything happens at all, it will be a scheme to “appear” more bipartisan without any substantive change (for example of phony “engagement,” see this article on ENV). It could take a generation or longer to get real bipartisanship. Will the country last that long?