Big Science Sullies Its Reputation
The public will lose confidence in science if its institutions continue to side with the political left.
Before reading the news about Big Science’s involvement with politics, let’s review some intuitive principles about science:
- Science has nothing to do with politics. Scientists are supposed to investigate the natural world.
- The taxpayers and their servants in government owe nothing to scientists. Anything scientists get is gravy.
- The government has every right to determine the amount and use of any taxpayer earnings redistributed to scientists.
As radical as those principles sound in today’s culture of Big Government, Big Science and Big Media, they are true. A look at the history of science proves it. Although governments have occasionally chosen to support scientific research, most of the work was done privately (e.g., by Robert Boyle and James Joule) or by private institutions (e.g., the Royal Institution that sponsored Michael Faraday). The king of France supported the Paris Academy, but also dictated much of the direction of its research. Private universities have supported science since the Middle Ages, but some of the greatest scientific discoveries were made by individuals working alone, occasionally supported by magnanimous friends (e.g., Edmund Halley to Isaac Newton). Scientists pursued science because they were interested in the subject matter and wanted to know. The love for knowledge—the search to understand how the world works—must be paramount to keep science from corrupting itself. The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
Realistically, though, Big Science needs Big Government, and to a lesser extent, vice versa. Government can benefit from scientific research for national prestige (such as building a popular space program), for national defense (supporting basic research to improve the military), or to improve the life of its citizens with research that leads to cures, innovations (promoting business and trade) and conveniences. These goals often require huge institutions costing a lot of money. But the three principles listed above remain true: government does not owe a scientist anything. If a country wants to do nothing but protect its people, it could in all rights turn scientists loose to fund their own hobbies. Scientists could look for benefactors like Andrew Carnegie or Bill Gates who could give money willingly, instead of by coercion through taxation.
Since World War II, however, there’s been an unholy alliance forged between government and science (see Footnote*). We now have the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as powerful interest groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and numerous journal editors, whose lobbyists clamor for their teat on the government sow. Many university professors have left classroom lecturing to spend full time in research on the government dole. Their deans, complicit in the unholy alliance, want to keep the research funds flowing to enhance their institution’s prestige. Lucrative contract awards corrupt scientific ideals and lead to conflicts of interest. Many scientists these days practically view themselves as government employees. No wonder scientific integrity takes a back seat, leading to a crisis of confidence (2/25/17) that never seems to improve despite occasional episodes of hand-wringing by ethicists.
Since Big-Government Democrats position themselves as friends of ‘science’ with few qualms about national indebtedness, Big Science (and their uncritical lapdogs in Big Media), tend to lean left in politics. That’s where they think the money will flow easier. (Whether or not that is true is a separate question.) Leftists and Democrats also tend to be less religious, favoring the materialist bias so prevalent in the Darwin-worshiping academy. American scientists, disavowing the American exceptionalism propounded by conservative Republicans, find kindred hearts in European socialist countries, where atheism rules.
So closed to alternative viewpoints are university science departments and science reporters now, they can’t even think outside the Democrat box any more. The Pavlovian response (“vote Democrat, get money”) is evident in the following news items, where instinctively anything Republican or Trumpian is viewed as evil, anything Democrat or Clintonian is viewed as good. It’s a package deal. Once aligned with a political party, an institutional scientist will tend to support everything on that party’s platform, whether or not it has anything to do with science. Ring the Democrat bell: watch Big Science salivate. Ring the Republican bell: watch Big Science growl. For this reason, those few scientists outside the leftist echo chamber tend to keep their mouths shut. It’s not fun being surrounded by growling colleagues, even if they know it’s all BS (Big Science). What’s new since the election is political activism promoted by Big Science itself. The corruption is complete.
Trump’s policies set to damage health and science, warns The BMJ (Medical Xpress). This blatantly partisan article presents Democrat talking points in the guise of a science story on a science news site. It claims Trump is evil on immigration, wrong in wanting to overturn Obamacare, and a liar because of talk of ‘alternative facts’ by an aide. All his reform proposals are wrong before even getting out the gate. Only leftists at the British Medical Journal get the microphone. Chuck Schumer couldn’t have said it better.
Single-payer reform is ‘the only way to fulfill the president’s pledge’ on health care (Medical Xpress). This is an extremely biased argument for socialized medicine. But that’s what the plan by Democrats was all along, wasn’t it? Didn’t Jonathan Gruber (architect of Obamacare) let that cat out of the bag years ago? They had to lie to the stupid Americans, he said, to start the ball rolling.
Demise of stream rule won’t revitalize coal industry (Science Magazine). If Trump is for it, the AAAS is against it. “Environmentalists were outraged earlier this month after the Republican-led Congress used an obscure law to erase a new regulation aimed at reducing the environmental damage caused by coal mining…” yada yada yada. Author Warren Cornwall is certainly welcome to his opinion on coal as he favorable quotes Sierra Club laywers, but is it inconceivable for a science society to present a balanced presentation, perhaps to include another view by a pro-energy-independence Republican scientist? In a looking-glass world, couldn’t a science society be outraged at Obama’s ‘attack’ on the coal industry? Couldn’t scientific institutions show concern for the thousands who lost their jobs? Instead, the AAAS publishes this piece as if it’s the only possible position for ‘science’ to take.
