I won’t address here exactly how, or even why the Republican party has made itself an enemy of reason and scientific research. From what I’ve heard, if you haven’t already realized that this is true, Chris Mooney makes a pretty good case. While reduction of scientific funding is an issue facing the field, the real problem is much larger.
Ironically,the very defense craze that has been milked, re-milked, milked again, and then milked some more, the constant fear-mongering wherein one hand is waved to distract us from the actions of the other, entirely misses the long-term issues of defense.
I’ve been reading Ray Kurzweil’s recent book, The Singularity is Near, and even if you don’t believe his well-referenced assertions about humans transcending biology, you’ve no choice but to believe the evidence he gives for our approaching mastery of nanotechnology. This all sounds pretty good until you get to the latter bits. The parts where he talks about anyone in the world being able to access, say, instructions for bioengineering microbes or viruses, or even completely synthetic nanomachines. You may be quick to dismiss this — surely such information will be carefully kept off of the internets. Perhaps then you’d be alarmed to find instructions for making a fission bomb on the BBC website?
If the US wants to be able to counter groups with real weapons of mass destruction, we need to have not military prowess, but scientific prowess. No army can stop the spread of self-replicating nanomachines. Sabotoging the nation’s science programs in the interest of pandering to religious insecurity is a giant leap in the wrong direction. People such as the President seem to forget where all of the weapons they use came from. They forget that the cruise missiles they fire off would go nowhere without computers, without GPS, without radar. God will not power or direct cruise missiles. Go bless a piece of PVC pipe, or even the sleek (but empty) fuselage of a cruise missile, which was designed with scientific knowledge, and see if it flies to its target. I would bet every dollar and every possession that I have that it would not.
Luckily, it seems that other nations are destined to overtake us. In academia, I am continually surrounded by the finest minds in the world, many if not most of which are not American. Yes, they do still come here to continue their careers, but we cannot expect that to last forever if we are a nation hostile to science. This may not be the best for America, but at least we can hope that if religious fundamentalists bring our progress to a halt, some other peace-loving, sane, and intelligent nation will carry forward.
I have made the mistake of neglecting such considerations in my short voting career. This year, and in every election to come, evaluate who operates on reason and who believes the fairy tales written in a book of lies. The former may be a little more socialist than I would like, but the latter will keep moving us down the path of ruin.