Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscar Sunday, and I have to talk about shrimp.

On the second most holy of American holidays (after Superbowl Sunday), I am reduced to discussing shrimp instead of what Jennifer Lawrence is wearing (OMGdidyouseethatdresssohawt!).  As usual, I am referring to some pile of word-ordure by the Turbulent Scientist.

He seems to suggest that those on the right are idiots who have pet shrimp that should NOT be permitted exercise.  This is clearly absurd, since the right has historically loved prisons (although now they prefer for-profit ones) and prisoners are routinely allowed exercise.  The Turbulent Scientist's characterization is dangerously close to an ad hominem attack, which should never be used by a true scientist.

The reason Huckabee and other conservatives misrepresent certain science projects as wasteful is simply that they make for good sound bites.  Sometimes this backfires, as when Bobby Jindal used federal spending on volcano monitoring as fodder for a pithy remark: "Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington."  Of course, the danger of such comments became clear several weeks later after an eruption in Alaska.

To be fair, one could argue that Republicans are not uniquely guilty of misrepresenting or exaggerating facts to make some political point.  But as any good parent would tell their child, that doesn't make it right.

But why do Republicans pick on science?  Is it because studies like the treadmill shrimp cost mega-dollars?  I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what fraction $1000 is of the federal budget.  The reason is that scientists make up a pretty small and geographically diverse constituency group, so when they make such statements they're unlikely to lose many votes at their next election.  This is partly why, when asked to name the parts of the budget they'd cut, Republicans become curiously cagey.  They do want to cut programs – not because they're wasteful though – and such cuts won't be popular, so they don't want to risk voter backlash without having a good chance of actually getting those cuts.

So, good science gets scapegoated, and the Turbulent Scientist embarrasses himself again.  More importantly, are KStew and the pale guy still together?  Hope they mention that on the red carpet....

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