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SOPA Creator Now In Charge of NSF Grants 307

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dinosaurs-walked-with-man dept.
sl4shd0rk writes "Remember SOPA? If not, perhaps the name Lamar Smith will ring a bell. The U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology chose Smith to Chair as an overseer for the National Science Foundation's funding process. Smith is preparing a bill (PDF) which will require that every grant must benefit 'national defense,' be of 'utmost importance to society,' and not be 'duplicative of other research.' Duplicating research seems reasonable until you consider that this could also mean the NSF will not provide funding for research once someone has already provided results — manufactured or otherwise. A strange target since there is a process in place which makes an effort to limit duplicate funding already. The first and second requirements, even when read in context, still miss the point of basic research. If we were absolutely without-a-doubt-certain of the results, there would be little point in doing the research in the first place."
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SOPA Creator Now In Charge of NSF Grants

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  • Job (Score:5, Insightful)

    by puddingebola (2036796) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:06AM (#43589269) Journal
    This job got easier when I realized nobody was going to try and duplicate my results.
    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      It just got easier for companies like Pfizer and Monsanto too, now that they don't have to worry about any government-funded researchers trying to compete with their for-profit research.

    • duplicating is critical for science...but I could understand if the NSF wants to focus on novel experiments/research, and leave the duplicating to other organizations who's interest has been peaked. The national security stuff is BS. Having a strong research culture and scientific knowledge is critical to our national security.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:07AM (#43589271) Homepage

    The purpose of research is to create evidence when we make a case for something we want. We *will* duplicate research programs so that we have an increased chance of getting the results we are paying for. But once those reqults are acquired, no further research is needed.

    Smoking is good for you.

  • by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:10AM (#43589283)

    A certain set of Republican politicians are very opposed to the National Science Foundation, as far as I can tell for two reasons:

    1. For some politicians (and grassroots conservatives), they oppose some of the actual research being done. For example, they do not want to fund global-warming research, do not want to fund studies of gun violence, and do not particularly want there to be social-science research into issues such as racism or economic inequality.

    2. For other politicians, it's just a convenient source of material for people who want to pose as cutting government spending without having to propose serious cuts any of the programs that take up more significant parts of the budget, because those are either too popular and/or politically too well-connected. Instead they just try to make political hay out of finding a few programs in the single-digit millions which they can attack as "frivolous". So, for example, Tom Coburn compiles an annual list of NSF-funded research projects he considers frivolous. You know, frivolous stuff like robotics research [ieee.org].

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:26AM (#43589341) Homepage

      For some politicians (and grassroots conservatives), they oppose some of the actual research being done.

      And that right there is one of America's biggest problems: A significant number of people, spurred on by a certain television network and their religious organizations, actively do everything they can to remain ignorant of the world around them.

      Some other research they really don't want to fund: pretty much all paleontology, non-fossil fuel energy sources, and what various industrial chemicals do to people.

      • by SirGarlon (845873) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:57AM (#43589567)

        Whether to fund paleontology with tax dollars is a legitimate question. I happen to think dinosaurs rock and I can afford to pay my share of Jack Horner's salary, but a reasonable person might feel that the money could be better spent maintaining bridges or something.

        I would welcome that kind of discussion. What I don't welcome is political maneuvering to hijack a federal agency to serve a minority interest.

        • by jamstar7 (694492)

          Whether to fund paleontology with tax dollars is a legitimate question. I happen to think dinosaurs rock and I can afford to pay my share of Jack Horner's salary, but a reasonable person might feel that the money could be better spent maintaining bridges or something.

          I would welcome that kind of discussion. What I don't welcome is political maneuvering to hijack a federal agency to serve a minority interest.

          While cutting funding for paleontology to fund repairing bridges might sound reasonable, odds are, the funds siphoned away most likely won't be used to repair those bridges. Not when there's an election around the corner and there's pork to spread to buy votes. Not when defense contractors need their corporate welfare fix.

        • by lhunath (1280798)

          Be careful in your defence of democracy: You may well find the sensible interests are the minority.

          • by SirGarlon (845873)

            I am sure you would be pleased if your idea of "sensible interests" always prevailed. I am not sure I would be. (No offense intended toward you, I'm just willing to bet we disagree on something major). I'll take democracy, thanks.

          • This may be true, but mostly due to ignorance.

            Actual, factual public discussions on the issues might change things for the better.

