Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Cronon Affair and the Assault on Science and Reason

Paul Krugman has a great post up discussing the Cronon Affair in Wisconsin. A NY Times editorial further describes the incident.

Earlier this month, he was asked to write an Op-Ed article for The Times on the historical context of Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to strip public-employee unions of bargaining rights. While researching the subject, he posted on his blog several critical observations about the powerful network of conservatives working to undermine union rights and disenfranchise Democratic voters in many states.

In particular, he pointed to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by business interests that circulates draft legislation in every state capital, much of it similar to the Wisconsin law, and all of it unmatched by the left. Two days later, the state Republican Party filed a freedom-of-information request with the university, demanding all of his e-mails containing the words “Republican,” “Scott Walker,” “union,” “rally,” and other such incendiary terms.

Both articles also make the obvious link to Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli's similar crusade against climate scientist, Michael Mann even though several independent investigations have found Mann innocent of any wrong doing. Many ultraconservatives do not care about objective science and scholarship. This is well documented in Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science. Similar themes are also explored in Oreskes and Conway's Merchants of Doubt.

This should be chilling to the American public. The gap is shrinking, but the U.S. is still the world leader in scientific output. This is where our future lies. We have an enviable higher education system that still attracts many of the best and brightest from around the world. Properly channeling those intellectual resources into research and innovation will be essential to maintaining economic growth in the coming decades. Attacks on science and scientists by politicians can only serve to scare away the brightest from entering research fields or from coming here to perform their research.

I'll leave you with a great quote by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) when the GOP controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee voted down an amendment declaring the reality of climate change (the amendment didn't even say climate change was caused by humans).

Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to a bill that overturns the scientific finding that pollution is harming our people and our planet.
However, I won’t rise physically, because I’m worried that Republicans will overturn the law of gravity, sending us floating around the room.
I won’t call for the sunlight of additional hearings, for fear that Republicans might excommunicate the finding that the Earth revolves around the sun.
Instead, we will embody Newton’s third law of motion and be an equal and opposing force against this attack on science and on laws that will reduce America’s importation of foreign oil.
This bill will live in the House while simultaneously being dead in the Senate. It will be a legislative Schrödinger’s cat killed by the quantum mechanics of the legislative process!
Arbitrary rejection of scientific fact will not cause us to rise from our seats today. But with this bill, pollution levels will rise. Oil imports will rise. Temperatures will rise.
And with that, I yield back the balance of my time. That is, unless a rejection of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is somewhere in the chair’s amendment pile.

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