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Guest Column: Sequestration and Science

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Republican Party is escalating its attack on science. We are already used to a certain level of GOP hostility toward science. It routinely denies the validity of any scientific findings that contradict its political or religious biases. Global warming?  Conservatives say that 99 percent of climatologists are wrong about that. Evolution?  For them, it is simply a God-hating theory that should not be taught in schools.

But now the GOP is gearing up to do real damage to the whole enterprise of scientific research in this country. The conservative obsession with budget cutting is now undermining the public funding that is vital to the support of the scientific community in the U.S. Corporations will only sponsor research that produces profits in the short term. So progress and breakthroughs in most areas of basic science rely substantially on government grants.

Sequestration is now beginning to severely limit those necessary research funds. So far, these mindless cuts have reduced federal research funds by $9.3 billion. The National Institutes for Health took a hit of $1.7 billion, and it handed out 700 fewer grants this year. This means that vital medical treatments and cures will be delayed or go undiscovered.

NIH director Dr. Francis Collins, looking at the impacts of these cuts in just one area—research on influenza vaccines—has expressed concern: “If you want to convert this into real meaningful numbers, that means people are going to die of influenza five years from now because we don’t yet have the universal vaccine. And God help us if we get a worldwide pandemic that emerges in the next five years, which takes a long time to prepare a vaccine for.”

On a broader level, these cuts in research funds are going to make it more difficult for scientists of all sorts to earn a living and do their work in this country. A survey by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology found that with research resources drying up in the U.S., almost 20 percent of its respondents are now thinking of relocating to another country to continue their work. Clearly these budgets cuts are threatening to undermine our leadership position in science worldwide.

These cuts could also undermine the development of the next generation of scientists. Promising young people may decide not to put in the many years of arduous study necessary to earn a doctorate in science if they face an ever-decreasing chance of getting their research funded.

These disturbing cuts to scientific research are part of a larger pattern of budgets cuts that are harming the public interest. Continual reductions in government spending on the national and state levels have already done long-term damage to our infrastructure and our education systems.

Republicans are in the thrall of a libertarian-inspired anti-government ideology that makes reducing government spending their highest priority, no matter what the costs. They remain blind to the fact that most government programs—like road building, food stamps, Social Security and environmental protection—are fulfilling vital public needs that cannot be met otherwise.

Americans need to put a stop to this reckless budget cutting and reject the government-hating ideology that is driving it. Continually reducing public sector spending doesn’t just hurt the government, it hurts all of us.•

 

Douglas Amy, a professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College, is the author of several books, including Government Is Good: An Unapologetic Defense of a Vital Institution, and creator of governmentisgood.com.

Comments (17)
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You start off with a strawman paragraph. The evil republicans do question man-made global warming as do many scientists. Far more than 1% disagree with the hysteria but today's scientific community is dogmatic at best, dictatorial at worst. Anyone who disagrees is quickly cast away, publicly flogged, and shunned from their job and the industry.

Sames goes for evolution. Those crazy evil republicans don't want it removed from teachings, they simply want ID mentioned in addition. Same issue here with the scientific community. (By the way, let us not forget that "scientists" believed different weighted objects fell at different rates of speed for about 2,000 years.) Anyone who questions evolution is viciously attacked and usually fired from their job. So.... what kind of scientific community banishes anyone who disagrees with "the concensus"? Not a healthy one. Evolutionist especially get very nasty when questioned.

The fact of the matter is the THEORY of evolution takes far more leaps of faith than any religion. First, the scientific community openly admits that life's origin is still in question and is not "solved" by darwinism. I heard a respected darwinist say that one theory of the origin of life's building blocks was that the first cell rode into our galaxy on the backs of crystals..... really? The first cell... a complex thing ... accidentally happened from "crystals". Sorry but that sounds less plausable than baby jesus.

In fact I would argue that the ferocity with which "scientists" defend evolution is seeded in a need to debunk religion. But that's where they don't get it. Richard Dawkins once admitted in an interview that alien life (ie. an intelligent designer) could account for the origins of life. He quickly walked that comment back out of fear he would lose his standing among his people.

The idea that the universe, and all the complexities and balances that make life & earth work, sprung from nothing into something via an explosion... is patently ridiculous. Yes, there are many large holes in the fossil record. Yes, darwinism doesn't explain the origin of life - really the only question we all want to know. It tries to reverse engineer species and draw arrows where there are none.

How did a cow like creature eventually become a whale? Time. <---- That is science? It offers no explanation of any biological steps that theoretically take place over that time. It also does nothing to explain how all of these random mutations over time are always beneficial and work toward a goal. Listen to someone explain this transformation and you will see the many assumptions and leaps of faith involved.

Darwinism asserts that we all come from common ancestry. However the truth is that science just as easily suggests that commonality is due to us all coming from a common designer. Go outside and look around. Then ask yourself what's more likely.... that this all happened by accident based on explosion in which the life sprung from nothing? Or that the complexity of life most likely comes from a designer of sorts currently beyond our ability to see or understand?

