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Education United States Science

The Problem With Congress's Scientific Illiterates 509

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-don't-get-it dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Brian Merchant at Motherboard examines the March 26th House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's 2015 budget request hearing. White House adviser Dr. John Holdren addressed the committee to defend funding for science programs. Video clips show comments that are difficult to believe, when you hear them. From the article: '"So, when you guys do your research, you start with a scientific—what do they call it—postulate or theory, and you work from that direction forward, is that right?" Representative Randy Weber (R-TX) said. "So, I'm just wondering how that related, for example, to global warming and eventual global cooling." He paused to make a joke about getting the scientists' cell phone number so he could call to ask when to buy a coat, before concluding that science just isn't up to the task.'"
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The Problem With Congress's Scientific Illiterates

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  • Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Petersko (564140) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:27PM (#46655809)

    All you can do with somebody like that is just look them over, wince, be perplexed for a moment, and then move on. They aren't interested, nor would they listen to any attempt to aid their understanding.

    It's not a winnable battle, so don't start the fight.

    • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Berkyjay (1225604) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:53PM (#46656085)
      And this is why we fail. We get so defeated by ignorant politicians and just throw up our hands and say "what can you do?" But we get the government we deserve and most of this country is horribly undereducated and ignorant of how the world actually works.
      • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:19PM (#46656343) Homepage Journal

        I think you're maybe half right.

        We have a little less than half of the people that throw up their hands and give up because it is just so dumb.

        We have another group at a little less than half that are so worn out with work, the 3 kids society said they should have, the junk they spend their money on, etc.. etc.. that they don't have the time to pay attention.

        So you have 2% that are pissed off that our leadership is dumb as hell and are willing to fight the idiocy. And that's not enough.

        • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lonOtter (3587393) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:27PM (#46656407) Homepage

          It's not even that they're tired, or that they give up. It's that most people are apathetic and unintelligent, all in one convenient package.

          • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Electricity Likes Me (1098643) on Friday April 04, 2014 @12:39AM (#46658055)

            Pro-tip: to someone else, so are you.

            The reality is people are really stupid when they go outside their field of expertise. Some people have a lot fewer of these then others.

            • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by lonOtter (3587393) on Friday April 04, 2014 @12:50AM (#46658089) Homepage

              Pro-tip: to someone else, so are you.

              And? To some ignorant person, Einstein might seem stupid. Someone's going to be wrong. The mere fact that someone else might deem me unintelligent is not something that makes my observations incorrect.

              The reality is people are really stupid when they go outside their field of expertise.

              It's not just that they're ignorant; they're unintelligent and have almost zero critical thinking skills. Examples of this are people who buy into the "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" nonsense, accept the TSA or NSA surveillance, keep voting for 'the lesser of two evils', or do any other such thing, and (this is the important part) continue to support these things even after it's explained why it's a bad idea.

              That and most people don't even seem to have the ability to truly understand (not just memorize) even trivial math makes it seem extremely likely that most people are unintelligent.

              • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

                by doggo (34827) on Friday April 04, 2014 @08:18AM (#46659731) Homepage

                One of the huge problems in the geek community is the propensity to assume other people are stupid. Despite it's being true in many cases.

                This is, typically, a coping method for self-esteem. That is, if you assume everyone around you is an idiot, then you feel better about yourself. Which is fine, as far as it goes.

                It becomes a problem when it causes you to become blind to your own ignorance.

                Technological and scientific expertise does not make one a whole person. How many of us bemoan our lack of dates? How many of us have issues with social interaction?

                Elite coders often are completely ignorant of law (and vice-versa). A psychologists may not know his browser from his OS, but he, or she, may know how to help you cope with the loss of a loved-one. Etc.

                The point is, think carefully before pointing your finger at someone and crying, "Stupid!"

                • Re:Don't bother. (Score:4, Informative)

                  by lonOtter (3587393) on Friday April 04, 2014 @08:53AM (#46659939) Homepage

                  One of the huge problems in the geek community is the propensity to assume other people are stupid. Despite it's being true in many cases.

                  I am not assuming anything. I have observed the world we live in and came to a conclusion that is almost certainly true.

                  That is, if you assume everyone around you is an idiot, then you feel better about yourself.

