NASAing of Teeth

Buckle up, boys and girls, because it’s three weeks into 2015 and I am already fucking livid.

I know that I’ve gone off before on science in politics — or, agonizingly predictably, lack thereof — but I have to do it one more time.  I have to, really, because we just put Ted Cruz in charge of NASA.

Okay, so not exactly in charge.  To be precise, the midterm election turnover in the Senate means Cruz now chairs the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness (Oxford comma officially omitted, but added here out of compunction), which oversees NASA, the NIST, the NSF, the OSTP, and apparently about 30% of all acronyms.

Why is this bad news?  By all accounts, Ted Cruz is a smart dude.  He was his high school valedictorian, went to Princeton and Harvard Law.  He should be the best of the best of what America can offer up, the upper crust of elite erudition that decides to apply itself to solving the country’s problems and propelling it into the next generation stronger, smarter, better than it was before.

Instead, Ted Cruz says shit like this:

My view of climate science is the same as that of many climate scientists.  We need a much better understanding of the climate before making policy choices that would impose substantial economic costs on our Nation.

Hi, Ted?  I have NASA on the line here.  You know, that science agency you’re about to be responsible for.  Lots of glasses and calculators and pocket protectors and weird-looking mohawks.  Anyway, they just wanted to make sure you’re aware that NINETY-FUCKING-SEVEN PERCENT OF ALL CLIMATE SCIENTISTS believe they have a handle on what’s going on, and that we need to do something about it.

Oh, but “[the] data are not supporting what the advocates are arguing”?  For a guy who knows how to use “data” correctly in a sentence, that’s not a very smart thing to say.  Here’s this thing we scientists like to call a “graph”:


So the truculent Ted Cruz, who is either so brilliant he knows something the rest of us don’t or so willfully ignorant he refuses to acknowledge something the rest of us see as self-evident, is going to watch over our nation’s science policy.  I feel about as comfortable with that as I do leaving my future children at Mikey Jackson’s Daycare Center and Used Needle Emporium.

I realize that it’s maybe unfair of me to extend Cruz’s views on climate change to the rest of his scientific thinking.  But I have to.  I have to, really, because you don’t trust heart surgery to someone who believes in the healing power of leeching.  You don’t trust bridge building to someone who doesn’t know a truss from a trull.  You don’t trust polymer science to someone who believes in alchemy.

So why — why — are we trusting the future of scientific research to someone who doesn’t believe in scientific research about the future?

And I know these are criticisms that have been leveled against Cruz before; I’m not unique in my fulmination.  But I have to fulminate.  I have to, really, because 2014 was, unsurprisingly, the hottest year we’ve ever experienced — and that’s not a reference to any Kardashianic attempts to break the internet.  Just our species’ repeated attempts to break the planet.

Yet the people with guiding hands in our scientific policies choose to ignore that.  I’m not just talking about Cruz, though he makes an exceptional example.  His colleague Marco Rubio, who once said of climate change “I don’t think there’s the scientific evidence to justify it”, will be taking over leadership of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and the Coast Guard.





Rubio, who refuses to acknowledge that climate change, anthropogenic or not, could have catastrophic effects on the oceans and atmosphere (ironically threatening the Rubio’s hand-battered fish taco especial) is now presiding over the agencies responsible for the oceans and atmosphere.  How is this supposed to give me faith in the government’s ability to safeguard our country’s natural resources?  Our planet’s?

I can only point out the absurdity of the whole situation — no, I have to point out the absurdity of the whole situation.  I have to.  Really.  Because our country’s scientists deserve better than overseers who deny basic science.

The United States of America was arguably in the vanguard of every major technical innovation of the twentieth century.  We built, we flew, we coded.  We cracked the atom, conquered the moon, colonized the internet.  And we did these things with the help of our government, with the help of federal research money and the aid of the United States Congress.

What path do we have forward in the twenty-first century if scientific progress is held hostage by non-believers?


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