Monday, January 28, 2013

Adding to the war on science: gun research, pregnancy-rape connection....

Keith Kloor is tired of people talking about the war on science. I'd think that he would have a point if other people stopped committing a war on science. It took the news events from the last year to let me know about several fronts in the war on science that I hadn't known:  limits on health research funding that might show gun control as reducing violence (something Obama is trying to get around but is still in the law) and the claim that women couldn't or rarely became pregnant from rape.

Another recent attack, although more of a war on math, is the claim that dividing up the electoral vote from states with a slight Democratic lean by congressional district instead of awarding all the votes to the victor will result in more attention to rural conservative districts. The reality is that attention only goes to electoral votes that are truly in play - you ignore the areas that are certain wins or certain losses. Conservative districts in battleground states have a at least a shot at attention - their votes now make a difference, but not when their effect could be taken for granted.  As has been noted, this issue is just an attempt to skew the national election at the expense of the local interest.

To be fair, the question remains of when a stupid claim by some people on one side, like the pregnancy-rape thing, can be considered a joint responsibility for that side of the spectrum.  I think when it rises to the level of being made repeatedly by the political elite, Congressmen and senatorial candidates, then I'd say they at least have a problem.

Shutting down funding as in gun research takes the attacks on science to another level, from denial to an active refusal to let other people understand the issue (UPDATE:  corrected from "shutting down funding entirely", per a comment request below). Climate denialists must be jealous, although I do recall Republican attempts to shut down earth-monitoring satellites.

Threats to science providers such as bogus referrals for criminal prosecution by powerful senators are the near-worst, though.

Stop making war on science, and I'll stop talking about it.  Calling them out on it is the small good thing that can be done in response.  I think it shows in the general intellectual dissatisfaction with the Republican Party elite, and someday the Republicans will have to come around.

UPDATE:  one missing aspect of the gun research discussion is the political signalling that goes beyond the letter of the prohibition on certain results from research.  The original prohibition is/was a signal of political strength by gun nuts and a warning to government-funded researchers to stay away.  If you fund studying of drunk driving and effect on public health safety, then you get a pat on the head no matter how good or bad the work is.  Fund a study on whether more guns result in more accidental shootings/suicides/illegal guns, and expect to see your work analyzed with great bias, and expect the agency to face funding cuts in the next cycle.  Obama's action is a bit of contrary signalling.