Republicans Embrace Anti-Science Stupidity

            Ostensibly, the mission of the Congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology is to shape America’s national policy on scientific matters ranging from space exploration to basic scientific research.  A look at the views of some of the current committee members suggests that it might be time to rename the Committee on Science, Space and Technology to the Committee That Is Afraid of Science.  There are 40 members on the committee, 22 Republicans and 18 Democrats. The committee has budgetary control of approximately 40 billion dollars and is not an inconsequential congressional committee.  The committee has oversight on such federal agencies as NASA, the Department of Energy, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  The funding and general ‘direction’ of these agencies is largely determined by this one committee.  Too many members of this committee are simply unqualified to hold membership on this important committee. 

            A career politician and a Republican from a heavily gerrymandered district in Texas, Lamar Smith, is the Chairman of the Committee.  This man is not the most rabidly anti-science person in American politics, but a cursory review of some of his past remarks and votes demonstrates that he is remarkably unqualified to be the Chairman of this committee.  Smith has been a true profile in courage by casting votes against raising CAFÉ standards, eliminating oil and gas exploration subsidies, providing tax credits for renewable energy sources and most egregiously, he voted to exclude greenhouse gases from being regulated by the Clean Air Act.  He is a proud signatory to the No Climate Tax Pledge sponsored by the ultra conservative group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP).  The No Climate Tax Pledge states: “I pledge to the taxpayers of my state, and to the American people, that I will oppose any legislation relating to climate change that includes a net increase in government revenue."  This ‘pledge’ was dreamed up by AFP to fight the Clean Air Act.  How can a man who has expressly announced his opposition to any legislation that could result in either a direct or indirect ‘carbon tax’ serve as Chairman of the very committee that should be setting governmental policy to address climate change?  At least Smith acknowledges that climate change is actually occurring.  Compared to some of the other people on the committee, Smith is a regular science geek.

            Dana Rohrabacher is the Vice Chairman of the committee.  In May of 2011, during a congressional hearing, the California Republican asked a State Department official, “Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?"  Yes, you read that correctly.  The gentleman from the Great State of California would like to know if America should be subsidizing the clearing of the world’s rainforests.   Obviously, he was trying to make a point that he does not believe in climate change.  However, his statement revealed not only an unscientific mind, but a mind that simply is unable to grasp the basic importance of protecting the world’s environment.  Rohrabacher is a hardcore denier that human activity is contributing to climate change.  Even if climate change is happening, Rohrabacher says it is not concerning.  Indeed, he devotes an entire section of his personal congressional webpage supporting this assertion.  He has a frighteningly stupid section titled: No Need to Panic about Global Warming.  I am not providing a link to his website.  I find him to be an embarrassing part of my government.  Be warned, reading his odious views is the mental equivalent of drinking 200 proof alcohol and might actually result in the loss of functioning brain cells.

            Finally, there is the committee’s Chairman Emeritus, Texan Republican Ralph Hall.  Of all the anti-science people in government, Ralph Hall is in a league of his own.  Mr. Hall was born in 1923 and is the oldest man to ever serve in the House of Representatives.  He has been one of the staunchest deniers of climate change ever elected to Congress.  Until 2004, he was a member of the Democratic Party.  He switched affiliations and became an ardent supporter of the Bush Administration and stated, “The country is at war. When the country is at war you need to support the president. Some of my fellow congressmen have not been doing that."  Ah, yes, the song of the patriot.  In a 2011 interview with The National Journal, Hall was asked if he thought that climate change was making the Earth warmer, “I don’t think it’s the cause. I don’t think we can control what God controls.”  When he was told that 97% of climate-science researchers believe that human activity has caused climate change, Hall said, “And they each get $5,000 for every report like that they give out, I don’t have any proof of that. But I don’t believe ’em.”

            There are other members of the committee that have made statements so idiotic that they have to be read to be believed.  This is not a philosophical committee.  The mission of the committee is not to concern itself with matters of religious ideology.  Again, remember the name of the committee is the Congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  The world just experienced the hottest decade in modern times.  There is no debate on either the causes or the dangers of climate change.  The ignorance of these representatives is not only breathtaking, it is dangerous.  The government does have a role to play in dealing with climate change.  Putting people like this in positions of power will cost lives.

