Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Science and McCain-Palin - they just don't get it

Ever since McCain first brought it up, I have been wanting to write about earmarks - how some earmarks, such as those for hospitals, universities, libraries, and municipalities, are actually a good use of money. For instance, this is true of the 3 million dollars for the "overhead projector" that Obama asked for. The projector is actually a plantetarium projector for the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, which is used to teach science to kids; the current projector is over 40 years old.

In todays LA Times, Lawrence M. Krauss, from the Origins Initiative at Arizona State, has written an excellent opinion piece about science and the McCain/Palin campaign, called "McCain Science Earmark Error." Krauss highlights three main examples that show McCain and Palin "just don't get" science:
  1. About McCain's comments about wasting money studying bear DNA, Krauss writes, "That may not be the highest item on a presidential agenda, but to claim that it is a waste of money is outrageous. Protecting grizzly bears may be expensive, but many would argue that preserving such a U.S. treasure is priceless."
  2. The second example is the Adler Planetarium projector, about which Krauss writes, "The National Academy of Sciences has targeted science education as a key goal in preserving the economic competitiveness of our nation. Similar "overhead projectors" in Los Angeles and New York have recently been replaced with the help of federal funds. McCain's gleeful attack sends this message: Encouraging science literacy is not worthy of government support."
  3. During her first "policy" speech, Palin also took aim at earmarks as wasting money that could be spent to fully fund government initiatives such as IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). One earmark she ridiculed was for "fruit fly research in Paris, France." Krauss writes, "Maybe Palin also should have been told that a University of North Carolina fruit fly study last year demonstrated that a protein called neurexin is required for nerve-cell connections to form and function correctly. That discovery may lead to advances in understanding, among other things, autism, one of the childhood disorders that has been stressed by the McCain-Palin campaign. " (Palin's nephew Karcher is autistic.)

When the United States lags so far behind other countries in math and science education, this fundamental misunderstanding of scientific research and its importance shown by the McCain-Palin campaign is a red warning flag that they are not equipped to lead the US into the 21st century.

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