                  Not necessarily. Even if you think everyone around you is unintelligent, that doesn't mean you think you're particularly intelligent. If you think your level of intelligence is underwhelming, it may not make you feel better to think that most other people are idiots, although it might.

                  It becomes a problem when it causes you to become blind to your own ignorance.

                  I am by no means blind to my own ignorance.

                  How many of us bemoan our lack of dates? How many of us have issues with social interaction?

                  I bemoan neither of those things, and am not interested in them.

                  The point is, think carefully before pointing your finger at someone and crying, "Stupid!"

                  Ignorance is not the same as lacking intelligence. You can cure ignorance.

                  And I do think carefully. When I see people supporting the TSA, the NSA surveillance, DUI checkpoints, and other such things that violate our freedoms, they are almost certainly unprincipled and unintelligent. There are many people like that, but those are by no means the only sign that someone is unintelligent.

                • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by Artifakt (700173) on Friday April 04, 2014 @09:44AM (#46660305)

                  Right now, as the very end of the tax season looms, I have exactly 20 clients scheduled who I know are engineers. 10 of them are my usual clients, and 10 of them did their own taxes last year and assumed that they were smart enough to figure it out, and got an IRS letter for their trouble. I've already heard three rants about the stupid, stupid government designing forms that the smart engineer can't use, and have two clients who are swearing they will go to prison for life rather than yield an inch on their interpretation of the regulations. One of those last has the soon to be ex wife's lawyers to deal with over what he tried to do last year and they already have a court order restricting his filing times and methods so they can get copies in time to file their own cleint on time. He's actually argued with an IRS agent on the phone, telling him that being required to divulge to his wife whether he has taken itemized deductions or not is unconstitutional and he has half a mind to punch the agent in the snoot, and because of that, I have already gotten a formal letter requesting I disclose any information I have indicating if he poses an actual threat before he goes in for an in person hearing. This guy is the first to brag about how much smarter he is than these dummies who make up most of my customers, and of course, the IRS.
                            I get these persons referred to me because they usually ask something along the lines of whether anybody at the firm has a science or engineering degree or experience. I usually work corporate, and only take a few individual clients a year outside my old regulars. This has been an unfortunate year where I've wasted many of the spare slots on people I don't partcularly want as regular customers.We will be refusing service in the future to some of these people before this is over (and the firm's only actual lawyer partner is strongly recommending we should refuse service to a certain one this year despite what will obviously be a lawsuit if he stays out of prison long enough to file it - we are not real big about one of our phone numbers being used to make a threating call).
                            When you say "one of the huge problemss...", I don't think it's hyperbole. . .

            • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by N1AK (864906) on Friday April 04, 2014 @04:02AM (#46658819) Homepage

              The reality is people are really stupid when they go outside their field of expertise.

              No. People are uninformed about things outside their expertise. They are only stupid when they try and comment on other fields. I'm not stupid when it comes to combustion engines. If someone asked me if a V8 or V10 were better I'd say I had no clue, stupid would be going V10 on the basis that 10 sounds better and I heard of a good V10 car once. In a way it's our own fault that our representatives express uninformed opinions: the politician who regularily says "I don't know" would be judged as ignorant or stupid.

              • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Interesting)

                by microbox (704317) on Friday April 04, 2014 @10:21AM (#46660577)
                I don't believe that stupidity comes from "not knowing", as you suggest. It is more a case that moral values drive a world view that "facts" are shoe-horned into. And if you're wrong about the facts, then that is like being a bad person -- and almost everyone thinks of themselves as a good person.

                Examples: patriarchy is socially constructed, because otherwise women will be oppressed for ever. (Obviously fallacious.)

                Whether or not vaccines cause autism, they are unnatural, and harm the body's natural ability to fight disease. (Obviously fallacious.)

                Global warming must be wrong because it is immoral for the government to interfere with the economy. (Obviously fallacious.)

                Every hot button issue I've ever encountered has this quality to it. And the very same psychological defense mechanisms are always present. For example, we all see ourselves as "nuanced" and "reasonable", so it must be the other guy who is an ideologue. Projection, denial, externalization and intellectualism all derive from the need to resolve this type of cognitive dissonance, and at the heart of it all is the notion of what is "right" and "sacred" and must be protected -- which itself seems to be quite arbitrary.