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I really don't blame the republicans. The Democrats

Glinda's picture

had a unique opportunity to convince the public or at least a majority of the public that they, the democrats, would fight for The People.  Instead, the democrats blew that opportunity when they adopted republican ideology, and so the dems lost the House in 2010, and this is what we have now.

I will never count on any republican to step up and fight the good fight but I do count on democrats to do so.  When they don't, republicans flourish.

Tea Party won because the democrats let them.

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your point is valid, however, I think there are real differences

sartoris's picture

You do make a valid point, however, the Republicans are rewarding anti-science members with positions on a very important committee.  If you look at the resumes of the 18 democrats on the committee, you won't find the type of ignorant statements made by their counterparts. 

Being anti-science is a virtue in the Republican party.  The party embraces ignorance on a scale that is baffling.

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I'm sorry. I realize I wasn't clear.

Glinda's picture

The republicans wouldn't have the chairmanship of this committee or any other committee in the House had it not been for the Democrats' behavior in 2009 up until November 2010, and beyond.

And it's gotten worse now in the states with the gerrymandering since 2010 elections.

Yes, I do blame the republicans but they are who are they are, you can't change their minds, but the democrats' lack of leadership during Obama's first two years enabled the very committee you speak of in your article.

I honest to FSM don't get shocked or surprised anymore when a republican says X.  I expect that. 

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what I find truly alarming is the rewarding of ignorance

sartoris's picture

I know that I singled out Republicans in the title, however, this wasn't meant to be a Republican/Democrat/Marxist/Green article.  The point that I was really trying to make was the alarming tendency to not only tolerate ignorance, but to reward ignorance.  When someone says that a woman's body can prevent pregnancy if she is raped, that person's remarks should not be defended, instead, that person should be shunned.  I do think that there is a real difference in the way the parties approach scientific matters.

It is past the point of being embarrassing to have powerful American officials saying outlandishly stupid things.  Climate Change will most likely be a very catastrophic event for nearly human on the planet.  Having the type of people that I outlined in my article is an impediment to any progress that can be made in how America deals with climate change.  I just do not understand how in the year 2012 we can have such idiotic people in charge.

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But they're not shunned. The media circus reports

Glinda's picture

on it:  "So and So said this, OMG, OMG, OMG, and coming up:  Boo boo kitty."
 

When someone says that a woman's body can prevent pregnancy if she is raped, that person's remarks should not be defended, instead, that person should be shunned.

Sorry, but my default position is cynical and it's not getting any better. 

Going off topic a bit, but as I'm sure you know, most recently the NRA brought up Obama's daughters in a disgusting ad (which the media played for free.)

When Obama gave his press conference/speech the other day with Biden, if Obama couldn't taken 15 seconds to speak to that ad using his daughters, even in the most humble way asking everyone not to use his daughters for political expediency, then he sure as hell isn't willing to fight for anyone else who needs his voice as the leader of the free world to speak for the most vulnerable among us.

Sorry, I'm have a little  vinegar in me tonight.

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A.S.S. -- anti-science syndrome

A Siegel's picture

Thank you for this post.

We have a Republican Party where the political elite is dominated by Anti-Science Syndrome Haters Of a Livable Environmnetal System.

 

 with tobacco, plastics, formaldehyde’s health risks, and all too many areas of modern human civilization. There are large — to huge — financial gains to be made with public confusion about the actual state of the science and scientific understandings.  And, these potential and real financial gains create significant incentives to undermine science and put roadblocks before government authorities acting in light of scientific understandings. The mother of all these arenas, in terms of financial interests and impacts on humanity?  Climate Change science.

The fossil foolish and related interests have, quite literally, many $trillions at stake and they are willing to spend $billions to protect $10s of billions of profits.  And, there efforts have been paying off.  Even as the scientific understanding of climate change increases, even as the world increasingly demonstrates warming and increasingly chaotic weather patterns, even as … there is (again) increasing confusion in the American electorate about climate change science.  (Actually, there is increasing certainty within one party: certainty that the scientific community is engaged in a massive fraud and that climate change is not an issue meriting concern or action.)  The 2010 election risks a serious shift in Congress away from any substantive (truthful) understanding of climate science and away from any willingness to engage in serious discussion about actions to mitigate climate change.

