The Arkansas Democrat Gazette dedicated today’s editorial (free registration required) under the headline “What’s Crazy” to another attack on science as tiresome as it is unoriginal. It’s not hard to guess that it is another of editorial page editor Paul Greenberg’s attempts at showing off his ignorance in all matters academic. The editorial is dedicated to Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s yearly rant against the National Science Foundation (NSF). Every year or so, Coburn releases a report picking NSF projects that he doesn’t think are worth funding. You know what, there’s a reason why scientific funding decisions at the NSF are left to competent scientific reviewers rather than politicians: the Coburn approach (putting politicians in charge of science) has already been tried – in the Soviet Union, for example – and didn’t work out so well.
The editorial is titled “Eat the shrimp, people”, and its primary showcase of alleged waste is so embarrassing one wants to cry. It concerns a study titled “Impaired Metabolism and Performance in Crustaceans Exposed to Bacteria”, awarded to Karen Burnett at College of Charleston. The researchers study the metabolism and immune response of crustaceans under stress from hypoxia and bacterial infections. What’s wrong with that? Honestly, I don’t know and I bet neither do comrades Greenberg and Coburn. Greenberg certainly doesn’t waste column space explaining why exactly he opposes studying crustacean metabolism. Instead he explains that shrimp should rather be cooked in skillets than studied in labs, thus proving his half-wits to the half-wits who think that’s a funny joke.
What’s crazy? The Arkansas Democrat Gazette inoculating its readership with anti-scientific sentiment to make sure none of them will ever understand the physical world around them nor even the need to use the tools of science to better understand reality. As long as they can live in the fantasy world brought to them by Fox News and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, no need to understand shrimp as long as you can cook them in butter.
What’s crazy? A senator bought and paid for by the oil industry, and the corporate media hacks at the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, crying foul about research spending they don’t like while supporting tax-payer subsidies for Big Oil to the tune of billions a year.
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Americans like to fret about the alleged under-performance of the public education system. Everybody’s favorite scapegoat these days are the teachers and their unions. Which makes sense until you think about it for two seconds: teachers have very little power in the system. They aren’t the ones who set education policy, they don’t get to write the curriculum, they have no power over funding levels and priorities, they don’t control how children spend most of their time. May I suggest that a large portion of the blame lies squarely with a political class and a punditocracy inoculating American culture with anti-intellectualism on a permanent basis.
Think about it. Today’s school children are being told day in day out that science and reason are worthless, that you can make up your own facts if you like, that evolution and climate science are just matters of opinion. The political and media discourse is to a large extent controlled by anti-intellectuals and science-haters like Coburn and Greenberg. What do we expect our school children to make of that? How would they develop an interest in learning and science in a culture that treats education as a handicap, learning as nerdiness, and disinterested research as government waste?