                Just my 2 cents.
            • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by TapeCutter (624760) on Friday April 04, 2014 @05:55AM (#46659237) Journal
              More depressing clips: A guy called ClimateBrad has a large collection of clips [youtube.com] from US politicians doing their very best to make up their own facts and rules of logic.

              Up until I reached my 40's I thought people like Senator Inhofe in the US and Tony Abbot here in Oz were uneducated, stupid, or more likely both. They are none of those things, they're just plain immoral by normal western standards when it comes to honesty (even the good ones). To paraphrase Shaun Micallef - "The media is called the fourth estate but behaves like a fifth wheel", like the political system it revels in conflict and is trained in the (in)humanities. If it can't find controversy in a story then it invents some (say) by equating a "one jump away" lobbyist's press release from one of their major sponsors to a meticulous scientific report. The Iraq war and "Climategate" are both prime examples of commercial media being worse than useless in clarifying a complex issue, particularly in the US.

              The honest self-skepticisim required to be successful in the scientific and engineering world is a career killer in the political world. They have a different worldview that says everything boils down to an opinion, and all opinions are equal. Therefore social skills are more important than evidence and manipulation is more useful than reason. OTOH we have way too many Phd's in the hard sciences who have never stepped foot in a "Ph" class in their life and would not know Popper from Popoff.

              Thing is, the political worldview is our natural behaviour, it's instinctual and we all do it to some degree because...well..it almost works [cracked.com]. Critical thinking is a learned behaviour that basically refines "common-sense" using agreed rules of evidence and logic, it is the foundation of The Enlightenment [wikipedia.org], a radical shift in human behaviour barely 500yrs old. It's unsurprising that it hasn't permeated to everyone in the modern world that the "age of reason" created with extraordinary speed over the last 50-100yrs.

              "I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness..." - Sagan, Demon Haunted World (Science as a candle in the dark)
              • by microbox (704317)

                They are none of those things, they're just plain immoral by normal western standards when it comes to honesty

                They really don't know that they are making this stuff up. It's not that they are immoral, but that their mind is interpreting things in a very self-serving way, and also censoring information that they don't want to know. Morality itself is at the heart of the cognitive dissonance that drives this madness.

          • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by sjames (1099) on Friday April 04, 2014 @02:19AM (#46658395) Homepage

            It's called learned helplessness. Put a rat in a cage and shock his feet. Provide different colored areas on the floor, lights, buzzers and levers. No matter what he does, shock his feet.

            American voters are that rat.

        • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:02PM (#46656675)

          There's also the group that see idiocy all around and, knowing they can't fight it all, fight some battles and toss their arms up on others.

          For example, my wife and I are fighting against EngageNY, Common Core, and the high-stakes testing that New York State has implemented. Without going too much into it (since it is off-topic), let's just summarize to say that New York's Board of Education is highly corrupt and this was rushed into to benefit politicians and funnel money to corporations, not students or teachers. In fact, it is actively hurting students. So we're fighting this fight.

          Unfortunately, we can't fight every fight. I doubt anyone could. Even if you were single, with no kids, and were able to fight these fights every day, I doubt you would be able to battle all of them. At some point, you need to pick and choose and people are more likely to pick the battles that affect them immediately (schools) and less likely to pick battles that might affect them later on (science funding). This isn't to say that science isn't important - I definitely think it is, but you can't fight all the fights all the time.

          Before you judge someone for throwing up their arms in frustration at this instead of fighting, take a closer look and see what other battles they're fighting.

          • by PvtVoid (1252388)

            There's also the group that see idiocy all around and, knowing they can't fight it all, fight some battles and toss their arms up on others.

            For example, my wife and I are fighting against EngageNY, Common Core, and the high-stakes testing that New York State has implemented.

            Sure, that makes sense. Fight scientific illiteracy by opposing any attempt whatsoever to improve education. Way to go.

            • Re:Don't bother. (Score:4, Interesting)

              by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday April 04, 2014 @09:37AM (#46660253)

              I don't oppose improvements to education, but New York state's implementation of Common Core is worse than the old way, not better.

              I didn't want to get into this here, but...

