national science foundation

4 GOP Senators conspire to attack evidence-based science

national science foundationIn a very Cult-of-Trump move, four well-known Republican Senators have collaborated and conspired to keep people ignorant. The story comes via Mother Jones where an article by Dan Spinilli puts it like this …

These 4 GOP Senators Are Shocked that the National Science Foundation Encourages Science Education

So they are asking for an investigation.

The culprits are, if I may borrow a common turn of phrase, the usual suspects – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

First a bit of background

What is the National Science Foundation?

This one is dead easy, their “about” page contains all the details …

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…” NSF is vital because we support basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future. This type of support:

  • Is a primary driver of the U.S. economy.
  • Enhances the nation’s security.
  • Advances knowledge to sustain global leadership.

With an annual budget of $7.5 billion (FY 2017), we are the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing

Each year they get roughly 50,000 research proposals, so they carefully pick what gets their backing by cherry picking the ones that they feel will best promote science (gasp! … what a shock).

Who are those Senators?

Briefly …

Sen Ted Cruz (R-Tx.),

  • Climate Change denier, opposed to Paris Agreement, big fan of Oil, and much more.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)

  • Very big into Climate change denial, thinks the evidence-based science is a hoax, famous for tossing a snowball on the senate floor to “prove” that the world is not warming. Also a very big fan of Oil and Fracking. Openly hostile to the Paris Agreement.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

  • Loves Guns, Oil, Gas, and God. Hates the EPA, healthcare for all, and everybody who is Gay.

Sen Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

  • Claims there is no scientific consensus regarding climate change and that such science is “propaganda”. Hates the EPA, and is personally “offended” by same-sex marriage. Also loves guns.

What Exactly has happened?

All four have jointly issued a formal letter on 18th June to the Inspector General demanding a formal investigation of the National Science Foundation funding a proposal to enable TV Meteorologists to provide viewers with Climate-change related science education.

I’m really not kidding, you can find the actual letter here.

Dan explains it as follows …

The senators’ main beef with the 68-year-old independent science agency concerns two grants  that constitute approximately 0.05% of its $7.8 billion budget. Both focus on providing TV meteorologists with additional scientific education about climate change. The first is for a project that tests the benefits and obstacles to using TV meteorologists “as effective informal communication vehicles for scientific information about climate change.” The second is to expand the climate education program, known as Climate Matters, with different newscasters nationwide. Both requests were proposals from George Mason University, but it was the second one, which detailed a partnership with the nonprofit organization Climate Central, that really disturbed the senators. 

Climate Central was founded in 2008 as an organization pairing scientists and journalists “whose purpose was to ‘disseminate straightforward climate data and studies to the public,’” according to a 2012 description in the Washington Post that the senators included in their report. But, in recent years, the group had apparently become “more of an advocacy group,” the Post reported, “aiming to get people to do more about what the group now sees as ‘a clear and present danger’—global climate change.”

Apparently Climate Central are also guilty of being funded by some highly dubious organisations such as NASA, the Department of Energy, and the MacArthur Foundation … oh the horror (shudders).

The crux of their argument is that Climate Change is supposedly not science but instead is a partisan issue.

Er … no. That’s a mirror those guys are looking into. Climate change is a well-established evidence-based fact, it is the science denial that is highly partisan.

There is quite literally nothing for the IG to actually investigate.

The argument they have is not just with the National Science Foundation, but also with NASA, NOAA, almost the entire scientific community, and reality itself.

Why would they behave like this?

It’s a tribal thing, but let’s not be blind to the realisation that these guys all represent oil states and are funded and paid for by oil and gas interests.

What exactly has this grant done?

Again Dan lays it out …

the NSF programs appear only to have mildly enhanced the public profile of climate change on television news programs. After a brief upswing between 2013 and 2015, broadcast networks devoted only a total of 50 minutes to covering climate change in 2016. That number increased in 2017 to 260 minutes, but 79 percent of that time included statements from the Trump administration, according to reports issued by liberal watchdog group Media Matters.

… so their quibble is focused on a grant that enabled roughly 40 minutes of extra TV time in one entire year to be dedicated to fact-based science.

What Happens Now?

The IG’s chief of staff Lisa Vonder Haar said

“plans to assess the issues raised by the four senators this fall, we will determine an appropriate course of action once our assessment is complete and respond directly to the four senators to let them know what action, if any, we will take.”

The wholly “appropriate” response to these four consists of just two words. The second is “Off”, I’ll let you guess what the first is.

To be honest, none of this should be a surprise. These are all guys who would view images of Jesus riding a dinosaur and carrying an assault rifle as “fact”, and would get popular votes for believing that. Yes, a lack of decent education really is an issue. Now if only there was a Science Foundation that issued grants to help promote science … oh wait.

Perhaps the one consolation here is that history will not remember these guys kindly.

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