Ugly anti-science streak

What's with Republicans and science? There's an ugly anti-science stream running through the Grand Old Party. John McCain is against "wasteful spending" and chooses to pick on:
$2.1 million for the Center for Grape Genetics in New York.
$1 million for Mormon cricket control in Utah.
$819,000 for catfish genetics research in Alabama.
$2 million “for the promotion of astronomy” in Hawaii
Even if the New York Times can not be bothered to explain the importance of these programs, maybe I can try to check them out in a few minutes of Googling:
  1. The Center for Grape Genetics is at Cornell; the original agricultural station was established in 1882. It might have been better to fund this through the NSF, but studying agriculture is not per se bogus, as McCain seems to imply.
  2. The Mormon Cricket is a highly destructive species, and can cause destruction of large amounts of cropland, and so is well-worth controlling.
  3. The catfish genetic research seems to go to Auburn and again, is probably better funded through competition. But the idea itself is not bad.
  4. Hawaii, with its clear skies, is a pre-eminent astronomy site. Why they need to promote it further is beyond me. This sort of promotion is an out-and-out boondoggle. McCain may have a point here.
See also Matt Yglesias.


  1. It is not that the GOP is against science. The current
    debate is about earmarks and how these projects are funded.
    They're banging this drum since Obama said he would
    eliminate earmarks. I know both parties participate
    in earmarks, but McCain has been a critic of the process
    for a long time.

    Maybe its just Indian GOP politicians that don't like science :)

  2. 1. If McCain were to succeed in eliminating every earmark from the spending bill, do you know how much money we would save? Zero dollars. All an earmark does is direct the receiving state or agency on how to spend a portion of the money that Congress has appropriated for them. Eliminate the earmark, the money still gets spent, but the decision on how to spend it is made at a lower level. That's exactly what happened with the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska. When it became widely publicized and ridiculed, the bridge project was cancelled, but Palin still took the money, spending it on other road projects.

    Well, you might argue, if earmarks were eliminated, Congress should reduce that state or agency's overall budget by the same amount. Sounds good, but currently, that's not the way it works. And thanks to a seldom-read document known as the Constitution, nobody can force Congress to operate that way. If McCain had been elected, he would have no more power than Obama to make Congress behave. The only threat the President has is to veto the entire bill over a few percentage points of pork. Congress knew this, and members from both parties finely tuned the earmarks to the point where Obama chose to ignore the pork in favor of the bigger picture.

    2. The Limbaugh wing of the Republican party (pretty much the only group that still strongly identifies as Republican) is very much anti-science. To put it more accurately, they place politics ahead of science. If scientific research contradicts their preferred political position, they belittle it (Palin and McCain on genetic research involving fruit flies and polar bears, Jindal on maglev trains) or deny it outright (evolution, global warming, etc.) They seek out and publicize fringe "scientists" to support their positions. They push for home-schooling - not a bad thing in and of itself, but highly susceptible to being corrupted by such nonsense as teaching intelligent design instead of evolution. The fundamentalist Republicans consistently and intentionally blur the line between science and religion, between fact and belief. This attempted dumbing-down of the voting public is far more dangerous to the long-term survival of our country than any terrorist group.