Thursday, November 11, 2010

The 2010 Elections and Science

Alasdair Wilkins over at io9 has been wondering the same thing that I have: how will the Republican takeover of congress and the local statehouses affect science policy. Here is what he writes:
The Republican platform, "The Pledge to America", never mentions the words "science", "technology", "NASA", "research and development", "evolution" or "intelligent design", "climate change", and certainly not "global warming."

That isn't, in and of itself, a bad thing. It just means the 2010 election cycle wasn't predicated on scientific issues. It does, however, make it rather more challenging to predict how government and science are going to interact over the next two years. And while it would be easy to say the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives is bad for science, the truth is a bit more complicated than that.
Wilkins agrees with most other pundits that, in so much as the Republicans turn their thoughts to science, they will focus on climate change and that this area of research will be hit hard. Here, the attempts to link attacks on climate change skepticism with attacks on ID will fall flat. The brouhaha from the emails at East Anglia last year still has legs and will be front and center in any deliberations involving climate change and funding. It doesn't help that many of the detractors of anthropogenic global warming are, themselves, climate scientists. But what about evolution?

Republicans have taken a stand that is certainly non-scientific and arguably anti-scientific. And it doesn't help that other planks of the Republican platform, such as their opposition to evolution, fall so ridiculously far outside the scientific mainstream. (Thankfully, evolution almost certainly won't come up in the next two years. That's the sort of thing that only gets aired out when Republicans have complete control of Congress, and even then it's tough to say what they could actually do about it.)
It is not from congress that the problems for evolution will come. Congress has rarely said anything about evolution and that is not likely to change. The problems will come from the local statehouses—where Republicans have taken 680 seats from Democrats. Even under a Democratic house and president, we still had attacks on evolution education in Louisiana, Utah, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania. Given that there is much data linking anti-evolutionism with being a member of the Republican party, these will not only continue, their proponents will be bolder. Even as the Republican Congress debates climate change on the national level, I suspect that their supporters will be debating evolution at a local level.

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