Science and the National Interest
Who should judge what counts as “worthy science”? Who should judge what counts as “in the national interest”?
New legislation just passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would require that all scientific projects receiving federal funding be approved by elected politicians according to criteria they set out as measuring “national interest.”
Is it just me, or should we be worried about shades of national socialist science in Hitler’s Germany?
I’m not saying that our current elected officials have Nazi sympathies. I am suggesting that once we empower politicians as the arbiters of scientific research, we empower them to make decisions in arenas in which they have no special expertise–arenas that can have enormous consequences for the well-being of our citizens and our planet.
And it turns out that the well-being of our planet is just what the politicians passing this legislation have in mind. Archaeologist Rosemary Joyce has investigated all the research projects protested by Republican legislators last year as being a trivial waste of taxpayers’ money. Guess what? In one way or another, they all explore historical, geological, economic or other implications of climate change in earlier eras, and how humans dealt with such changes.
Do these legislators really have no grandchildren?