      • by ganjadude (952775) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @09:02AM (#43589613) Homepage
        Grassroots conservatives really dont care about a lot of issues that the liberals claim that are for/against. I would wager it is safe to say the same for the way conservatives feel towards liberals ideas. I know a good portion of both and lean libertarian myself, Plain and simple the fringe is what is spoken about by both sides. If we asked neutral questions instead of loaded questions like the media (both fox and msnbc) we would be better off. Instead of asking "if we invest X into solar by raising taxes on Y (oil) is that good for the country?" how about we simply ask "would you switch over to solar if the cost was close to the same as you pay for energy today?"

        do you see how one turns into a fight and the other does not?

        I could point out that some research on both sides are utterly crap. funding the study of beetles migration habits? yeah I dont think we need to waste money on that one
        • by Muad'Dave (255648)

          "would you switch over to solar if the cost was close to the same as you pay for energy today?"

          Your question also has a slant - that cost is the only concern in switching to solar. If you're talking solar on their house, you omit the parts about the ugly panels, the batteries required, the cost of and maintenance on the panels and batteries, etc. If you're talking utility-provided solar, then there's the issue of great swaths of land covered in solar cells, the cost to the utility to convert, building-size

        • by Chowderbags (847952) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @10:41AM (#43590617)

          I could point out that some research on both sides are utterly crap. funding the study of beetles migration habits? yeah I dont think we need to waste money on that one

          Unless you care about how it could affect agricultural production. The boll weevil alone does $300 million in damage to cotton crops. The bark beetle and elm leaf beetle carry Dutch elm disease, which has devastated elm trees in both Europe and North America. Another beetle damages potato crops in Idaho. On the other hand, there are beetles that eat pests and the dung beetle saves the cattle industry $380 million every year in dung disposal costs.

        • by dryeo (100693)

          I could point out that some research on both sides are utterly crap. funding the study of beetles migration habits? yeah I dont think we need to waste money on that one

          As others point out, beetles are actually very economically important and you're showing the problem of lay people judging research, namely the benefits of research often aren't immediately obvious

        • by Ryanrule (1657199) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @01:07PM (#43592231)

          libertarian = moron.

      • by Shark (78448)

        Interestingly enough, your stereotype seems just about as dogmatic as what you blame them for. America's *real* biggest problem is the sort of divisive forces you promote. It's always a matter of 'us versus them' for you guys. Meanwhile, the people who understand and promote this principle profit immensely at your expense and they won't even thank you for helping them do so with comments such as the one you made.

        I know you want to cheer for whatever team you think you're on. I'm sure you're absolutely c

    • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:26AM (#43589343) Homepage

      I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.

      The problem ISN'T guns. It's the culture of people. We have a culture of violence in the US as much as we woud like to deny it. We glorify it in so many ways -- in the media, the movies, TV shows and pop music. Without that culture, the interest in guns would decrease with the exception of those who use them as intended -- as tools and defense. And without guns, the violence would change adjust.

      Presently, we have beating by hand, foot, bludgeon, knife, sword, gun and by larger things such as automobile. To take away things from people who are innocent is punishment of the innocent. Can that really be justified because a particular means is demonized?

      At the end of the day, violence takes many, many forms. To address the problem by separating the means is frivolous.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by eddy (18759)

        You are crazy if you think availability doesn't play in. Ever [thedailyshow.com] heard [thedailyshow.com] of Australia [thedailyshow.com]? Yes, it's a people problem, but so is drunk driving. Fixing it means attacking it from all angles, both the tech and the people.

        • by erroneus (253617)

          Are you saying that if you had a gun in your possession, that it would increase the liklihood that you would become a violent threat to the public? Availability of a thing does not change the character of a person.

          There are examples to the contrary as well.

          Would you feel safer if police didn't have guns? I would. There is a problem with government having too many guns and the arming of government increases at a ridiculous rate. Did you know the social security administration is an armed government police

          • by tubs (143128) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @10:48AM (#43590691)

            If an individual had a gun, it would neither make that person more or less likely to be violent, but it would ensure that violence of any kind involving that person is more likely to involve a gun.

            • by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @11:32AM (#43591163)

              Sigh...no mod points, but this is really the problem. If I'm of a mind to carry a gun around, it likely means I'm of a mind to use one should a problem arise. And that threshold of when I pull out my gun varies between people. Some people need to be threatened with a gun themselves; others only require your foot to get stepped on accidentally, or a dirty look. Without a gun, their only response is a likely non-lethal shouting match or at worst a fist fight (which last longer than a gun battle and are more apt to be stopped by the audience, with the audience surviving the attempt). With a gun, someone is likely to die.