You can't prove to a bumble bee that a computer exists. I doesn't have the ability to grasp the information. However, that doesn't mean the computer doesn't exist.

Posted by k on 10.3.13 at 7:15

Oh boy. You guys with the "teach the controversy" business. The vast majority of scientists agree on global warming and evolution. Most people trust the weight of the scientific method over the cherry-picked ramblings of the anti-global warming crowd any day. Heck, you don't even seem to understand what "theory" means in science. Gravity is also a theory. Shouldn't we teach that controversy? The scientific method is still the scientific method, and still based on what is observable via experimentation. It's always the cry of the pseudoscientist--I am unorthodox, so I am ignored, a martyr for the cause! The only "controversy" is that a bunch of vested interests are ginning up people like you to go out and muddy the political waters.

Scientific theories do change over time, but only via experimentation. Your big recommendation - going outside and looking around to ask yourself a question - is pretty much the opposite of the scientific method. It's a useless way of "disproving" theories. It's "ridiculous" that subatomic particles' positions and velocities can't be dtermined at the same time. Go outside and ask yourself if that makes sense. And then go read about how that was discovered via experimentation, even if it doesn't make sense to you.

All you doubters have to put up via the scientific method or shut up, via the non-trolling method.

Posted by SDudgens on 10.3.13 at 10:13

Gravity is a law, not a theory. It's very difficult for theory to become a law which is why darwinism among others are theories. It's also why science has become so dogmatic and hinders open debate on the issue like this.

But this response represents what I'm talking about when I say folks have a knee-jerk reaction to opposing ideas. I never said looking out your window is science, but instead a point about common sense and probability.

First, "show me something better" doesn't make a scientific theory correct. Second, if darwinism admittedly can't account for the origin of life, why are you so sure an intelligent designer is impossible? Let me be clear... not "God".... but some kind of intelligent designer beyond our current comprehension. My points are clear.... scientists didn't understand the law of gravity for 2,000 years and we believe it's settled that there is no ID and we came from a rock explosion? Good stuff right there.

Instead of deriding me why don't you answer valid questions? Also feel free to address my point that although I cannot convincingly prove to a golden retriever that Saturn exists, it exists nonetheless.

Posted by k on 10.3.13 at 14:11

Gravity happens. That is indeed a law. How does it work? That's a theory.

I don't find the concept of an intelligent designer in opposition to evolution or the big bang or any other observable phenomenon. That doesn't affect the primacy of the scientific method. Belief and science are not the same thing.

You may not have said looking around is science, but you clearly raise it as a valid method for determining "accident" versus "intelligent design." Common sense is a perfectly good guide to coming up with a theory, but it is not up to the job of questioning empirically derived conclusions.

I don't know if evolution or any other science is correct, like any scientist worth their salt. I do know that it's the best the scientific method can do so far. It's simply the best current working model, aka scientific theory.

You are right that "show me something better" doesn't prove a theory correct. But "show me something better" is certainly the basic job of scientific theorizing and experimentation. Unless and until you do that, all these questions about dogs and Saturn and computers and intelligent designers are worth sweet F.A.

Posted by SDudgens on 10.4.13 at 8:10

Everything you say would be great if the scientific community at large shared your openness to the idea of an intelligent creator. They reject your concept that they're not necessarily mutually exclusive. They and are offended at the idea of a creator... all while they have spent thousands of years trying to reverse engineer the universe still without an answer for the origin of life.

Again... a part of darwinism is the fact that a cow-like creature over a long period of time became a whale. They cannot identify the number of biological changes needed for such a transformation nor can they explain how all of these "random" changes were beneficial to the species. Their answer to how a mouth became a blowhole is ........ wait for it..... time. How is that science? Every change making that creature able to live in the water must take place without disrupting the rest. And how are all these changes happening randomly? There is no explanation of this. The skin needs to change. It must fundamentally transform. You should be wary of any "science" that avoids numbers. Math and science go hand in hand.

Gravity is scientific law because it can be objectively tested. You can take two objects, predict what will happen, and what you predicted happens over and over. That is science.

Tell you what... put an ape in front of a computer and let him type away blindfolded. At what point will he write "To be or not to be, that is the question."? A) Can that randomly occur? and B)How long would it take? How about putting the parts of a DVD player into a wind tunnel for 4 million years. Will it eventually randomly attach together and form a perfectly working DVD player?

That's evolution in a nutshell. A series of random changes caused our incredibly intricate and complex world. Again, you can say it's the best we got but that is hardly proof that it's correct.

Everything in biology that points to commonalities among species could easily be considered evidence of a common creator. (Not baby jesus..... an intelligent designer of some kind.) True scientists wouldn't rull out ID until they can prove an alternate for the origin of life.

Posted by k on 10.4.13 at 11:21

Your belief that scientists reject that concept is simply that: a belief. I've known far too many religious scientists to find your point compelling. Science is agnostic about God because it must be. Devise an experiment to prove God's existence.

See?

