21 Mar

Senate burns scientific process down with amendment to limit science investment

Well, that’s a foolish way to stop investing in the future:

“This afternoon, the United States Senate delivered a devastating blow to the integrity of the scientific process at the National Science Foundation (NSF) by voting for the Coburn Amendment to the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013.
Senator Coburn (R-OK) submitted an amendment (SA 65, as modified) to the Mikulski-Shelby Amendment (SA 26) to H.R. 933 (Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013).  The amendment places unprecedented restriction on the national research agenda by declaring the political science study of democracy and public policy out of bounds.  The amendment allows only political science research that promotes ‘national security or the economic interests of the United States.’ “

(Via Senate Delivers a Devastating Blow to the Integrity of the Scientific Process at… — WASHINGTON, March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —.)

See also, Lysenkoism, USSR:

In 1948, genetics was officially declared “a bourgeois pseudoscience”;[10] all geneticists were fired from their jobs (some were also arrested), and all genetic research was discontinued. Nikita Khrushchev, who claimed to be an expert in agricultural science, also valued Lysenko as a great scientist, and the taboo on genetics continued (but all geneticists were released or rehabilitated posthumously). The ban was only waived in the mid-1960s.

Thus, Lysenkoism caused serious, long-term harm to Soviet knowledge of biology. It represented a serious failure of the early Soviet leadership to find real solutions to agricultural problems, throwing their support behind a charlatan at the expense of many human lives.

Republicans, between this amendment and the consistent, radical opposition to all mentions of climate change and global warming, have often embodied modern day Lysenkoism. Fortunately there’s a two party system, the damage isn’t nearly as bad as it could be. But this is shooting yourself in the foot.

Sure, ‘public policy and democracy’ studies are vaguely worded. But have no doubt climate change, economics (particularly austerity studies) will be in this line up that get metaphorically shot after being put up against the wall.

29 Jan

Democracies struggle into existence

Foreign Policy magazine takes a look at struggles to get democracy going in western countries in the past, and how that applies to Arab Spring:

The toppling of a long-standing authoritarian regime is not the end of a process of democratization but the beginning of it. Even failed democratic experiments are usually critical positive stages in the political development of countries, eras in which they get started on rooting out the antidemocratic social, cultural, and economic legacies of the past. Too many observers today interpret problems and setbacks as signs that an eventual stable democratic outcome is not in the cards. But such violent and tragic events as the French Revolution, the collapse of interwar Italian and German democracy, and the American Civil War were not evidence that the countries in question could not create or sustain liberal democracies; they were crucial parts of the process by which those countries achieved just such an outcome.

The widespread pessimism about the fate of the Arab Spring is almost certainly misplaced. Of course, the Middle East has a unique mix of cultural, historical, and economic attributes. But so does every region, and there is little reason to expect the Arab world to be a permanent exception to the rules of political development.

The article looks at how it took multiple tries to get democracy to stick in France, Germany, and Italy. In fact, in my lifetime I remember Spain being considered ‘unable to be culturally democratic’ in much the same way Arab countries are considered today. The same thing was true of South Korea.

Don’t read the comments of the article by the way. The racists and conservatives there completely fail to engage with the points made and repeat talking points. FP really needs to shut down comments or engage in moderation, like most news sites it seems to fail in that regard utterly.