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Texas vs. North Carolina Steel Cage Match in Science Stupid

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Look out, North Carolina — Texas is not going to let you run away with the title of State Most Shamefully Committed to the Stupid Political Ruination of Science. Despite North Carolina’s impressive recent yearlong streak of stunning science-related legislative psychosis — from legislating against the sea itself to removing scientists from scientific commissions to giving up on such scientific staples as counting – Texas won’t give up without a fight.

Witness congressperson Lamar Smith, who has floated a bill for the U.S. House of Representatives that would require scientific research to pass political litmus tests. Smith gained notoriety a week before the bill when he sent a letter to the NSF demanding explanation of some science that didn’t seem to live up to his exacting standards.

I don’t know what Smith majored in in college, but he has admitted he couldn’t hang in freshman physics and has expressed his doubts on climate change, too. He graduated from Yale — which it seems to me has some explaining to do.

I’m not sure whether I’m telling you this as a warning, as a way to comfort myself that North Carolina legislators aren’t the craziest in the country every second of every day, or just as a way to keep away from the scotch for as long as it took to write this post. Anyhow, I’ve told you.

Scott Huler About the Author: A writer who commonly explores science, culture, and the relationship between the two. Follow on Twitter @huler.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. davidwogan 10:51 am 05/6/2013

    We’d rather blow “facts” away: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKtFvCvmrFE

    Link to this
  2. 2. sault 12:20 pm 05/6/2013

    It doesn’t matter which state wins because we all lose!

    Link to this
  3. 3. RSchmidt 12:51 pm 05/6/2013

    It can be taken for granted that if you are dealing with a republican, you are dealing with a corrupt, anti-science religious nut who’s only objective is to fill his wallet while waiting for the rapture. Science is the Antichrist to professional liars.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Soccerdad 1:05 pm 05/6/2013

    There are actually three states in a steel cage match for stupidity. They are Illinois, New York and California. New York and California have a poor economy, and yet are too stupid to exploit the shale gas and oil right beneath them because of junk science claims that fracking is harmful. Illinois thinks it can run a retirement fund without making any actual contributions to it.

    Link to this
  5. 5. CDBSB 1:14 pm 05/6/2013

    Soccerdad: The financial troubles of California have a number of sources, but the potential windfall that could come from fracking is probably not the best solution. California already has a huge number of oil wells operating, they’re just hidden from sight in most places. The state has precious few water resources, so if there is even a remote possibility that fracking could taint supplies, it’s not worth the risk.

    Link to this
  6. 6. OgreMk5 1:19 pm 05/6/2013

    Dont’ forget Louisiana whose pro-creationism bill was once again allowed to remain because one of the legislators visited a witch doctor… See Phil Plait’s latest.

    Link to this
  7. 7. lizzietish81 1:54 pm 05/6/2013

    1. SoccorDad, that is a load of dingoes kidneys. Stop lying.

    2. Yale also gave George W a degree. I think its pretty clear they’ll let any slap monkey with money graduate.

    Link to this
  8. 8. DuFarle 2:01 pm 05/6/2013

    Now this is why we never saw a politico on “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader.” Especially since some are learning calculus in sixth grade. So if I were a conspiracy instigator I would say some are trying to undo “No Child left behind by defending Head Start. Can’t let the Sans Collette get ahead of those presently in power or study history.

    Link to this
  9. 9. RichardR 2:21 pm 05/6/2013

    Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to bring back the Office of Technological Assessment (OTA) which was eliminated during the Clinton Administration?

    Link to this
  10. 10. DuFarle 2:58 pm 05/6/2013

    Ask yourself why religion and politics are so afraid of science? For evidence I offer the curious incident of The Vally of the Cretins. Rulers came and went with no change. Religions came and went with no change. Revolutions came and went similarly. So why do you not find any Valleys of the Cretins in Switzerland or China today?

    Iodized salt!

    Link to this
  11. 11. syzygyygyzys 4:42 pm 05/6/2013

    RSchmidt,

    Unfortunately idiocy knows no party affiliation or limitation. Government funded research, loans, and investment capital have been and will be influenced by politics. More legislation to direct the flow of money to science is highly unlikely to help. Apart from more sunlight on the process perhaps with a public comment period before the money moves, I don’t have any solutions. MORE politicians of any stripe in the mix will only make it worse.