These Climate Zombies are essentially the epitome of Anti-Science Syndrome suffering Haters Of a Livable Economic System.  They are willing to sacrifice others at the altar of a false deity of “free-market capitalism” unbounded by regulation and unconstrained about concerns for “externalities”.  And, sacrifice is a quite accurate term with humanity’s impact on the climate system already tipping the scales to contribute (massively) to other species extinctions and to human deaths (through droughts, disasters, and other climate chaos impacts).  Their Anti-Science Syndrome suffering, if given even more power, will threaten even more lives in the years to come.

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Exactly, Anti-Science Syndrome

sartoris's picture

It's dangerous and detrimental to the health of every American regardless of political affiliation.  It is the mentality that says God is in control and nothing too bad is really going to happen, so let big business do whatever the heck it wants.  Republican candidates for president constantly state that they will shut down the EPA.  Yeah, that's such a great idea.  Corporate America can certainly police itself. 

I would be upset if any of the people I discussed in my article were substitute teachers.  The fact that they are in charge of oversight of so many important agencies is just pathetic.

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Lamar Smith has been around since the late seventies. He is...

Ohio Barbarian's picture

still my mother's congresscritter, I think. I know he was when I lived in San Antonio. He was one of the original Baby Boomer Reaganites, and I've usually found his political positions contemptible. His big things were always cutting taxes, slashing welfare, and eliminating gubmint regulations that were bad for bidness. He's got close ties to Big Oil, and will never vote for anything that they don't want him to. 

But I think he's chairman just because it was his turn. He's got seniority and has been a loyal party apparatchik, mostly. 

 

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Good question.

Glinda's picture

Physicist elected to Congress calls for more scientists-statesmen

 

Only a handful of physicists have reached the halls of Congress. Bill Foster, a particle physicist and businessman just elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives from Illinois's newly drawn 11th district, wants this situation to change. The Harvard graduate knows he is one of few in any technical field to hold national office. Foster plans to use his time in the public spotlight to serve as an advocate for bringing more of his peers to Washington.

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And Rep. Rush Holt.

Glinda's picture

I picked this article because it's cool ;)
 

Congressman Beats Watson

I.B.M.'s Watson may have pummeled Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter last month, but last week, a New Jersey Congressman beat the question-and-answer supercomputer.

 

To be sure, it was no ordinary politician. Representative Rush D. Holt Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, is a physicist who spent the nine years before he won his first congressional race in 1998 as the assistant director of the plasma physics laboratory at Princeton University.

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Thanks for checking that out. So there's at least TWO...

Ohio Barbarian's picture

scientists in Congress. 2 out of 535, including the Senate. You might find a couple more. I bet it's a lot easier to find veternarians or millionaire doctors or(drum roll, please) lawyers and "small" businessmen. 

Most of whom can't possibly re-present most of us. There's something wrong here. I imagine wealth has something to do with it. Still, three bulbs of beer from the old barbarian for checking :)

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we don't need scientists in congress

sartoris's picture

It's not important to have a scientist in congress, we have them working at NASA, the EPA, NOAA and other federal agencies.  That's where the scientists are needed.  What we don't need is politicians who are afraid of science in charge of the budgets and policy direction of the scientists employed by the government.

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let me clarify what I meant

sartoris's picture

I wasn't being flip when I said, We don't need scientists in congress.  That might have sounded like me being a wiseguy.  I just mean that I don't think we need to elected scientists to make sure the government is not hindering science.  I just find the rewarding of ignorance very disturbing.  Sorry if my tone was unclear.

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What I was really driving out is the old bias against...

Ohio Barbarian's picture

intellectuals in America. You know, "those eggheads have no common sense," whatever common sense means. Besides, most scientists don't have the financial resources to run for office, anymore than teachers or firefighters or plumbers do. Most probably don't have the desire to do so, either; it's just not what they are interested in. 

You are right when you say we don't need elected scientists to make sure government is not hindering science. But we DO need elected people who have some fundamental understanding of science to do so, and right now they are few and far between. That's a pity. It was not always thus. 

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