the disaster that is the u.s. science and technology committee
When you assemble an official legislative body with the stated mission to support the advancement of science and technology in your home country, common sense should tell you to avoid creationists and partisan hacks who think that salads are communist. And yet, this is who the GOP sought fit to head the House Science and Technology Committee while pretending not to understand why so many scientists don’t vote from them and using this as a justification to launch witch hunts for evidence of conspiracy theories clearly backed by their corporate donors and really vocal pundits. After years of this nonsense, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the committee tweeted a link to a nonsensical, cherry-picked Breitbart article about global warming, alleging that scientists are deliberately ignoring a drop in temperatures in 2016, even though data collected so far shows that this year will actually be the hottest year on record. The only questions climatologists have about this, is by how much, and how to adjust their forecasts for 2017 in light of this.
So how exactly does the hottest year on record turn into a temperature drop all of a sudden? By the exact same technique of which all global warming denialists accuse climatologists: rampant ideological cherry-picking by some hack. Basically, it’s a rehash of an article by David Rose, an award-winning investigative journalist turned climate crank, in the Daily Mail, which makes its case for a drop in temperatures during 2016 by ignoring everything other than land temperatures between 1997 and today, and using only initial raw estimates. In technical terms, there was a post-El Nino temperature drop this year, but only if you ignore 70% of the planet’s surface, refuse to correct the raw data based on complete observations, and ignore the trend going back to the 1980s showing that the Earth is still warming. How ironic it is that a committee fuming about cherry picking by scientists tweets cherry picking by foreign tabloid writers as if it was peer reviewed scientific fact.
Never mind the fact that global warming denialism is now in the realm of an Alex Jones conspiracy theory, the committee of legislators who are charged with the awesome task of helping to steer the trajectory of STEM research for a world leader in scientific and technical leadership have said “You know what? Fuck the facts! We’re playing to our base!” and think that’s a perfectly acceptable way to behave in their posts. In response to scientific and media umbrage at their nonsense, all they had to offer was a deafening silence and a disturbing revelation from the Democrats on the committee which I took the liberty to condense for brevity…
Democrats and Republicans have their own teams of staffers for the committee, but share a news clipping service for providing information to elected officials. “It’s constantly like the the Daily Caller and Texas GOP Vote Blog and just these random conservative publications that made it into our clips,” a spokeswoman for the Democrats’ office said. She said that her office tried to rely on apolitical sources, such as Science Magazine and the academic journal Nature, and that she could not speak for her Republican counterparts. “I don’t know what their process is,” she said. “We don’t work a lot together.”
Just take this in. The people we put in charge of our now crucial science and technology budgets, which will help us live in an automated and globalized future, are keeping themselves willfully ignorant and basing their decisions and actions on what right wing pundits and trolls say on the subject. These are the same pundits who ridicule scientific discoveries with which they are uncomfortable in areas in which they have exactly zero qualifications. These are the same pundits who advance conspiracy theories and do absolutely no research on what they write. And they, instead of actual experts famously denigrated and belittled by this committee, are the voices to the officials in this post listen to dictate science and tech policy.
If you don’t think this is a problem, next time you’re seriously sick, consult one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s books and see how well that advice works out for you in the end. And while Paltrow is at least well meaning but ignorant of the basics of health and immunology, these pundits often have a malicious agenda to advance in what amounts to a perfect storm of nefariousness and scientific and technical illiteracy. Guided mostly by their anti-intellectual fits and conniptions, Republicans demand a steady rate of innovations from the nation’s academic and research institutions while campaigning to slash their budgets, denigrating their work, attacking their research should it not follow the party line, refusing to educate themselves on the work that techies and scientists do, and using work they obviously don’t understand as examples of “waste by big government” even if it’s vital basic research.
In this light, they are using the work of scientists and engineers for virtually every facet of their daily lives as they actively try to harm the very system on which they rely, like a gastrointestinal parasite which keeps starving its host by absorbing more and more of the nutrients it tries to ingest. And sooner or later, it either has to be passed out of the host’s system, or the host will die of malnutrition, killing the parasite in the process. That’s the thing the GOP hardliners railing against academics, researchers, and engineers who dare to contradict their dogmas, seem incapable of understanding. When they pull the kind of stupid crap they do now, they’re not simply punishing all those evil liberals. They’re setting everyone up for long term economic, military, and health failures, themselves included, and all their loyal constituents first and foremost, as evidenced by the events of this dumpster fire of a year…