              First off, it gives teachers scripts that they must follow. For this ten minutes, you need to say these words to the students in this manner and ask them this exact question using this exact example. They must answer you in this exact way. Next, you must move on to this topic in this manner. There's no room for teachers to adjust their teaching techniques to either assist kids who'd learn the material in a different way or to help advance kids who are ahead of grade level. All kids *MUST* learn in the exact same way.

              Secondly, EngageNY is idiotic with math. There's no more working with numbers. If you have 1.62 divided by 0.27, you don't actually do the math. Instead, you draw 162 little boxes. Then you circle them in groups of 27. Then you count how many circled groups there are to get your answer. This doesn't teach kids how to do math and, even worse, it doesn't scale. What if the problem was 1.625 divided by 0.25? Would they need to draw over 1,600 boxes?

              Thirdly, the high stakes tests are tied to teachers' jobs. If their kids do poorly, the teacher could be booted. So any chance the teacher would stray from the provided curriculum is reduced. The teacher MUST teach to the test because any time spent on non-test preparation increases the chance that their kids will fail. Add in the fact that the content of the tests is super-secret. Nobody is allowed to see them except the students taking them. Not parents, teachers, administrators. Nobody. The tests are taken, mailed to Pearson where they are graded and destroyed. Then the scores are released. How does knowing that Johnny had a grade of X help the teacher teach Johnny if you don't know what he got right and what he got wrong?

              Finally, this constitutes an attempt by corporations to take over and profit from education. The big supporters of this curriculum are big corporations who will profit quite nicely over it. (Bill Gates Foundation, Pearson, Wal-Mart, etc.) I don't trust big corporations to write a "one size fits all" curriculum that will help my boys succeed. In fact, since they make more money off a kid who fails than one who passes (additional books, courses to help students/teachers/administrators, etc), they have a monetary interest in kids failing.

              Don't mistake change for improvement. There are plenty of ways you can change education to improve it. Common Core/EngageNY/High Stakes testing is *NOT* one of those ways.

        • by cyn1c77 (928549)

          We have another group at a little less than half that are so worn out with work, the 3 kids society said they should have, the junk they spend their money on, etc.. etc.. that they don't have the time to pay attention.

          Oh, we pay attention. But there is no one to vote for who will fix the problem since all of the parties collude to keep themselves in power.

          What do you expect us to do? What are you doing other than complaining on /.?

          Are all the childless people really making more of a difference? I didn't know that clubbing, going to the movies, and trying to get laid really was that effective at motivating political reform!

          • Re:Don't bother. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by pla (258480) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @11:37PM (#46657763) Journal
            Are all the childless people really making more of a difference? I didn't know that clubbing, going to the movies, and trying to get laid really was that effective at motivating political reform!

            We also vote, and have the disposable income (that in your case goes to crap like paying for all those antibiotics you keep ruining as placebos to treat viral ear infections) to contribute to our preferred candidates. And hey, the USSC actually just raised we mere humans to the level of corporations as far as "money as free speech" goes!

            That said, let's not get sidetracked by the breeder-vs-DINK arguments. We have one very simple, fundamental problem with getting scientifically-literate people in office:

            None run.

            We have, as a nearly unanimous pool of candidates, complete fucking morons (with nice hair, oh and "ironically" enough, a median net worth in the eight digits). So whether we vote for Tweedle-dee (D) or Tweedle-dum (R), we still all lose.
            • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Interesting)

              by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday April 04, 2014 @07:37AM (#46659585)

              That said, let's not get sidetracked by the breeder-vs-DINK arguments. We have one very simple, fundamental problem with getting scientifically-literate people in office:

              None run.

              That's because, for the most part, they're well aware of the fact that they're unelectable. I myself would be interested in running for local office, but

              1. a) my platform would be too logically-consistent (and therefore "non-mainstream" compared to the standard Democrat or Republican platform),
              2. b) I'm not charismatic enough to get sufficient funding in using grass-roots campaigning,
              3. c) as a consequence of both previous points, I wouldn't be able to get endorsements or funding in the "traditional" (party-backed) way either, and
              4. d) solving any of the previous issues -- not to mention, doing the "wheeling and dealing" required to be effective after getting into office -- would require altering my character in a way that I am not able, let alone willing, to do.

