Scientists Hate the GOP for a Reason
Sarewitz’s opening sentence lays out his argument neatly:
To prevent science from continuing its worrying slide towards politicization, here’s a New Year’s resolution for scientists, especially in the United States: gain the confidence of people and politicians across the political spectrum by demonstrating that science is bipartisan.
He argues that the perceived liberal bent of the social scientists has caused Republicans to be wary of that field and to defund it, and warns that if scientists in other fields—he names public health and environmental science—don’t stop supporting Democrats so openly, Republicans will come after them, too. But the cause-and-effect relationship is reversed. Republicans started it when, as early as the environmentalist movements of the ’70s, they began to morph into the party that defended corporate profits over public health and environmental good. Why would scientists support a party that ignores and refuses to fund important scientific initiatives like efforts to fight climate change, stem cell research, and advances in improving sexual health, like development of the cervical cancer vaccine? Sarewitz blames scientists for the politicization of science, when any fool can see that Republicans attacked first and scientists are just defending themselves.
Both journalist Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, and historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, who together wrote Merchants of Doubt, have done extensive research that shows the faults in Sarewitz’s argument. In Merchants of Doubt, Oreskes and Conway laid out how the fields of environmental science and public health, not the social sciences, turned Republicans into anti-science warriors. They explain that it was during the debates over tobacco’s carcinogenic properties that conservatives began their assault on science, claiming a controversy where there was none in hopes of delaying government interventions that would depress the tobacco industry’s profits. After that, the strategy was set. If scientists made proclamations that could undermine industry, conservative politicians claimed the research was more controversial than it was, offered up well-paid but unethical experts who claimed to have doubts, and introduced shoddy research with divergent findings. The strategy has been employed to resist and delay government regulation to combat acid rain, global warming, and the hole in the ozone.