              Guns have their place, but it isn't in your waistband, nor strapped to your back in an open-carry town. Those bozos carrying round rifles to inform people of their rights generated a bunch of 911 calls. Because, you know, you're carrying around rifles in the street. That's a culture change no one wants, thanks.

        • by DriveDog (822962)
          Thanks. It's depressing that so many people only see black and white. Of course it all matters. What's more, just because a change might not have an immediate effect doesn't mean it won't have a strong effect later.
        • by lymond01 (314120) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @11:27AM (#43591113)

          Okay, so as much as I hate to say this, referencing the Daily Show for facts is the liberal's answer to quoting Rush Limbaugh. Those shows are entertainment -- everything is taken out of context for humor or to drive home a point which may or may not be salient. John Stewart knows his stuff, certainly, and I am in no way comparing him to Mr. Limbaugh in terms of knowledge, but don't think for a minute that he presents an unbiased view of things. I'm betting the reason the gun laws were so successful in Australia has nothing to do with the laws themselves -- it has to do with the culture (as someone said). People weren't randomly killing each other en masse or in major gang warfare daily like we do here in the US of A (or however the media is presenting it).

          Because, seriously. You might need a gun in Australia, but it's for the man-eating spiders.

      • by blueg3 (192743) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:54AM (#43589545)

        I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.

        The problem ISN'T guns. It's the culture of people. ...
        Without that culture, the interest in guns would decrease with the exception of those who use them as intended -- as tools and defense. And without guns, the violence would change adjust.

        See, figuring out whether or not that's true is what the research is for.

        • Pssshaw, haven't you heard of this "Common Sense" thing. It's apparently a powerful portent, because any time I share research I've read about with conservatives, they tell me Common Sense has predicted its falsity. Clearly this magic crystal ball will also show you everything about guns and their sociological implications without any of that expensive research nonsense.

          • by blueg3 (192743)

            Logic and philosophy, a.k.a. the educated man's common sense, had a good run of things. That was back when there were four elements, light traveled through the ether, and heat was a fluid.

        • by ArsonSmith (13997)

          I think you mean making it true or not, to suit the current politicians agenda is what the research is for.

      • by PvtVoid (1252388)

        I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.

        The problem ISN'T guns.

        So you've already made up your mind, and you're opposed to research that might provide evidence that would force you to change your mind? Nice.

      • The problem ISN'T guns. It's the culture of people. We have a culture of violence in the US as much as we woud like to deny it. We glorify it in so many ways -- in the media, the movies, TV shows and pop music. Without that culture, the interest in guns would decrease with the exception of those who use them as intended -- as tools and defense. And without guns, the violence would change adjust.

        That's a hypothesis. You're doing the first part of research on gun violence right now. Unfortunately, it's the second part that's a lot harder, more expensive, and ultimately, worth anything at all. Without the second part, the first part is only worth the paper (or webpage) it's written on.

      • by IICV (652597)

        I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.

        Well congratulations then, that's actually been passed into law. [wikipedia.org] It's nearly impossible for academics to get the raw data they would need to do research, entirely due to that one amendment to some random bill.

      • No, the problem pretty much is guns. There are more [gunpolicy.org] guns [cnn.com] than [fas.org] citizens [justfacts.com] in the US; it's the fucking supply of guns and the easy access to them that is the problem, not the culture that glorifies them. I can buy a gun legally 24/7 in my state without ever disclosing my identity to the seller, and pretty soon I'll be able to print a durable, functional version of my beloved Mac 10. Until the gun-show and private-sale loopholes in gun laws are closed, and 3D-printing gets the draconian regulation it needs, e
      • by tompaulco (629533) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @11:01AM (#43590851) Homepage Journal
        I don't want to fund research on gun violence either.
        That's silly. If you really believe that guns don't cause the violence, and people just use the tools available to do their violence, than you should believe that a study on gun violence would confirm that.
    • by baffled (1034554)

      Does the NSF have budget constraints? Do they have to determine which proposals get funded and which don't, or do they fund as much as they want? How do they prioritize their selections? Should those defining the budget have any input on the priorities? These seem pertinent questions that I see neither discussed nor addressed.