              I strongly suspect most scientifically-inclined people run into the same problems. Even if one were to overcome them, the best one could hope for is to match Jimmy Carter. He managed to make it to the Presidency, sure, but the widely-held view (deservedly or not; it doesn't really matter) is that he kind of sucked at it...

        • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@nOs ... t-retrograde.com> on Friday April 04, 2014 @03:48AM (#46658763)

          Then there are those who grew up as scientists then wondered why the scientific method wasn't used for all policy and law, then looked into the systems of governance and found them defective by design largely due to gerrymandering. [snagfilms.com] That's a process whereby your votes do not matter anymore because whomever draws district outlines selects the winners (Protip: don't register as a party [they ask at the DMV] nor answer political surveys unless your population is nomadic). Some places are trying to fix this particular blatant exploit of our democratic-republic, but found the powers that be one step ahead so our vote tallies themselves have been hacked. [snagfilms.com] And now that we don't have paper ballots to verify the insecure digital tally with, we might as well just ask the NSA or CIA or FBI to appoint people they like.

          Speaking of which, if you apply a bit of observational power you'll discover those secret agencies answer to no one and have a long history of silencing any form of activism [wikipedia.org] -- you know, because protest was the only avenue left to affect the government. It's hard for a scientist to survive mentally in a country that's hell bent on leveraging disaster capitalism [youtube.com] regardless of public benefit: Humans will do whatever it takes to survive the disasters our government plans for us [theguardian.com] -- including compete for lower wages offered by immortal corporations.

          Some of us have taken a step back, done some calculations and realized that some fights are entirely unwinnable: We've got to the point where the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment allows a senator to read a passage from the bible and declare it as proof man can't change the climate -- only god can. [youtube.com] Listen up, newbie, that's corporate oil interest speaking, leveraging religious fundamentalism against science from the very panels addressing climate change -- What can you do? Replace them and get a new panel bought off? It's not just congress, your executive and legislative branches are sock-puppet parades too. The government fights wars at the behest of corporations and Habeas Corpus has been revoked, FFS. It's not that everyone is stupid and we're "getting what we voted for"; The 'republic' part of our democratic-republic is designed to fix that: The dumb elect folks who are smarter, but our forefathers didn't count on the majority of congress being corrupt so the whole system became utterly broken. They did leave us the option to call an emergency session of congress and wield a vote of no-confidence, so next time you see the "fire congress" carousel go round, hop on board (not that it'll fix anything, but it'll scare some straight).

          So, what? Organize some activism and try to fix the illegitimate rulership system that has benefited the powerful all too well for well over a hundred years? Then you're an "anti-government extremist" / terrorist, and the plan to silence that disastrous shit is already so firmly in place they can keep the worst of it even if PRISM is leaked to the public. To me the innefectual occupy movement was a test to see how quickly the elites and FBI will work their magic on the police to silence dissent, and to see how effectively the news is controlled by corporate statist interests. [youtube.com] There were protesters shoulder to shoulder filling a large swath of Wall Street one day of the protest and the local news in my southern town mentioned nothing. Days later I had to pull up video and images of the event to convince my clueless friends and neighbors it even happened. They scratched their heads, "Why wasn't this on the news then?" -- indeed. Can you

      • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jason Levine (196982) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:55PM (#46656625)

        The problem is that these people aren't just ignorant. People who are ignorant can be educated and then they're fine. These people are willfully ignorant. They are purposefully ignorant. They take pride in their ignorance and will do everything in their power to stay ignorant. Trying to educate these people is a losing proposition because they won't listen no matter what you say or how much proof you show them.

        It would be tolerable if these people were just conspiracy nuts ala the "moon landing were faked" folks. We could laugh at them and move on with our lives. These people, however, are in seats of power in the government and are making big decisions about scientific funding. Again, perhaps we could laugh at them if we knew that the educated populace would toss the ignorant politicians when the next election rolled around. Unfortunately, the purposefully ignorant politicians are representing purposefully ignorant people who keep voting them in and who actively oppose educated politicians. To make matters worse, the willfully ignorant politicians gerrymander their districts so that it is nearly impossible to get them voted out of office. They might be purposefully ignorant about science but they are very intelligent about how politics works - a very dangerous combination.

