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article imageOp-Ed: Conservatism vs science: Against America’s best interests

By Paul Wallis     Dec 28, 2019 in Science
Washington - Would you call dismantling United States science programs and research “national scale sabotage”? Some would. The sheer scope of the Trump administration’s war on science is staggering. It’s systemic, and it’s dangerous.
The documentation of this war on science is hideous, and vast. There’s a very lengthy, and very disturbing, article in The New York Times which documents the scope of the problem. You need to read it, but don’t expect to like it.
A quick search of “science cutbacks” dredges up so many instances of anti-science policies: this year alone, and in the last few years. All the links below are well documented. They’re about things which have already happened under this administration:
In March, Nature.com reported the administration seeking more cuts to health and environmental science.
There’s a whole page on the Columbia Law School website about actions against climate change research.
The EPA, gutted repeatedly, has been on the receiving end of cutbacks and job losses.
In July, Science.com reported a significant drop in FDA enforcement actions.
Even new generations of students apparently aren’t a priority. Additional cuts to student aid were proposed back in March, too.
An estimated 100,000 Americans died directly as a result of air pollution, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences. The administration has been destroying air pollution regulations since it entered office.
(To give you some idea how easy to find this information was, it took me about 2 seconds. That's how pervasive these cuts are; they are literally everywhere.)
Making America Gaga Again.
US President Donald Trump is likely to face at least three articles of impeachment in the House of R...
US President Donald Trump is likely to face at least three articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives
Nicholas Kamm, AFP
The war on science is perhaps one of the most archetypal, non-debatable, conservative ideological positions. Never mind the cosmetic stuff, anti-science is a working ideal in conservative groups worldwide.
It’s pretty typical, ongoing through the decades, and as national policy, it’s suicidal. It’s certainly not in the national interest, for glaringly obvious reasons. America’s original almost insurmountable technological leads in space, weaponry, communications, medicine, health, and similar top priority science has been ground down over the years.
Those the American "Rust Belt" are drawn to the politics and polemic rhetoric of Trump
Those the American "Rust Belt" are drawn to the politics and polemic rhetoric of Trump
Jeff Swensen, GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP
America has absolutely nothing to gain as a result of the devastation of its science and research. It does, however, have a lot to lose, and it’s losing it at record speeds. These slash and burn attempts are a great way of making catching up with the US a lot easier for foreign competitors.
America’s advanced technologies and scientific research are its greatest strengths. They’re on a par with America’s most potent global weapon, its economic power.
To illustrate;
• Imagine if America’s huge tech booms had never happened. The entire modern US economy couldn’t exist.
• If mass production had never been invented. America’s trade would be a fraction of what it’s been.
• If mass media was still paper-bound. Communications would be at snail level, and hopelessly inadequate.
• If computer science funding had never happened. The funding of NASA computers laid the groundwork for the big digital boom in the 80s and 90s.
• If modern health science was still back in the 1940s. America would be a health disaster area, even more so than it now is.
A truly dangerous position
China and Russia have eroded US dominance in space  according to the latest US National Intelligence...
China and Russia have eroded US dominance in space, according to the latest US National Intelligence Strategy
STR, AFP/File
America now has two large and aggressively expanding global competitors. Russia and China are very different entities to the Cold War era. They’re no longer ruled by idiot cadres. They have significant scientific resources of their own, if sometimes prioritized into odd places. They have serious money to back their own sciences.
These competitors are highly active across the board. Recently, Putin announced the deployment of the first nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles. The US is still a couple of years behind with this technology.
China is thinking of establishing a Moon presence, a Moon economic zone, and other space initiatives, including Mars. Space is the next frontier for science, and America’s evaporating technical leads aren’t going to last forever.
The anti-science culture
At the dreary bottom of this self-mutilation of America’s science is a culture which is anti-intellectual, polarizing, and regularly used. Anyone who thinks or knows anything is a “nerd”. Being able to use words with more than one syllable makes you a “geek”.
Instead of wiping out the morons, the morons are made stereotype heroes. “I don’t know nothing,” is about all you can expect, and when it comes to national policy, that’s exactly what you get.
More questions than opinions
This bit can’t even be called an opinion because it’s too obvious.
• How do you compete, let alone lead, if you destroy your science capacity?
• What possible use is there in stifling research which your competitors will exploit at your expense?
• Why is there any benefit at all in destroying health research? What possible logic could there be?
• Pollution kills people. Why go easy on pollution?
These should be rhetorical questions. There are many more, and there’s nothing rhetorical about them.
Science made America great, not politics.
Buzz Aldrin was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11. On July 20  1969  he was the second human being...
Buzz Aldrin was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11. On July 20, 1969, he was the second human being to set foot on the Moon, following mission commander Neil Armstrong.
© NASA
America has a unique place in world history as an ideas factory based on science. Much more importantly, America sold those ideas to the world. Most modern technologies had their roots in American science. They had their marketing origins firmly in America, too. The scope and range of American science applies from frypans to drones, and from smart phones to space.
America created and marketed the science of daily life. For all its many faults, that life is a lot easier than it was, even pre-World War Two. American corporations from Ford to Google have made billions/trillions from science for the last century or more.
….And it’s science you’re rolling back? The word “stupidity” has limits. This war on science is more than stupid. It is genuinely, clearly, insane from any national perspective.
A rather nasty parallel
Hundreds of messages in Cyrillic  scribbled by Soviet soldiers as they battled Hitler's forces ...
Hundreds of messages in Cyrillic, scribbled by Soviet soldiers as they battled Hitler's forces in wartorn Berlin, still adorn the walls of the German capital's iconic Reichstag parliament building
John MACDOUGALL, AFP
In World War 2, the Axis powers all had one thing in common – Decisions were always wrong. Policies were bizarre. A decision would be made simply to back up something said in a speech or at a conference. Propaganda replaced facts, very inadequately and utterly uselessly.
There’s a famous story about the mindset of Axis leaders at the end of the war. Von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, went to the front line when the Russians were 50 miles from Berlin. He asked a very experienced combat officer if he thought they could actually get to Berlin.
At that point, there were approximately 2 million Russians within about 250 miles from Berlin. They’d come from just outside Moscow, 1000 miles away, in about 10 months since 1944. So a senior government official was asking if they could do another 50 miles? This information hadn’t penetrated the mindset.
Nor was the Nazi administration too clear on real world situations. Hitler gave an order that a single division should move to a place 100 miles behind Russian lines on its own. To do this, it would have had to fight approximately 100 Russian divisions. What the division was supposed to achieve when it got there wasn’t well explained. either. The parallel is that if you keep making decisions based on delusions, those decisions become more absurd, and more dangerous.
Decimating America’s science is easily on a par with von Ribbentrop’s absurd enquiry in terms of hard realism. Destroying American science, defunding crucial strategic research, and to add insult effectively (and deliberately) destroying the health of the American people at the same time is worse.
The death of US science
US science is being systematically exterminated, bit by bit. (That statement ought to be rhetoric; at the moment it barely covers the facts.)
This is one of the few cases in world history where you can be absolutely sure that:
All scientific policy decisions will be fundamentally wrong.
The logic, if any, will be absurd.
The effects of each policy will take decades to fix at great expense.
To hell with conspiracy theories. This is madness. End the madness, or you could just possibly end America.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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