    • A certain set of Republican politicians are very opposed to the National Science Foundation, as far as I can tell for two reasons:

      1. For some politicians (and grassroots conservatives), they oppose some of the actual research being done. For example, they do not want to fund global-warming research, do not want to fund studies of gun violence, and do not particularly want there to be social-science research into issues such as racism or economic inequality.

      2. For other politicians, it's just a convenient source of material for people who want to pose as cutting government spending without having to propose serious cuts any of the programs that take up more significant parts of the budget, because those are either too popular and/or politically too well-connected. Instead they just try to make political hay out of finding a few programs in the single-digit millions which they can attack as "frivolous". So, for example, Tom Coburn compiles an annual list of NSF-funded research projects he considers frivolous. You know, frivolous stuff like robotics research [ieee.org].

      It might be worth pointing out that Lama Smith is opposed to abortion, and thus most likely anything to do with stem cell research.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamar_S._Smith#Tenure [wikipedia.org]

    • Oh, there's even a bigger problem with Smith being in charge of the NSF budget. The dude's a Christian Scientist, but not a real scientist. I'm Mormon with my BS in Applied Physics, so I can get the religious vs scientific belief issues. But here's a dude who's whole religion rejects science outright. Up until recently, they'd rather let people die, suffer needlessly through debilitating diseases, or become permanently disabled because "they weren't believing right" and if they wanted to be healed they

    • by Ded Bob (67043)

      You know, frivolous stuff like robotics research.

      I understand that he may not understand everything, but a lot of what is in his list is frivolous. Here is another NSF-funded robotics research "project": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hwBOBeDFHw [youtube.com] If they want to play, then they can do it on the universities' dimes. The universities certainly charge enough to pay for this.

      Referencing some more from here: http://www.coburn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?a=Files.serve&File_id=2dccf06d-65fe-4087-b58d-b43ff68987fa [senate.gov]

  • by GenieGenieGenie (942725) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:23AM (#43589333)

    Science is nothing without replication. If you are building an experimental approach based on some result, you have to replicate it before building on this result any further, otherwise your method might be flawed.

    To make this clear - let's say some lab produced a result that chemical A is a carcinogen. And I want to test whether this depends on other factors, e.g. genetic background, immune system response, whatever. I will first replicate the result before going on, otherwise I don't have a method. It's that simple.

    People in these positions have to be scientist, or at least have had a scientific training, this is a good example of why.

    • by rmstar (114746)

      Science is nothing without replication.

      It is sort of funny in an unsettling way that commenters got worked up about that, and not about

      every grant must benefit 'national defense'

      which truly sounds batshit crazy. I'd expect that of an Iranian or Norky minister, but not of someone overseeing research funding in a civilized country.

      • by Culture20 (968837)

        every grant must benefit 'national defense'

        Because it doesn't sound so crazy in its original context where it's nationally funded and only one of a group of qualifications that are joined by logical ors, not logical ands.

      • by ewieling (90662)

        every grant must benefit 'national defense'

        as long as they add "and must not benefit national offence" it might not be so bad.

    • by Ded Bob (67043)

      It depends on what is meant by duplication. If two groups are researching the same thing using the same means regarding the same factors, then that is doing something in parallel. I can see that as a (possible) waste of money that could be used to research something else concurrently. Only slight related, when it is different agencies funding the same party, then you have fraud: http://www.nature.com/news/duplicate-grant-case-puts-funders-under-pressure-1.9984 [nature.com]

      Replication is different and would not fall

      • In practice, results get duplicated all the time as part of progression of research. A group found that inhibiting the protein Rho causes problems with making a cellular structure, if I then want to study a process that involves that cellular structure, a good first move would be to inhibit Rho to disrupt that structure and presumably that process. I will, necessarily, repeat part of their results but build off of it.

        Parallel research is not necessarily a waste unless the two research projects are iden
  • Unfortunately... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:27AM (#43589349) Journal

    Alas, the 'national defense' bit is by far the less problematic portion:

    "(1) is in the interests of the United States to
      advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare,
      and to secure the national defense by promoting the
      progress of science;"

    Ok, so (1) doesn't include noble goals like "Science, because knowing shit is awesome!"; but it's vacuous enough that nearly anything fits. If it is 'science' it probably helps you(or may help you in the future) manipulate the world in some way, and any positive manipulations count as 'national health, prosperity, or welfare' and any negative ones can be dropped on people we dislike and called 'national defense'.