        You can't reason with these people. You can oppose them, but it can be very frustrating when you are derided for wanting someone who is educated to make these decisions instead of someone who thinks God *poofed* everything into existence 10,000 years ago as proved incontrovertibly by a book that they take literally. In the end, I can understand why some people throw their arms up in frustration.

        • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by umafuckit (2980809) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:54PM (#46657519)

          It would be tolerable if these people were just conspiracy nuts ala the "moon landing were faked" folks. We could laugh at them and move on with our lives. These people, however, are in seats of power in the government and are making big decisions about scientific funding.

          And they're there because they were voted in by people who sympathise with these views. We get the government we deserve because, as a nation, the bulk of the US is scientifically illiterate. There will continue to be illiterates in power as long as the people are illiterate. Somehow we need to find a way to promote science as a way of thinking and do so without hurting the feelings of the religious right.

          • by turkeyfish (950384) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @11:56PM (#46657865)

            "Somehow we need to find a way to promote science as a way of thinking and do so without hurting the feelings of the religious right."

            The religious right are NEVER going to accept science, since science inconveniently exposes the inconsistency and irrelevancy of religion to understanding the natural world and hence this makes the scientific method a threat to the religious right.

            The outcome is pretty clear, either science wins or humanity looses. The reality is that there is only one of these two outcomes to choose from. Take your pick and take your stand. One can either be for science and survival or against science and for human-sustaining ecosystem collapse. One cannot stand on a fence made of razor wire as there is no middle ground.

            • by locofungus (179280) on Friday April 04, 2014 @04:29AM (#46658911)

              The religious right are NEVER going to accept science

              I'm in the UK and we don't really have a "religious right" here. I don't think we have as bad a problem as the US but the impression I get is that scientific illiteracy is something that people in the UK are less ashamed of than say people in Germany.

              But the fundamental problem isn't the "religious right" it's that people are very emotionally tied to opinions they hold and it's very hard to accept that you are wrong.

              (Good) scientists fight this natural human tendency all the time. I'm sure everyone who has ever done any sort of statistical analysis has got a result they didn't like (expect) and then pored over the calculations for hours looking for the mistake. Ditto, they've got the result they expected and then had to eat humble pie when someone else points out that they've slipped a decimal point somewhere.

              Scientists, with all their training to look at things objectively and derive conclusions from the data, find this hard to do. How much harder must it be for people who can't repeat the calculations and just have to accept it when a scientist says "you're wrong".

              Because science (nature) is brutal. It doesn't care what your opinions, hopes, beliefs are. It will trample over them as effortlessly as it will support them and with as little feeling.

          • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by artor3 (1344997) on Friday April 04, 2014 @12:17AM (#46657941)

            Somehow we need to find a way to promote science as a way of thinking and do so without hurting the feelings of the religious right.

            No, see, that's the problem. You're aiming at the wrong group. These congressmen aren't ignorant because they're religious. They're ignorant because certain entrenched interests pay them ENORMOUS SUMS OF MONEY to remain ignorant. You can never, ever compete with that. No education, no promotion of science, will ever make a dent.

            If you want it to get better, you need to get serious campaign finance reform. And that can't happen until you get rid of the current SCOTUS. Which means that our one and only chance to fix this is in the next presidential election, since the winner might, maybe get to replace a conservative justice. If we get a Republican president, Scalia and Kennedy will retire, and we will be damned to another 20 years of oligarchy.

            If we manage to get a Democratic president, Scalia and Kennedy will try to hold on as long as they can.

            Absolute best case scenario (barring a miracle heart attack), we might be able to start fixing this around 2025.

            It will probably be too late by then.

        • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by SuperTechnoNerd (964528) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @11:55PM (#46657855)
          People think that politicians on committees are by default, advocates of what that committee represents, in this case science. However in government, it is a powerful tactic to form a committee with the sole purpose to subvert, control, or even destroy that which it supposed to support and represent. What better way to change something that you don't like than to be in a position of making important decisions about that thing. There is a calculated reason why there are no scientists on such committees. That explains why they make no attempt to even have a high school level of understanding about science and it's methods. Because it's not about the science to them - it's about control. They already have their opinions formed and the rest is just window dressing. As you said they are very intelligent about how politics works. Why else would people so out of touch with science, who even hate it, want to be on a science committee if not to throw a wrench into the works and control it, and to use it to support their political (and religious) agenda.
      • Re:Don't bother. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by al0ha (1262684) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:31PM (#46656909) Journal
        >> most of this country is horribly undereducated and ignorant of how the world actually works.

