The Politicizing of Science

Science has always been ruled by facts, the facts and evidence of any question or hypothesis has always been held above all else.  This has always been the great equalizer in science; where a Nobel Laureate can be proven wrong by an undergraduate researcher with experimental data.  However this appears to be changing for some parts of science, as politics grabs hold and tries to change what it will.  In recent years several scientific topics have become the subject of political scrutiny; not because there were errors in experimentation or disproved results.  Because some have decided that they dislike the results, and that in turn should make the science wrong.  Where does this leave the actual science?

Climate change, evolution, and stem cell research are among these newly politicized sciences.  As it stands there is a large group in this country that believe both evolution and climate change to be be wrong out right, regardless of evidence.  This is not a problem when it comes to ones religious belief, as we are all entitled to that.  Where this becomes problematic is when the government, or members of the government begin to use their power to try make genuine scientific and academic results invalid as it suits them.  Science is meant to be pure, by its very definition and nature it is governed only by results, observations and evidence.


It begins in the schools, with many states trying to pass bills in statehouses across the country that would limit and restrict the teaching of evolution and climate change in the classrooms of public schools.  Several states have tried to pass laws the effect the ability of the teachers to teach what is in the science text books and backed by the scientific community.  In most of these states the bills have failed, with only Louisiana and Tennessee having successfully passed their laws.  These education passed bills have sought to offer teachers more “academic freedom” and the ability to offer non curriculum based criticism of topics like climate change, evolution, and the origin of life.  Many of the proposed bills seek to limit the teaching of these principles, while others still sought to include religious beliefs taught beside evolution in the classroom.

Several states last year tried to pass bills that would abolish the UN Agenda 21, a nonbinding resolution on how to better move towards a sustainable future.  Why five statehouses thought that a nonbinding UN resolution needed to me abolished by a law is a mystery unto itself.  However this shows just how powerful the political argument over climate change is.  The controversy over climate change is a purely political event, the scientific community has already reached its evidence based conclusions.  On a more national level congress has blocked many attempts to institute progress in renewable energy and sustainability by preventing votes on these bills.  It seems as if climate change science is no longer in the hands of scientists.


Lastly we come to the Bush era ban on stem cell research.  This is a topic that is very important to me, as I have family members who have suffered from cancer and other degenerative diseases that stem cell manipulation could have been used to fight in theory.  I understand why Bush banned the research in the state, at least I think that I understand his thought process.  However there are two main points to be had here, the first being that despite his moral or ethical dilemma over the research being done, as president he had an obligation to do what was best for the people.  Secondly is that government should stay out of dictating research, finding research is fine, however directing research is another matter.  The government was not set up to asses and direct science nor has its efforts in the past to do so yielded the best results.  the current set up works, with the amount of money for grants to be decided in the federal budget and allowing several agencies to distribute that money.  Using the research results and the funded projects as political instruments will only dilute and distort the community.

“If it was up to the NIH to cure polio through a centrally directed program… You’d have the best iron lung in the world but not a polio vaccine.”  – Samuel Broder, Former Director, National Cancer Institute.

The state of science in the United States is a precarious one, with lawmakers coming after evolution in schools, trying to pass laws that limit or ignore climate change, and issuing all out bans on research that could lead to a cure for one of many terrible diseases.  It is not the roll of government to decide what facts are valid and what facts are not valid, experimentation and evidence should be allowed to speak for themselves.  If someone wishes to ignore the evidence and continue on a bath that will increase climate change then so be it, but trying to legally block evidence and facts to do so is immoral.


About thepickledhedgehog

I am a big fan of chemistry, well science in general really. I am currently gearing to go after that elusive PhD in Chemistry. For now though I write about all things geeky or science that I find interesting, or think the world should know. All the while secretly hoping to find a blue police box when I round a corner one day.
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3 Responses to The Politicizing of Science

  1. This is a very old problem that goes back at least to Aristotle and Plato. There is a power-struggle between religion & science. Science feels that decisions should be based upon empirical evidence, while religion feels that decisions should be made based on traditional values. There is a movement underway to find a middle ground, where decisions are made with each tempering the other. It is still small, but it is gathering steam. (I went to a seminar about that yesterday)

  2. maryjocee says:

    This is a thoughtful article on a timeless problem: the roles of science and politics. Add to the mix, as one usually does, religion, and the waters of research are muddied further. As a retired military member, I see how terrible weapon R and D can be, but also how civilian life is bettered by new technologies and products with peaceful application. I suspect whole buildings full of government types are fine-tuning federal responses to global weather changes that wreck havoc on unprepared civilian populations. Some brave and conscientious citizens of the world must stand up for the global village lest it be decimated by the changing natural world.

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