Why the GOP Loves Science

Republicans on the whole don’t seem “anti-science” so much as “anti-democratization of science”. GOP-leaning Industries like finance, agribusinesses, manufacturing and defense are intensely scientific — imagine the math and precise tools needed to engineer genes and molecules. Likewise science-based is the carefully mapped and calculated redistricting known as “gerrymandering”.

In that sense, being “skeptical” of climate change is really just denying legitimacy to any science coming from outside centralized and industrial interests.

What democratization does mean, in science as elsewhere, is creating institutions and practices that fully incorporate principles of accessibility, transparency, and accountability. It means considering the societal outcomes of research at least as attentively as the scientific and technological outputs. It means insisting that in addition to being rigorous, science be popular, relevant, and participatory.
http://issues.org/21-1/p_guston-3/

Will this paradigm hold with how the GOP handles the challenge of promoting STEM education and those science-entrepreneurship mashups like MakerSpaces? Partially. Whatever science the GOP considers important for GOP priorities (e.g. industrial applications, defense) can always be subsidized.

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/04/reproducibility-science-open-judoflip/521952/

I like the article linked above because it is about patterns. The evolution of scientific practice and thought is inherently part of the same Pattern encompassing trade and communication. It’s a pattern of connectivity, of technology, of exchanging ideas+services+products, and of adaptation. It is an independent and uncontrollable progress, even though it parallels certain civilizations more than others.


Those parallels are coincidental: if the people that became “Great Britain” had occupied a land with different resources (e.g. less metal, coal) and a less defensible geography (e.g. not an island), the Industrial Revolution could have happened in a totally different way and in a totally different society. (Read The Years of Rice and Salt for an example”).

The truth is that power-seeking parties can align themselves with this Pattern and sometimes try to control the flow (i.e. who gets what benefits). But ultimately those who try to go against the Pattern are also the ones who lose their leadership position.

So it’s interesting that, according to the Atlantic article, the GOP attempts to take advantage of the global scientific community’s shift towards more openness and accessibility of results, data, etc. That is not an easy tiger to ride. You can’t easily promote openness and transparency while keeping your own secrets. That’s what the internet has been about — once you give people new tools to communicate and investigate and innovate, you’re stuck with the consequences.

So whether you read history through the lens of the Bible or the Lancet, you know what happens to rulers who try to monopolize unfair control over what people can do, say, and think.

Pruitt’s “Prove It”

The “slow burn” crises are more likely to get you killed than the “sudden impact” disasters. Remember the January 2017 revelation that the Titanic was doomed by an undetected fire that critically weakened the hull, long before the iceberg?

https://gph.is/2nIBW56

EPA Director Scott Pruitt might want to read over that evidence in his spare hours, since he’s obviously not spending his days immersed in climate science and cause-effect logic.

So while his statement isn’t technically wrong when he says “there is disagreement about whether carbon dioxide is the main cause of global warming,” his implication damn well is.

https://giphy.com/gifs/3og0IEsSAAmkNBMK2s/html5

That implication being that this justifies the @RealDonaldTrump Administration’s move to rescind/suspend climate-targeted regulations with budget cuts, pushing “climate change skepticism” messages to the public through the EPA, and new directives.

I can think of a places where this newly launched effort could run aground on reality.

  1. Economic Momentum: A majority of customers in the USA (millennials and baby boomers alike) prefer products/services that are environmentally responsible. Major economic players in the private sector know that climate change can hurt their bottom line more than government regulations. Investment in “clean tech” is rising because sponsors are seeing both financial and ethical returns.
  2. Political Momentum: Not just another dimension to the Economic Momentum (consumers, businesses, and investors also vote). Climate change companions like drought, rising ocean levels, desertification, deforestation make warfare and conflict more likely. They certainly added to the intensity and speed of violence in the Syrian civil war and the rise of ISIS/Daesh. Any U.S. government interested in preventing/mitigating future conflicts will pay attention to that.
  3. Science: The math and models do show that CO2 is a very significant lever, even if they don’t show it being “the most important.” That isn’t seriously debatable. What you can — and should — debate are the best ways to use that lever, along with other “planet levers”.