Review: The Republican War on Science

5 Star, Science & Politics of Science
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best Snapshot of the Ugly Baby–3 Others Needed,

October 19, 2005
Chris Mooney
This is the best snap-shot of the ugly baby called US Science, a baby that is on the one hand coddled and spoiled by a politicized program, and on the other straight-jacketed and abused by those same political hand-cuffs.

Of the four books I have reviewed on this important topic, this is the one that is the most compelling on the perversions of the extremist Republicans (I am a moderate Republican). It does not, however, provide a complete picture. Three other books are helpful:

Science, Money, and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion by Daniel Greenberg is the best over-all review, has a strong ethical component, and shows how the competition for money, rather than scientific progress, is diverting scarce resources and frustrating needed advances.

Frontiers of Illusion: Science, Technology, and the Politics of Progress by Daniel Sarewitz is a very useful antidote to the many books (Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, comes to mind) that claim science will solve all problems and provide authoritative cost-effective solutions to century-old human problems.

Finally, Investing in Innovation: Creating a Research and Innovation Policy That Works, edited by Lewis Bramscomb and James Keller, brings together a range of views crossing the environment within which scientific research takes place, evaluationg specific programs and policy tools, and making recommendations (all of which have been ignored by the current Bush Administration).

I take four bottom lines from these four books together:

1) We are spending too much on military science & research.

2) Neither Congress nor the Executive have a serious strategy for prioritizing problems, finding private sector partners, and providing seed money for innovative solutions.

3) Both Congress and the Executive, as well as the public and the media, are incredibly ignorant about what science can and cannot do, and where all the money is going to generally poor effect.

4) This is all so important that Science, like Intelligence, needs its own Supreme Court. I am persuaded we need a new form of hybid public agency that is fully independent of the Executive, receiving a percentage of the total disposable budget (say 3%) and hence not subject to Congressional pork-barreling and lobbying-financed pressures.

This book by Chris Mooney is the place to start if you want to be angry, or the place to end if you want to see the other three books end on the ugliest note possible–the destruction of reasonable science by unreasonable ideologues.

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