PZ Myers at Pharyngula rants about this better than I could, so mostly I’m just going to link to him. The gist: The McCain/ Palin campaign, in its effort to demonize taxes and earmarks, has shown a repeated pattern of bashing science: acting as if it’s not a necessity but a frivolous luxury, something an advanced civilized society can easily do without.
You know, it’s easy to make fun of small scientific research projects. (And as Homer Simpson would say, “Fun, too!”) It’s easy to trivialize people who study some obscure frog in some tiny swamp. It’s easy to mock researchers who want funding for their research projects as self-absorbed whiners sucking on the public teat, spending years studying petty details about stuff that nobody else cares about and expecting the taxpayers to foot the bill.
But that attitude shows a stupendous ignorance about how science works.
Science consists largely of lots and lots and lots of little pieces, being put together into an increasingly coherent big picture. Everyone admires Big Breakthroughs in science… but Big Breakthroughs are rare. And the Big Breakthroughs are dependent on all the little pieces being done, and being done right. (What’s more, you never know which little breakthrough is going to lead to a Big Breakthrough.)
We are a highly technological society. Medicine, communication, transportation, agriculture… science and technology are woven into the fabric of our everyday lives, and that’s just becoming more and more true with time. Even seemingly weird little projects can have a great impact on our lives. (As Skeptico points out, the fruit fly research that Sarah Palin disparages was research into the olive fruit fly — a major pest that threatens Californiaâs olive farmers.)
Loving your country, and wanting it to be prosperous and successful, means valuing science.
To understand our world — for both practical applications and the simple enhancement of our lives that greater understanding gives us — we need research into things like fruit flies. And bear DNA. And planetariums to teach kids about science. And all that stuff the McCain/ Palin campaign holds in such casual contempt.