In an awkward way you have described evolution, it's just that you fail to grasp just how long a billion years is, and how many animal lifespans fit in them. THis is simple. Mutations occur. The favorable ones help the creature survive. THe bad ones don't last very long. Hardly gets more obvious than that. THe mutation persists in the genes. Multiply that process times a mind boggling number of generations and other mutations. So yeah, "A series of random changes caused our incredibly intricate and complex world."

How'd the changes get started? Maybe a question best answered by faith.

A blowhole, by the way, is a pair of nostrils, not a mouth. Whale mouths are the bit up front that opens.

Posted by SDudgens on 10.4.13 at 12:32

"mutations occur"

Welcome to the definitive "science" of darwinism.

No matter how many times I say it's a non-religious argument you bring up God. It's ignorant to think the only alternative to evolution is a God. The fact remains that until you can scientifically prove how life began you must be open to all possibilities. I know you and your ilk don't like to think about it but it's possible that science simply reverse engineers intelligent design.

The problem with Darwinism is that it's based on suspect logic and is backed up by little evidence. You don't dare respond to my examples showing how much of a stretch it is to think randomness can create extremely complex organisms. Nor can you use the theory to explain the origin of life let alone fill in gaps in the fossil record.

Luckily you have "concensus" on your side which apparently means you don't need to defend a theory.

Posted by k on 10.4.13 at 13:30

And finally... here is Richard Dawkins... pioneer of dawinism.... admitting that no one knows how it all started and that an intelligent designer is an intriguing possibility. SDudgens... please, go sick in your response to this. (And yes, I know Dawkins did damage control after this interview. Darwin forbid he get banished from the group think tank.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoncJBrrdQ8

Posted by k on 10.4.13 at 13:42

And just for good measure... Michael Ruse explaining that life maybe came from crystals. I swear... it's comical watching these guys explaining these theories with a straight face...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUetJ3umTWU

Posted by k on 10.4.13 at 13:51

If it doesn't conflict with evolution, why did Dawkins walk back his comments? And why do the most well known evolutionists regularly deride the idea of an intelligent designer? Are you purposefully using circular logic are you just that far out of your depths when something you've been spoon fed is challenged?

Posted by k on 10.6.13 at 12:08

I see you attended the advanced school of trolling, where they teach the feint followed by provocation.

You make a big mistake over and over. You think all the people who hold a particular view must think exactly the same way. Either that or you're just enjoying being a troll. Since I am not Mr. Dawkins, I certainly can't know what was in his head. I assume that you do. Failing that, you will bring out some more of that advanced troll provocation.

Of course it is true that some evolutionists deride the idea that there could be a creator. Others don't. Insisting that they are all one big gestalt is silly. It's also silly to count on scientists for theology or theologians for science. The problem with ID is that so much else beyond the possible existence of a designer comes with it--it is more than that one belief.

If you can't understand or won't admit the obvious and undeniable phenomenoon of natural selection, there is really no where else to go. Except back to troll school maybe.

Posted by SDudgens on 10.7.13 at 9:54

Opposition is trolling. What a thin skin you have. I'm starting to think you know nothing about this subject because virtually every well known evolutionist scoffs at I.D. The fact that you refuse to acknowledge that shows that you think you're losing the argument, or again maybe you're just not aware.

And the Dawkins thing, what are you even talking about? I linked a clip that speaks for itself... and he walked back the comments later... What do you need to be in his head for to understand? Your comment makes no sense. If you read about Dawkins he talks at length about what's in his head. My point stands and saying no one can know what he thinks is patently silly. It seems like you are genuin in your believe in darwinism but not well versed in the arguments. No offense.

Posted by k on 10.8.13 at 6:45

Your comments are a textbook example of trolling. It's not because you're in opposition. It's because you seek to inflame, waste people's time on useless fake debates, and have your own agenda - creating the appearance of controversy where very little exists.

This would be you they're talking about here. Wouldn't surprise me if you get paid to do it, since you do it so much -

"Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they'd previously thought."

And Popular Science just turned off their comments because of exactly this kind of pseudoscientific arguing -

A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to "debate" on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.

It's also possible that your crazy, always bring up a tangent style is genuine, which is scarier yet.

Happy trolling.

Posted by SDudgens on 10.8.13 at 8:29

The origin of life is yet to be scientific certainty and that's what this whole debate is about. Labeling me a troll is a convenient way for you to bow out of a philosophical discussion that's over your head. "But concensus! Concensus!!!", says you. Sadly you don't recognize that today's scientific community, as it directly relates to dawinism, is fervently rooted in atheism. Shutting out debate is not very science-like. Sorry that I've apparently rattled your cage with examples of basic philosophical logic. Boo.

Posted by K on 10.8.13 at 10:09

For the record, I declared you a troll in my very first comment.

I hope you are compensated well, because you are very good at trolling.

Posted by SDudgens on 10.8.13 at 11:27

The funny part is your behavior is consistent with the darwinists I describe. You disagree? Troll! Idiot!! Nice chat.

Posted by k on 10.8.13 at 13:57
Posted by captandan73 on 10.10.13 at 9:51
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