    "(2) is the finest quality, is ground breaking,
      and answers questions or solves problems that are of
      utmost importance to society at large;"

    Here's where it goes downhill: Basic Research, motherfucker, have you heard of it? Contrary to what the movies might have led you to believe, 'science' isn't something that a single multidisciplinarian genius brings from test tube to field-ready superpower within a 10 minute montage set in a 'laboratory' that looks more like a small datacenter set up to impress visitors. And, when a given piece of research is the lucky one to go down in history as "Dr. Somebody Invented X", the writeup will have about a zillion papers of the form "A banal and seemingly pointless characterization of bandgap somethingorother in ionized flebatonium" that seemed like pointless noodling until they turned out to be useful.

    C'mon, Lamar, I realize that not much gets past your shit-eating grin and incredible density; but surely you don't imagine that scientists who could be out raking in the nobels and lucrative startup stock by cranking out world-altering research of staggering utility are just holding out on us, and sequencing random beetle genomes because grantwriting is just so much fun? If there were plenty of 'groundbreaking' research that 'answers questions or solves problems of utmost importance to society at large' scientists would be shiving one another with broken Erlenmeyer flasks to be the first to do it. Guess what, most of science is just prep work for the good stuff, much of which we don't even know will be the good stuff until we've already done the prep work.

    Clause 1 is just babble, of no real consequence(except perhaps to make paper abstracts and grant proposals even more vaguely optimistic); but clause 2 essentially provides unlimited scope to defund absolutely anything that isn't the final stages of a successful R&D exercise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lcampagn (842601)
      Serendipity is one of the most important forces in scientific progress. I think it would be awesome if slashdot readers could compile a list of their favorite transformative research projects that would never have been funded under the proposed bill. After a few days, we can compile them into a letter and send it to our representatives.
      • Re:Unfortunately... (Score:5, Informative)

        by lcampagn (842601) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @09:23AM (#43589803)
        I'll start: 1) Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is an essential technique in molecular biology. It is the technique that gave us the human genome project and is a key aprt of virtually every major genetic discovery for the last 20 years. Its beginnings, however, are much more humble: PCR depends on the use of thermostable polymerases to amplify DNA strands. This brings us to 1965, when Thomas Brock was studying Thermus acquaticus bacteria from hydrothermal vents. From these, he isolated Taq polymerase. At the time, nobody had any clue that hydrophilic bacteria were of national interest.

        2) The discovery of green fluorescent protein, one of the most widely used tools in molecular biology. From wikipedia: "In the 1960s and 1970s, GFP, along with the separate luminescent protein aequorin, was first purified from Aequorea victoria and its properties studied by Osamu Shimomura. . . However, its utility as a tool for molecular biologists did not begin to be realized until 1992 when Douglas Prasher reported the cloning and nucleotide sequence of wtGFP in Gene.[6] The funding for this project had run out, so Prasher sent cDNA samples to several labs. The lab of Martin Chalfie expressed the coding sequence of wtGFP, with the first few amino acids deleted, in heterologous cells of E. coli and C. elegans, publishing the results in Science in 1994."
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I'm sure half the research outlined here wouldn't have happened [wikipedia.org] if people had been funded only with principles like the ones in this bill. I mean, what the hell kind of national defense benefits could there be from experiments like firing protons at the nucleus of lithium atoms or trying to fuse light nuclei together? And what possible benefit could there be to society at large of investigating the possibility of neutron-initiated chain reactions with uranium nuclei? It's all a bunch of Jewish physicists

        • Don't forget good old Conservapedia [conservapedia.com]! The wikipedia clone for people who think that "Relativity", the concept from physics, is related to "Relativism", the philsophical rejection of the concept of moral absolutes...

    • C'mon, Lamar, I realize that not much gets past your shit-eating grin and incredible density; but surely you don't imagine that scientists who could be out raking in the nobels and lucrative startup stock by cranking out world-altering research of staggering utility are just holding out on us, and sequencing random beetle genomes because grantwriting is just so much fun? If there were plenty of 'groundbreaking' research that 'answers questions or solves problems of utmost importance to society at large' scientists would be shiving one another with broken Erlenmeyer flasks to be the first to do it.

      Not me. I miss out on all the groundbreaking research because of my demanding studies of which flasks make the best shivs. But once my experiments are complete I'll show them. Yes, then I'll show them all...

    • Very well put. I often have this problem when talking to people about space exploration.

