Tag Archives: scientists

“Anti-Science” – Not a Good Idea

“The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012,” Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor said in an interview that aired Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” 
Huntsman: GOP can’t become ‘anti-science’ party

Yes, that might be a losing approach to those who want to win an election.

But it is far worse than that.  It is a losing approach to the future.

I am reading The Great Stagnation:  How America Ate all the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better by Tyler Cowen.  It is a terrific, short read.  It started as an e-book, then was published as a hardcover.  The premise is clear, and understandable.  The easy stuff, the “low-hanging fruit,” is all finished.  Growth and recovery will be harder, much harder, and slower, in coming years.  It is a fascinating read.

One of his main points is that we must elevate science  to accomplish this.  Here’s what he says:

Raise the social status of scientists:  I’m all for the generous funding of science, at whatever levels are appropriate, but I also know that’s not enough.  If we are going to see further major technological breakthroughs, it is a big help if people love science, care deeply about science, and science attracts a lot of the best American and foreign minds.  The practice of science has to yield social esteem, and teams of scientists should have a strong esprit de corps and feel they are doing something that really matters.

He observes that when Norman Borlaug died in 2009, “most Americans still did not know who he was…  In my ideal world, Borlaug would have a much higher social status than he did.”  (Borlaug’s work with crop yields is credited with saving up to one billion lives.  Remarkable!)

Even a casual observer can recognize that scientists – scientists who have spent years studying subjects such as climate change – are ridiculed and attacked by many because of their conclusions.  When we are so politically divided that one side comes across as “anti-science” (and this charge is leveled at them by one of their own candidates), then it is pretty tough to maintain the “social esteem” of scientists.  And we need genuine innovation, and many scientific breakthroughs, more than ever.

I think Cowen is on to something important.  Don’t you?