Nature addresses politics and science

An editorial in Nature has taken aim at the anti-science rhetoric that has infiltrated corners of American politics. The piece cites examples of prominent right-wing figures decrying the value of scientific research to society–which is especially ironic considering that all politicking would be exclusively confined to printed media and word of mouth without the advent of mechanisms and devices capable of long-range forms of data transfer, such as television, radio, the internet, etc. (i.e. science!).

The piece in Nature makes a specific note on climate change, likely in light of recent controversies, and evolution stating that:

Denialism over global warming has become a scientific cause célèbre within the movement. [Rush] Limbaugh, for instance, who has told his listeners that “science has become a home for displaced socialists and communists”, has called climate-change science “the biggest scam in the history of the world”. The Tea Party’s leanings encompass religious opposition to Darwinian evolution and to stem-cell and embryo research — which [Glenn] Beck has equated with eugenics.

In 2009, a Pew Research poll showed that those surveyed overwhelmingly see science as having a positive overall effect on society.  Yet recent positions taken by politicians and pundits amidst a struggling economy and a deeply polarized political landscape are troubling to say the least. Carl Sagan once famously noted that we are collectively dependent on science, despite the fact that relatively few actually understand science and technology, and hypothesized that “this combustible mix of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.”

Let’s hope this can be averted.

Image: (creative commons license)

Paper: Nature 367: 133. doi: 10.1038/467133a


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