Top Scientist Reminds Republicans That "Science Is Not A Political Construct"

US Congress by moonlight. Eugene Moerman/Shutterstock

Just in case you aren’t aware, there’s something in America called the House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology (CSST). Among other things, its job is to decide much of America’s scientific research policy, from NASA to the United States Geological Survey.

It has also for some time now been controlled by a collection of Republican lawmakers, most of which do not seem to think climate change exists, that pollution is really a thing, or that protecting the environment is a worthwhile endeavor.

Just this week, the CSST had a meeting entitled “Making EPA Great Again”, which gives a little hint as to the bias they have against the Environmental Protection Agency – a federal organization that has been threatened with censorship, funding cuts, and even its complete abolition.

“Witnesses will discuss how EPA can pursue environmental protection and protect public health by relying on sound science,” a description of the meeting reads. The implication, of course, is that the EPA currently is not using sound science – except, of course, it is.

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It’s not the science that GOP lawmakers tend to like, however, which is why they spent a good length of time at the gathering talking to a lawyer for coal industries, a chemical industry lobbyist, and an academic who once accused the EPA of engaging in a form of terrorism.

All in all, it was a proverbial shit show, at least on the part of the GOP members present. However, there was one exception to this – Dr. Rush Holt, a physicist and the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest nonprofit general scientific society.

“Science is not a political construct or a belief system,” he told the gathering of lawmakers. Noting that it teaches “humility in the face of evidence,” Holt added that “when one’s cherished beliefs, partisan ideologies, and wishful thinking have turned out to be wanting, the scientific evidence is likely to remain.”

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In a thinly-veiled attack on the GOP committee members, he underscored that “policymakers should never dictate the conclusions of a scientific study.”

“Without respect for evidence, and by extension evidence-based policymaking, our country’s future, and indeed all of humanity's future, becomes dangerously compromised.”

The CSST in its current form is the very opposite of a good source of scientific information.

It actively promotes slanderous, unfounded articles about non-existent scientific corruption, peddled by the likes of the Daily Mail and Breitbart. It specializes in its presentation of prevarication-filled travesties of journalism claiming that climate change is a hoax, all the while acting as if they are pieces of factual information.

The CSST Chairman, Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas, is an archenemy of the EPA, often making bold and frankly bizarre claims about what he sees as its secret agendas. His history on the committee strongly suggests he seeks to undermine the public’s trust in scientists.

Although there are Democratic and generally very pro-science lawmakers on the CSST, they are outnumbered by the number of Republicans on it almost 2-to-1, so there’s nothing they can really do right now to shut down the threats the CSST is issuing to science – apart from wear sarcastic hats, of course.

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Democratic lawmaker Don Beyer of Virginia wears a hat saying "Keep The EPA Great."

It’s worth noting that the members of the CSST are chosen by Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The numbers of lawmakers on the CSST are determined by the proportion of those from both political parties in Congress, which are in turn elected by you, the people.

So, if you care about America’s scientific legacy, here’s an idea – when the midterm elections come around in 2018, vote for members of Congress that actually give a damn about it.

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