    Exposing funding proposals to an open forum like this one could be a start.

    Link to this
  12. 12. M Tucker 5:24 pm 05/6/2013

    I think if we did a little probing we could come up with a few more states other than N Carolina, Texas and Louisiana. What about Oklahoma? Home to Inhofe, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment, author of “The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.” Together with Coburn they make a mighty team of stalwarts against any action by the Senate to limit CO2 emissions. I wonder if they could benefit from iodized salt. Maybe it is not a chemical imbalance, maybe it is simply political dogma mixed liberally with large amounts of corporate money.

    Considering that Lincoln immediately signed the bill creating the NAS in 1863, on the same day it passed the House, these Republicans today demonstrate that the current party is now far removed from the party of Lincoln.

    Link to this
  13. 13. CBacon 6:16 pm 05/6/2013

    Lamar Smith is one of the most out of touch congressmen there; that, or he has a more sinister agenda, take your pick.
    I am all for saving money, but science is one of the few things I think the government should fund unless there is no other choice for cuts.

    Link to this
  14. 14. N a g n o s t i c 6:26 pm 05/6/2013

    There’s plenty of apparent idiots on both sides of the aisle.

    I say ‘apparent’ because these guys actually aren’t stupid – they know what side the butter’s on. Republicans harvest votes from religious cretins, Democrats get theirs from moochers.

    Link to this
  15. 15. quantumxdt 8:41 pm 05/6/2013

    It’s a story that goes like this…Ps. I love you…Now this has got to be the be all to end all. Some bureaucrat telling the smarter guys what is and what isn’t ….omfg… the end.

    Link to this
  16. 16. gigabob 8:56 pm 05/6/2013

    Lamar may be out of touch – but Georgia’s Paul Broun – soon to run for the Senate – may take the cake. In his words “Embryology, Evolution and the Big Bang are lies from the pit of Hell”. Not sure who ever visited his medical practice, but I feel for them, guess that’s why he’s in Congress.

    BTW – he is who the Republicans have on their congressional Science and Technology committee – no wonder the US is surrendering it’s previous unrivaled superiority in science to … just about everyone.

    Link to this
  17. 17. JJQadar 8:58 pm 05/6/2013

    Unbelievable, I am utterly speechless after seeing the bills he’s supported in the past. He graduated with a degree in ‘American Studies’, aka ‘corrupt politics’, and went to SMU for his JD. He is also a “Christian Scientist”- oh the irony! The legacy of his decision making surely indicates he is totally competent to serve in our government:

    “Abortion, Smith has consistently supported restrictions on abortion

    “Digital Millennium Copyright Act, On April 23, 2006 CNET reported that Smith was introducing a bill that “would expand the DMCA’s restrictions on software that can bypass copy protections and grant federal police more wiretapping and enforcement powers.”

    “Marijuana, Smith stated that “Marijuana use and distribution is prohibited under federal law because it has a high potential for abuse and does not have an accepted medical use in the U.S., The Food and Drug Administration has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease.”

    “Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), On October 26, 2011, Smith introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261), also known as SOPA.[32] The bill sought to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.”

    “Donations, In 2011 Smith had received $37,250 in campaign contributions from the Beer, Wine and Liquor Lobby,[26][clarification needed] and $65,800 total between 2009 and 2011. He received more than $133,000 from the Content Industry, including Industry groups and individual companies through mid-2011. Another $60,000 was donated by these companies in the 2012 Election Cycle. Maplight.org listed the Beer, Wine, and Liquor Lobby as third among Smith’s top ten campaign contributors, and Content Industry as #1.”

    Link to this
  18. 18. pinetree 9:29 pm 05/6/2013

    The Right Wing Fascist Repubs just cannot understand that evidence based reasoning thing. Facts, data, analysis, are so unnecessarily when you only have to believe, follow the right’s blind prejudice, except their brand of mindless theology, and question nothing. Their intellectual lives must be so peaceful. Rest In Peace.

    Link to this
  19. 19. BigWu 10:35 pm 05/6/2013

    “There are actually three states in a steel cage match for stupidity. They are Illinois, New York and California. New York and California have a poor economy…”- Soccerdad

    Provably false on all counts!

