Monday, February 20, 2017

Science Advocacy

Ah for the shared science perspectives in the decades before I was old enough to vote.  There is certainly a lot of noise around scientists becoming increasingly "concerned" with the way science is viewed and treated [by politics/politicians] in this country.  Deciding what to do isn't easy for reasons pointed out as part of this post a few weeks back.

Basically science and scientists, while knowing full well, that science is inherently political (funding from government, initiatives and tax exemptions for R&D...) it has not, historically, been partisan.  Sure Reagan liked his science explodey, but everything else got funded along with it.  Things started changing in the 90's.  Initially this was part of the GOP's strategy to court evangelical voters (creationism good, evolution bad!) but that embrace of some anti-science views made it easier for anti-science ideas and points of view more generally to gain traction among Republicans (politicians and voters).

Yes, there are plenty of anti-science, and unscientific views that get associated with liberals (anti-GMO and anti-nuclear energy are the big two...anti-vaccination is historically party independent, though after being thoroughly discredited they are gaining ground again thanks to the current administration), but the Democratic party does not broadly embrace those views--at least not yet.

But despite the obvious situation that Democrats are better for science than Republicans, science organizations and scientists have been reluctant to push that, and for a simple reason: if scientists start endorsing Democrats over Republicans, then the GOP will see just one more reason to not support science.  So what's the fix?

Today, if you are a scientist or science fan, or just someone who thinks science is a good thing, then there is no real question that voting for Democrats is better for science.  Still, that isn't really how most people--not even necessarily most scientists--vote.  Social programs, taxation, foreign affairs, and the place of government in regulating industry/finance/trade are all things that tend to be higher on most people's mind when selecting for whom to vote.  Maybe because most people thought that it didn't really matter much for science, but it looks like scientists, at least, seem to be becoming more aware that it does--or at least more active about it.

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