The many reasons scientists are not Republicans – @salon #science

REQUIRED READING!! This Salon piece by Sean McElwee and Philip Cohen is EVERYTHING – about why scientists and Republicans are so at odds … or more that the Republicans are at war with science. We at CauseScience post often about the many times Republican politicians say or do things that are anti-science, and this article highlights the reasons why. My three favorite points below:

Research placing shrimp on treadmills was lampooned by Republicans, but it is part of important research on how marine organisms react to ecosystem changes, which has important implications for food safety. But in other cases, there are less benign motivations for cutting research spending. For instance, big fossil fuel donors have an interest in the government doesn’t take action on climate change. The GOP has tried to slash the NASA budget to prevent it from researching climate change. ExxonMobil has continued to fund climate denial, even after promising not to and after evidence surfaced that it has known about the existence of global warming for nearly four decades.

The explanation is rather simple: Scientists are more broadly in line ideologically with the Democratic Party. But there are two other factors that are accelerating the trend. First, the increasing extremism of the Republican Party, and its fealty to the donor class has led it to embrace positions outside the mainstream. Second, both the GOP base and legislators take an increasingly antagonistic view of science and scientists. Their work to delegitimize science raises deep concerns about the ability of academics to influence important public debates.


Vaccine refresher for Republican candidates – Jessie Schanzle @US_Conversation

Vaccines back in the headlines – here’s what the experts say

Jessie Schanzle, The Conversation

September 16th’s Republican debate put vaccines back in the headlines, when Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, was asked to comment on Donald Trump’s statements linking vaccinations to autism. Carson said:

We have extremely well-documented proof that there is no autism associated with vaccinations, but it is true that we’re giving way too many in way too short a time and a lot of pediatricians recognize that.

This has sparked a flurry of reminders from physicians, scientists and others that vaccines are safe and that vaccines do not cause autism.

This is a discussion that we have covered again and again and again at The Conversation.

Yet these messages don’t seem to have counteracted misinformation about vaccines. That’s because these explanations often repeat the very falsehoods they are trying to correct. As Norbert Schwarz and Eryn Newman from the University of Southern California write:

[M]edia reports that intend to correct false information can have the unfortunate effect of increasing its acceptance. Using anecdotes and images makes false information easier to imagine – and by highlighting disagreement, they distort the amount of consensus that actually exists.

A better strategy, they say, is to stick to the facts.

Kristin S Hendrix, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, examined the research on parent-provider conversation about vaccines. She writes:

What is clear from existing research is that respectful, tailored communications and recommendations to immunize coming directly from the health-care provider are associated with increased vaccination uptake.

Before the measles vaccine was introduced in the US in the 1960s, we thought of measles as a “mild” illness, even though it killed 400-500 Americans a year. Today, suggesting that measles is benign is controversial. And that is because vaccines change how we think about the disease they prevent. As Emory historian Elena Conis writes:

Vaccines shine a spotlight on their target infections and, in time, those infections – no matter how “common” or relatively unimportant they may have seemed before – become known for their rare and serious complications and defined by the urgency of their prevention.

Marcel Salathé, now a professor at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, points out everyone who can be vaccinated, should be vaccinated, to help protect those who are too young or too ill to receive the vaccine. Tony Yang, a professor of health administration at George Mason University, looked at the impact vaccine exemption polices have on outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. And Michael Mina, an MD/PhD candidate at Emory, explained how the introduction of the measles vaccine in Europe prevented deaths from other diseases.

Speaking of other diseases, just over a year ago, news that a handful of people in the United States had contracted Ebola was dominating the headlines. William Moss, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, pointed out that Americans should worry less about Ebola and more about the measles.

The Conversation

Jessie Schanzle, Editor, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Anti-Science Quotable – Congressional Republicans declare Earth Science as “Not a hard science” #WTF #WhatPlanetAreYouLivingOn? #science

Summarized nicely on Science Insider, Senator Ted Cruz, new chair of the science and space panel in the Senate Commerce Committee (how he was qualified to take on this position, to this day, completely baffles me) has claimed that earth sciences do not qualify as “hard science”.  Other congressional Republicans seem to agree, including the new chair of an important science spending panel in the House of Representatives, Representative John Culberson (R–TX). Culberson has said repeatedly in recent weeks that the earth sciences don’t meet his definition of “the pure sciences.”

Let’s start with the Mirriam-Webster definition of “science” (which in my opinion clearly applies to Earth Science) –

: knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation

: a particular area of scientific study (such as biology, physics, or chemistry) : a particular branch of science

: a subject that is formally studied in a college, university, etc.