      "Why should we go to space? Why do we need to do research out there? What will I get out of it?"

      That's the thing. We don't know what we'll get out of it until we get it.

    • by game kid (805301)

      People like Smith revel in their evil, and promote ignorance and inequality with full intent. "Incredible density" would be an improvement for them.

  • Let's see. We'll only fund research proposals that support the idea that America is always right, no matter what.

    What could possibly go wrong?
  • With a Republican in charge, there will be plenty of grant money for anyone looking for conduct research to disprove evolution or global warming.

  • by malkavian (9512) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:38AM (#43589441) Homepage

    For those that have even a fragment of history, you'll remember that the middle east used to be a center of learning and science.
    In the days of the crusades, their scientific knowledge far outstripped that of Europe (there's a reason the numerals we use today are called "arabic numerals".
    So, what happened to change that? Did Europe suddenly invest massively in science to go toe to toe? Alas not. Religious zealots got in places of power, and started to dictate that the progress of science was "against the will of god" (as the priesthood didn't understand it, so it scared them, and anything that scares a religious zealot is "against the will of god"). The role of religion in Europe started to lessen, allowing scientific method to progress apace and advancement to occur.

    There's a reason ethics committees exist for scientific projects; the lay-people on them are a voice for the average person: They force the people doing pure science to think carefully about ramifications of performing experimentation in a particular fashion (is the experiment ethical? Can the way it's performed in a different way, not affecting the core of the theory, that is ethical?). The professionals are there to ensure the science is actually valid and to pick out the ones sloppily created that are mathematically wrong, or are unable by structure to draw the conclusions they're looking for from the experiments performed.

    I'm vaguely hopeful that this incursion of zealotry into the workings of scientific progress can be rooted out and cast aside, but from the path that the US has been following towards a combination between a corporate feudalism headed by a close to a theocracy (what are the chances of an atheist being elected president these days, since the pledge of allegiance was altered in 1954 to include the "under god" segment; no, for you younger ones, that wasn't part of the original, and was tagged on for political ends), it's not a certainty. That's somewhat worrying really.

    • by belthize (990217) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @09:01AM (#43589605)

      This is why we need research, even in the soft sciences like history. Without such research it's trivial for put forth ideas that sound self evident and they become 'truth'.

      This series of articles suggests it was economic collapse and not religious dogma. http://www.history-science-technology.com/articles/articles%208.htm [history-sc...nology.com]

      I don't know which is true, they both sound plausible. The fact is science is good and it should not be retarded in the name of religion or short term economic relief.

    • by muecksteiner (102093) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @09:13AM (#43589727)

      You have a point there. Up to a point, that is.

      What you write is, by and large, the currently accepted mainstream narrative in Western culture. Two extremely important issues with this are frequently overlooked, though:

      a) The scientifically advanced Islamic world of the early middle ages was the result of rapid military conquest of a sizeable chunk of places that were amongst the most advanced regions on the planet: the Hellenistic states, other left-overs from the Roman Empire, as well as various cultures on the Indian sub-continent. All these were conquered by force, and absorbed into the early Islamic states. And for some time, the new Muslim rulers presided over empires that were very technologically and scientifically advanced - because the regions they had conquered had already been very advanced before being absorbed into the new Islamic states.

      And crucially, in the first few centuries, the ruling classes, and the clerics, did nothing much to impede the existing culture of science and letters in their new dominions - quite the contrary, they encouraged the spreading of technologies. Point in case: the "arabic numerals" you mention were brought to Europe from India by returning Arab conquerors. The scientific and cultural riches the Muslim rulers presided over were mostly not the product of Islamic culture per se, but they did not hinder the further development of what was there. And in some cases, considerable progress was actually made - there are a number of notable Muslim scholars from this era.

      However, at some point, Islamic culture ossified (for reasons that are very complex, and not entirely understood even today), became increasingly hostile towards science, and created the backwards mess that we see today. It is crucial, though, to always bear in mind that the "golden age of Islamic culture" was never entirely a product of the Islamic world to begin with. Far from it, actually. Like everyone else, they heavily built on the foundations their predecessors had built.

      b) The second point, that Europe only started to catch up once the influence of religion (read: Christianity) started to wane is simply not tenable, either. Not in a narrow reading, anyway. What happened from the Age of Enlightenment onwards was that the focus of society *and religion* changed in ways that made scientific endeavour possible and fruitful - crucially, without removing Christianity per se from public life, or the culture at large. Far too many scientists over time were Christian clerics for the narrow reading to be true: there are science-averse interpretations of Christian doctrine, but these are by no means exclusive, or dominant.