        Yep and that is part of the cloaked Right Wing agenda that is turning the US into an oligarchy. Every politician since time imemorial has stated education is their top priority, but the facts of the state of the educational system in America proves they are liars, every one of them. Now the worst of the Bush II Presidency has just been revealed with the latest Supreme Court ruling on money in politics.

        In the government and in politics it's far worse than simple ignorance of scientific fact, there is active anti-truth campaigns funded by big money Super PACs. Now with the recent Supreme Court folly the Tea Party and other scientific denier whackos will have even more Super PAC money to continue their dirty work in the name of the 1%.

        Our only hope to continue as a true Democracy is to figure out how to use the Internet to get money out of politics completely. That is what every brilliant mind should be working towards if we want any hope for the future generations.
    • Re:Don't bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JohnVanVliet (945577) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:01PM (#46656163) Homepage

      "All you can do with somebody like that is"
      is to do EVERYTHING possible to have them removed from office ASAP!!!!

    • Re:Don't bother. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by meerling (1487879) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:10PM (#46656735)
      Considering the positions of power and influence those fools hold, your statement is pretty much the equivalent of being somewhere lost at sea with a navigator that won't let anyone else navigate despite the fact that he has no idea how to do it, and thinks the compass is some kind of fancy combination lock on a secret stash of fairy dust. The idiots are going to sink the F-N ship and there are NO LIFEBOATS !

      It's generally considered unwise to ignore the creep with the gun to your head, no matter how stupid and irrational he is.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:28PM (#46655821)
    The problem is AMERICA's scientific illiterates. How do you think the idiots get to congress? I'll never vote for anyone that speaks out against evolution.
  • by rmdingler (1955220) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:29PM (#46655833)
    It's that the Congressman is so sure his remarks will be lauded widely within his District that he doesn't care whether they're accurate or not.

    Typical politician... say what you think they want to hear.

  • by DKroos (3326275) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:38PM (#46655923)
    Takes the crown. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • what stuns me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by confused one (671304) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:46PM (#46656023)
    What stuns me is that someone that ignorant of the process and so critical of science in the first place, can get themselves put on the Science Space and Technology committee in the first place. You couldn't have picked a worse group of persons to make budgetary decisions about our countries science future. They might as well just go ahead and deny all science spending, kill NASA, DOE, NSF and NIH, and call it a day.
    • Re:what stuns me (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nimey (114278) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:33PM (#46656475) Homepage Journal

      It's because these people speak Party orthodoxy and can be relied upon to keep politically-inconvenient science tied up.

  • economics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jafac (1449) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:57PM (#46656133) Homepage

    These guys have no problem accepting the validity of an economic theory based on an "Invisible Hand" - yet when it comes to actual solid science based on actual method and process (as opposed to expensive silk suits), they start looking for conspiracy theories to explain the results.

  • Twain (Score:5, Funny)

    by McGruber (1417641) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @07:58PM (#46656137)
    "Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself." - Mark Twain
  • by mjvvjm (1003135) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:05PM (#46656223)
  • by Ogre332 (145645) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:06PM (#46656231) Homepage
    It's only a matter of time before we collapse.
    • by hey! (33014) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @08:59PM (#46656657) Homepage Journal

      I was making just this point about the Supreme Court striking down limits on campaign contributions. The Romans never quite admitted to themselves that their republic was defunct. They remained deeply attached to republican forms and institutions, even when those things had withered to ceremonial appendages of a corrupt imperial state. It was necessary for people to go through the motions of democracy; the ambitious plutocrats needed to maintain the fiction they were serving Rome, when in fact Rome was serving them.

  • I object to the false dichotomy presented by TFA and general media...

    Sure, **absolutely** Congress does things that are anti-science...but that's not the end...**who votes for these anti-science policies**???

    ITS ALWAYS REPUBLICANS

    climate change denial? Republicans
    creationism in schools? Republicans
    defunding research? Republicans

    there is a solution to this...don't vote for Republicans & call out their BS every time

"Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core." -- Hannah Arendt.

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