    Education: Texas has the lowest high school graduation rate of any state (Source: Census Bureau), is 30th in college graduation and 33 in graduate degrees. Your three “stupid” states absolutely crush Texas on all three educational measures, particularly graduate degrees where NY ranks 5th, Illinois 9th, and California 14th.

    Per capita GDP (Source: Dept of Commerce) is higher in New York (7th at $57k), Illinois (10th at $52k)and California (12th at $50k) than Texas (24th at $46k). That’s right Soccerdad, Texas lags all three by 9-24%

    New York, Illinois and California also have higher growth rates than the national average (Source: Dept. of Commerce). And finally, do note that California has a massive government budget surplus.

    Thanks for playing!

    Link to this
  20. 20. RSchmidt 10:58 pm 05/6/2013

    @Soccerdad, nice try at deflection. Not surprised to see one of sciam’s denier trolls trying to defend (if you can call it that) the scientific illiteracy of the republican party. Obviously you find a policy position based entirely on lies the way things are supposed to be. But that is why you don’t belong here.

    Link to this
  21. 21. Shoshin 11:08 pm 05/6/2013

    RSchmidt is absolutely correct. Only those of politically pure thought can determine validity in science.

    - V.I. Lenin

    Link to this
  22. 22. RSchmidt 11:41 pm 05/6/2013

    @Shoshin, congratulations you win the reductio ad hitlerum award. But what would we expect from someone as fundamentally irrational as yourself? Besides, you have only proven the point of the article, politics has no place in science. And again, that is why you deniers don’t belong here.

    Link to this
  23. 23. MARCHER 12:29 am 05/7/2013

    @21,

    And only the those of the tiniest mental stature can be as absurdly denialist as yourself.

    Now get make sure your tinfoil hat is secure.

    Link to this
  24. 24. N a g n o s t i c 7:55 am 05/7/2013

    Federally funded research comes with strings, some not so visible. At least the Republicans mentioned in the article are up front and in our faces with ham-fisted proposals. Can it be assumed their counterparts are apolitical seekers of truth? I’m fairly certain the answer’s no.

    Link to this
  25. 25. RSchmidt 9:09 am 05/7/2013

    @N a g n o s t i c, nice try but once again this is clearly a republican fail.

    “Can it be assumed their counterparts are apolitical seekers of truth?” certainly more so than the republicans. But I know evidence doesn’t mean anything to you.

    Link to this
  26. 26. huler 11:27 am 05/7/2013

    @N a g n o s t i c, you’ve missed the point entirely. This is not Republicans versus Democrats — this is politicians versus scientists. Wise politicians let scientists do science with the widest possible latitude and reap the benefits; stupid politicians try to control scientists and thus lose the benefits of scientific inquiry. Yes, one party has been significantly stupider regarding science in recent years, but that’s not the point. The point is: let scientists do science. And yes: a national priority should be PAYING for scientists to do science.

    Link to this
  27. 27. jpdickey 5:12 pm 05/7/2013

    Given a shortage of funds, one might make a case for a scientific panel to review projects for merit on some basis. However, the bill as drafted would be extremely restrictive. The first requirement would be that the project “is in the interests of the United States to
    advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare,
    and to secure the national defense…” Note that it can be health, prosperity OR welfare, but use of “and” means that all projects must promote national defense or forfeit their funding. Since we don’t know what the results are going to be from pure research, even if the “and” were an “or” this would probably bar most pure research projects, and eliminate America’s status as a front-runner in science. We would never have another Hubble telescope or the like.

    Link to this
  28. 28. quantumxdt 3:15 am 05/8/2013

    to the politicians who would like to control science….arXiv:1210.0520…./. so tell me smartguy what do ya think about that

    Link to this
  29. 29. David Marjanović 10:08 am 05/11/2013

    Exposing funding proposals to an open forum like this one could be a start.

    And what makes you think they’re not already in an “open forum”?

    I say ‘apparent’ because these guys actually aren’t stupid – they know what side the butter’s on.

    They don’t know anything else, though.

    This is not Republicans versus Democrats — this is politicians versus scientists.

    Increasingly, that’s the same: only 6 % of scientists in the USA are Republicans anymore.

    No wonder, when the party of Lincoln has become the party of Bachmann, Inhofe, Failin’, Rmoney, Cuccinelli, Fearless Flightsuit, and Smith.

    Link to this

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