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By Andrew Follett
One of the most prominent scientific journals has a message for activists calling Republicans “anti-science” — they’re not.
The journal Nature’s editorial board wrote that while there are legitimate concerns about the politicization of science, claiming Republican politicians are “anti-science” only cheapens the term.
“[D]espite being labelled by many as anti-science, the US Republican Party — for all of its flaws — is not trying to hobble innovation or seeking to dismantle the research enterprise,” the editorial board wrote. “Republicans have historically been strong supporters of science. They led the effort in the 1990s to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and they enthusiastically support space exploration.”
Scientists shouldn’t label politicians as “anti-science” simply because they push certain policies, Nature’s editorial board argued. People can have legitimate policy disagreements that have nothing to do with the underlying science.
“Many ‘anti-science’ measures have nothing to do with science at all,” the editorial board wrote. “US politicians who want to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA], for instance, tend to want also to weaken all sorts of federal programmes that they see as examples of ‘big government’ interfering in local issues.”
After all, scientific research has its own problems to grapple with outside of government funding.
“Science is ripe with problems: irreproducible results, manipulation of statistics, widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and conflicts — or at least what seem to be conflicts — of financial interest, to name but a few,” the editorial board wrote.
“Stepping back to see how all this comes across to non-scientists could be educational,” they wrote.
The editorial argues politicians of both parties ignore facts that contradict their own worldviews, just like virtually every other human. Science is not monolithic, the editorial board wrote, and that equally qualified scientific experts regularly disagree about what the evidence supports in many fields.
“Plenty of politicians, particularly in recent years, have made a habit of choosing certain inconvenient facts and dismissing them entirely,” the editorial board wrote. “But to claim that this constitutes a strategic war on science is to argue that science is a single, unified entity: that if you are not with science on any given issue, you are against science. Science does not speak with a single voice.”