From Science Insider:

“We’ve seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds going to the earth sciences program at the expense of funding for exploration and space operations, planetary sciences, heliophysics, and astrophysics, which I believe are all rooted in exploration and should be central to NASA’s core mission,” Cruz said at yesterday’s hearing on NASA’s 2016 budget request. “We need to get back to the hard sciences, to manned space exploration, and to the innovation that has been integral to NASA.”

The idea that the geosciences aren’t hard science comes as a shock to Margaret Leinen, president of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and a former head of the National Science Foundation’s geosciences directorate. “Of course the geosciences are part of the hard sciences,” says Leinen, head of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and vice chancellor for marine sciences at the University of California, San Diego. “They provide us with very fundamental knowledge about the way the planet works, knowledge grounded in the physical sciences.”

Leinen easily ticks off a host of areas, from analyzing the complex mixtures of physical processes and chemical reactions in the atmosphere and the ocean to characterizing earthquakes, in which geoscientists have made important contributions to physics and chemistry. Geosciences can also be computationally intensive, she says, noting that for many years the world’s most powerful computer was Japan’s so-called Earth Simulator. Modeling future earthquakes in California, for example, requires “some of the most challenging computer simulations in the world,” she adds.

She also scoffs at the attempt to decouple the earth sciences from planetary sciences, a discipline Cruz and Culberson strongly favor. “Our entire exploration of Mars is based on analogies with the Earth,” she points out. That’s also true, she says, for the search for extraterrestrial life on water-rich planets and moons, a burning passion for Culberson.

Universities have long recognized that connection, she points out. “Virtually all academic planetary scientists are in earth science departments, because the Earth, after all, is a planet,” she says.

WHY are those MOST unqualified to make decisions on scientific spending calling the shots (as we’ve mentioned before)?  And furthermore, why are they REFUSING time and time again to be educated on the subject matter?  Doesn’t it seem curious that someone with very little background or training in the sciences gets to make decisions on what sciences will get funding? Especially when they can’t even understand the basic definitions of what science is??? There’s a way around this: become educated on a subject either by hiring staff who ARE educated, or by consulting with trained professionals (aka – scientists).  When one ignores the facts and data from the informed constituents, our entire political system makes no sense. Would these politicians hire a dentist to run their campaign?? I would think not.

It is beyond obvious how the Earth Sciences are important and relevant to a VARIETY of other sciences (including space exploration, biology, environmental science, chemistry, etc, etc). While the ignorant claim that Earth Science is not a hard science is absolutely horrifying and backwards, on a larger scale, I get worried about this inevitable catch 22 cycle. Unqualified politicians are making decisions that are detrimental our research and education system, as a result, research becomes stagnated and our society becomes ill-informed. Consequently society elects the more unqualified and uneducated politicians.

Anti-Science Party? 49% of Republicans don’t believe in evolution, 66% don’t believe in global warming – small poll #facepalm

pppThe above poll results are from Public Policy Polling between Feb 20-22, 2015. The poll only includes 316 Republican primary voters, so it is quite a small sample. BUT, this type of polling could explain why most Republican candidates come across as anti-science, or at least seem to waffle or be strongly against supporting evolution and/or global warming. I wonder if results would vary at all if the poll had used ‘climate change’ instead of ‘global warming’… which it definitely should have.

Science and politics – Nature editorial and comments debate AAAS appointment of Rush Holt as partisan politics…? #science

This week’s Nature editorials include a column by Daniel Sarewitz titled ‘Science should keep out of partisan politics.‘ The article examines the possible political nature of the recent appointment of retired congressman Rush Holt as the head of the AAAS. It is definitely worth a read, and the comments are certainly worth your time!

That said, I personally have to agree with most of the commenters. Many support the AAAS appointment of Rush Holt, not as political, but as a leader who is an accomplished scientist and politician. Holt a terrific choice as leader of AAAS – he has knowledge and experience in both science and in Washington, DC politics.

I understand Sarewitz’ points, but I think they are wrongly applied to Holt’s appointment and I think it is far too late for this argument. Why should science keep out of partisan politics, when partisan politics have not kept out of science. Republicans and Democrats can all be blamed for recent decreases in science funding. However, the anti-science platforms, statements, and politics of many Republicans have done damage to science. Beyond funding cuts, they have created an atmosphere where political vitriol and lies often trump scientific evidence.