US drinking water at risk from Trump’s cuts to pollution rules (New Scientist). It’s an old Democrat Party trick: scare people that Republicans are going to poison our water and pollute our air. New Scientist leads off with a photo of a little girl getting a drink of water out of the kitchen tap. You can almost hear the horror movie music coming. Trump’s going to dismantle the EPA with his cabinet pick Scott Pruitt (cue scream on soundtrack). Anything about the toxic spill the EPA caused in Colorado in 2015 under the Obama administration? (NBC News). Anything about the toxic drinking water in Flint, Michigan on Obama’s watch? (CNN). Of course not; only Republicans pollute.
Trump’s policy changes put women’s sexual and reproductive health at risk, argues expert (Medical Xpress). So terrible to possibly limit access to abortions. So bad to threaten the ACA. So evil to discriminate against the gender-confused. This broken-record presentation of Clinton/Obama talking points, as expected, employs the Orwellian phrase “women’s reproductive health” as a euphemism for abortion. The reporter shows absolutely no concern whatsoever for the constitutional right to life for the unborn (half of whom are female). Fathers, of course, are ignored completely in the equation; they are not among the ‘oppressed’ in the mindset of identity politics (the latest incarnation of Marxist ideology).
New AAAS president emphasizes making the case for science (Science Magazine). Susan Hockfield sees her role as making the AAAS a “force for science,” helping AAAS members “mobilize, energize, and equip science enthusiasts to raise their voices in the public domain.” Science Magazine published one member’s loyal response, “How I’m Standing Up for Science,” where Susan J. Cheng bravely announces her commitment to the cause in the face of the Trump threat (as filtered through Big Media). It reads like a love letter to Dear Leader Hockfield:
The morning after President Trump’s inauguration, I woke up to an email from AAAS (the publisher of Science) asking me, “How will you stand up for science?” This was a question I hadn’t thought about or discussed much with other scientists, and I struggled to find my answer. However, after reading about how the Environmental Protection Agency was initially told to remove climate change information from its website and about travel restrictions that affected my colleagues, it was painfully clear that an answer was urgently needed. I wanted to do my part to protect science.
Before diagnosing Trump as mentally ill, let’s ask what that actually means (The Conversation). Isn’t it noble that Meron Wondemaghen stands up to all the liberals calling Trump crazy, demanding he be removed as unfit for office? Isn’t it profound that she questions the meaning of ‘mental illness’? Isn’t it sweet that she comes to his defense, saying “Trump’s impulsivity, vulgarity, personal attacks, recklessness and fondness for misinformation are not necessarily symptoms of mental illness.” Such love.
An Anti-Trump Incantation: What’s in a Magic Spell? (Live Science). When it comes to diagnosing mental illness, ask yourself what would cause a science reporter to give serious consideration to witchcraft. That’s right; Stephanie Pappas hates Trump so much, she has lost it. She would rather talk about witches casting spells on Trump in a ‘Live Science’ post than to condemn such practice as profoundly irrational, the polar opposite of scientific ideals. Nowhere does she condemn this. Maybe it’s time to change the name to Live Seance.
*David Noble: “By about 1943-1944, there was discussion about what the postwar scientific establishment would look like. By this time, the corporations and the universities and the scientists who had been reluctant to take federal funds for fear of taxpayer involvement were now so enamored of the largess that they didn’t want to give it up. And they said, we can’t go backwards — this is the new game — we are going to be taking taxpayer money. But we don’t want the taxpayer involved in what we do….
“…. what happened first is that Harley Kilgore, a senator from West Virginia, set up a plan for a ‘National Science Foundation’ whereby the taxpayer — an ordinary citizen, a non-scientist — would sit on committees and panels overseeing the allocation of research funds.
“In response to that, Vannevar Bush and his friends put together a counterproposal calling for a ‘National Research Foundation’ — which became more or less what we have in today’s National Science Foundation.
The Vannevar Bush et al. legislation said essentially that science would be funded by the taxpayer but controlled by scientists. Again, scientists — this is important to emphasize — are not simply scientists, but scientists and the corporation they work for….
“There was a problem with the way the committees and panels overseeing the allocation of research funds would be set up. The problem had a name and the name is DEMOCRACY. The fundamental tenet of the democratic system is that the taxpayers funding something have control over what’s done with the money.
“Harry Truman said it was the most undemocratic piece of legislation he'[d even seen and vetoed it. It went through minor changes and because what we have today — a scientific establishment run by scientists with very little political oversight. The key thing is how they kept the taxpayer out was through PEER REVIEW.” (Suzan Mazur, The Origin of Life Circus, pp. 426-427, in an interview with MIT scholar David Noble (1945-2010), whom she calls “The Tarzan of science and technology historians.”)
Look at the liberals calling Trump crazy while endorsing witchcraft. Look at them calling Republicans intolerant as they engage in violence. Look at them protesting pipelines as they leave mountains of trash behind. You will know them by their fruits. (When they are all fruits and nuts, it’s easier to tell.)
Big Science is Fake Science. Big Media is Fake News. Don’t be a mindless dupe like Susan Cheng; her type belong in North Korean army parades of goose-stepping, uniformed rubber ducks.
Read history. Read philosophy. Get outside the echo chamber. Learn to think critically. Then, and only then, will you have some hope of understanding ‘science’.