Utne Blogs > Politics

The Economic Impact of McCain and Palin's Anti-Science Stance

by Rachel Levitt


Tags: Politics, Election 2008, Cultural Criticism, Republican party, scientific research, John McCain, Sarah Palin, anti-science, AlterNet,

The Left has voiced plenty of criticism of McCain and Palin’s policies, but one facet of the Republican ticket that has been tragically left alone is its anti-science stance, says MIT researcher John Tirman.

Tirman reiterates the Republican candidates’ resistance to stem-cell research and evolution, and their support for offshore and ANWR drilling. But he takes things one step further, going beyond the moral implications of these policies to look at the problem from an economic point of view.

First of all, in order to compete with flourishing markets like those in Asia, the United States must continue its tradition of innovation and scientific excellence. Without it, “hopes for creating the new technologies and processes that fuel sustainable economic activity will surely decline.” Secondly, scientific research offers solutions to crucial problems such as disease and fossil-fuel dependency, and without the necessary funding for advances in technology, our ability to solve these problems would come to a standstill (a dilemma about which Utne.com has previously blogged). Lastly, scientists from other countries would eschew an anti-science United States in favor of a more tolerant community in which to conduct their research, circling back to the author’s first point about scientific excellence being “the font of prosperity.”

We ignore these issues at our own peril, insists Tirman. “The McCain/Palin shakiness on science issues is not just another occasion for SNL skits or jokes about the U.S. being the laughing stick [sic] of the world. They're life-and-death issues for global health and ecology, as well as our own well being.”

heatray
10/27/2008 4:40:56 AM

I have a burning question I would like to put to John Tirman and others who have recently bashed McCain and Palin's "anti-science" stance. WHERE WAS THE OUTCRY AGAINST ANTI-SCIENCE POLITICIANS AT THE TIME MY SCIENTIFIC CAREER WAS DESTROYED? That's right, I am (or should I say WAS) a scientist during the days of Ronald Reagan and SDI. I received a Ph.D. in physics in 1984 with an extensive background in mathematics. My career as a scientist began and ended with SDI. I was laid-off in 1992 despite an excellent performance rating for "lack of contract support". After being totally out of work for two and a half years, I managed to get a few programming jobs for which I was officially "over-qualified" at about a 35% reduction in salary from my previous Senior Scientist position. None of those jobs lasted for more than a year and a half either, and before the new millenium arrived, I was once again totally out of work -- and still am. During the "outbreak of peace" when I was first laid-off, I went to extremes to find work in technology transfer efforts and other non-defense related areas, oftentimes volunteering my time with groups or start-up companies willing to let me work with them in the hopes of securing some grant money someday. These efforts were all in vain, however. Why? Because scientific funding was waning everywhere, not just in defense. Competition for grant money was absolutely fierce and in some cases, merely a lottery. Only those with decades of experience in their special fields had a chance of winning. Our government had taken the "peace dividend" (which resulted in part from my career demise) and used it to prop up the new "social democracies" that resulted from the breakup of the Soviet Union. Once again, WHERE WAS THE OUTCRY AGAINST ANTI-SCIENCE POLITICIANS when all this was happening? Instead, there was euphoria over the "end of the cold war" and the toppling of the