One of the worst things about the Bush years was the attitude towards science. The Administration maintained the view that science was, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, false and intolerable. Legitimate research was often disparaged and completely ignored, with even the most imperative issues being decided on political, rather than intellectual, reasons. In short, science took a back seat to politics.
Unfortunately, this attitude towards science is certainly not exclusive to the GOP. Governments and parties, from the Roman empire up through the Illinois Senate, readily dismiss science. They fund the research and use the results when it makes their point, but completely ignore any contradiction with their philosophies. Science has become another tool for argumentation and communication, rather than a tool for investigation and exploration.
One of the most bizarre resolutions I have seen recently is one drafted by the Illinois Senate. This resolution essentially chooses to completely ignore the decision of the IAU and maintains that Pluto is still a planet:
RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE NINETY-SIXTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that as Pluto passes overhead through Illinois’ night skies, that it be reestablished with full planetary status, and that March 13, 2009 be declared “Pluto Day” in the State of Illinois in honor of the date its discovery was announced in 1930.
Since when does the Senate have veto authority over all decisions made anywhere? I can certainly understand the reasons to do so. The successes of any state citizen should be honored, and the fact that Pluto is no longer a planet makes the contribution of Clyde Tombaugh no less important. But that doesn’t give politicians the right to override the decision of a legitimate scientific body. Additionally, there is no reason Pluto needs to be reclassified as a planet. March 13 could be “Pluto Day” whether Pluto is a planet or not.
What next? Senatorial edicts that red is now green? We must respect science, even when we don’t like that science.