    • by LordLucless (582312) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @09:53AM (#43590123)

      Yada yada yada, science and religion incompatible, religion a heinous evil, science the hope of mankind, etc, etc.

      At different periods of time and in different places, religion and science have had different relationships. At the time when the Arabs conquered India and absorbed the Arabic-Hindu numeral system, they were heavily Islamic. Likewise, Alhazen's optics, and Sina's work on medicine were performed while their political system was dominated by Islam.

      Likewise, in Europe, much early scientific work was done by clerics (as they were most likely to be literate). Much of their work was predicated on the notion that the world was rational and organised - a philosophy that flowed from their religious belief (that God was a god of order, and thus the universe itself must be ordered). Their investigations were into exploring the order God had created.

      Even now, pretty much everywhere apart from the USA, there's little conflict. It's the USA that's birthed both southern baptists and the new atheist movement. Your religion, politics and science have become so intertwined, that there's almost no issue that isn't considered to touch on all three. But everywhere else in the Western world, you don't see these issues: other countries don't have court cases over whether or not to teach evolution; they just teach it.

      You're right in that there's a decline in science when secular power is held by people who are threatened by the truth - but that's not necessarily a religion problem. Both religious and secular leaders have opposed scientific conclusions, because it undermined their authority, or ran counter to their own interests (this philosophy implies that I, the king, do not have a divine mandate to rule - suppress it! This science implies that my oil tycoon buddies are screwing up the world - suppress it!). The common element is always political power, not religion. If you're looking for an enemy for science, politics is a much more suitable target than religion.

      • If you're looking for an enemy for science, politics is a much more suitable target than religion.

        Except we can't get rid of "politics." We can educate people which helps a bit, but there will always be people scared of progress. They'll take organized religion and use it as a bat against science and progress, since it's a very effective bat. Take away religion and science has a much better chance of prevailing even though the actors have not changed. Kind of like an angry 16 year old and an adult locked in the room. If the teen is armed with a bat, the rational adult stands a much poorer chance.

        • Except the teenager's in a room of infinite bats. If it's not religion, it's philosophy, or nationalism, or self-interest, or fear of change, or any of a hundred other levers that have been demonstrably proved able to manipulate human beings. You can't cure a disease just by treating the symptoms; the root cause must be addressed. And while politics can never be done away with, it can be limited and contained - like the American constitution tried (and failed) to do.

  • So the tiny-brained people have taken over at last!

    • The "national defense" has been a tempting way to fund science, at least since 2000. In many cases it's been easier to make up some way to tie proposed research to defense and fund it that way, than to compete for the ever shrinking funds the NSF has.

      Unfortunately, that route has big problems. Military people can't let be. Many are paranoid control freaks, and they've got to control the research. They will insist on such things as that all the data and equipment must be kept at military bases. Then y

  • Duplicative Congress (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @08:59AM (#43589593)

    One could plausibly argue that, since citizens are represented by two Senators and a Representative to the House, that half of the Senate and all of the House are duplicative and can be eliminated. It would certainly reduce cost and improve efficiency.

  • The above title represents the ONLY question to be answered by groundbreaking science that will be funded by the NSF from this point on (unless of course it involves new ways to blow stuff up).

    So title every grant proposal with "Life The Universe, Everything" and genius politicians will grant you funds to pursue your "science". It's not like they ever actually READ those proposals, just the title, so go ahead and investigate beetle dung like you always have, just be ready to prove how it relates to everythi

  • by jrifkin (100192) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @09:38AM (#43589965)

    This was addressed by Robert Wilson, the director of Fermilab, while addressing the Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_R._Wilson)

      It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending.

  • You don't put luddites with an IQ of near-zero in charge of science and finance.

  • Ignorance is the handmaiden of the tyrant.
  • Actual Bill (Score:4, Informative)

    by cryptizard (2629853) on Tuesday April 30, 2013 @11:53AM (#43591425) Homepage
    Not to ruin the party with, you know, actual text from the bill, but what it really says is:

    (a) is in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science
    (b) is not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.

    Now, we can argue whether that is good or not, but I am so tired of summaries which are blatantly trying to mislead us, like we are children who can't understand the actual words in the bill.

We want to create puppets that pull their own strings. - Ann Marion

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