Politicization of science
| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
| Style over substance|
Politicization of science refers to the alteration of scientific theories or philosophy for political reasons. It occurs when a group attempts to influence the way research is done or how it is to be interpreted by/taught to the public in order to advance their interests.
- Members of the religious right want to make it seem like Gawd is with us on a 6000-year-old Earth where we have Gawd's 2000-year-old toga. Hence pseudosciences like baraminology, creation science, and sindonology. See those articles for more. The most interesting thing about this is that these people have a Christianity-centric view: the Shroud has both an Islamic and Buddhist equivalent, and pretty much every religion has a creation myth of some sort.
- The oil industry, having gotten comfy drilling the hell out of the Earth, sometimes faces problems regarding little things, like, using petroleum for non-stop bonfires means a helluvalotta CO2 enters the atmosphere, and this can cause sea levels to rise a lot. The solution? Spread propaganda about watermelons and claim that global warming
isn't realisn't man-made. Unfortunately, due to the power of various corporations, this issue has become more of a political game where the fate of civilization is at stake. Yes, really.
- Everything about Al Gore and global warming. Al Gore seems to be the biggest pillar to take down. Crazy thoughts include his plans for a carbon emission tax that would let government take over poor industry, his involvement in a New World Order, or "look how hypocritical he is by living in a mansion; therefore all the scientists he cites are wrong". If the global warming denialists run out of arguments, be prepared for a mention of Al Gore.
- The tobacco industry has a similar problem, but not because burning cigarettes produces a lot of CO2. There's a lot of yucky stuff in tobacco, a lot of which is carcinogenic. Not wanting to lose the stacks of money that come in when you have millions physically addicted to your product, the solution is obvious: get some experts for hire to say in a sciencey-looking (i.e., not peer-reviewed) journal. This is also a part of the larger-in-scope…
- War on Drugs, or, as we like to call it, Prohibition 2.0. The movement is very expensive, but when we get down to it, it's political in nature. Rehabilitation, rather than heavy-handed punishment and obscene lengths of incarceration, as well as programs such as needle exchanges and drug replacement, have been shown by science to work; but politicians cannot be seen as being "soft" on this sort of crime, and thus cannot endorse proven methods. Another problem is the proliferation of vice squads and superfluous federal agencies; to ease back on drug restrictions would put many police officers and bureaucrats out of work.
- Remember those fundy loons from the first item? Well, regardless of what is more effective (hint, it's actual sex education), abstinence-only sex
miseducation is more politically palatable to fundamentalist voters for some reason. This is why more effective programs (which teach abstinence in addition to conventional sex education) are either defunded or sometimes outright banned.
- Embryonic stem cell research is a field of medicine which has great potential in saving millions of lives and fighting incurable diseases. However, in order to get this "holy grail" of modern medicine, we need to take insentient 5-day-old embryos that would have been thrown away anyway (they use leftovers from IVF to make these) and cut them open to get at their "magic" insides. A lot of people, mainly fundies and Catholics, say that the blastocyst (the embryo's name at this point) is a person, no matter how small and that Gawd is going to burn all the doctors in Hell… or something. It's hard to make much out when they sound so much like a dog drinking out of a sprinkler.
- Heliocentrism, although a bit of an old hat, is still "debated" in some places. Back when Galileo presented his Idea with Evidence™ to the Catholic Church in the 1500s, the ruling was "The Bible says it, I believe it, so it's right, now you can't leave your house for the rest of your life". The Church apologized for its errors a few centuries after the fact, though. (Though as comedian Mark Russell pointed out, Copernicus is still rotting away in jail.)
In order to weed out science that were antithetical to the ideals of the Nazi Party, many Jewish scientists (and not-so-Jewish scientists) were marginalized for promoting "Jewish physics". This included Albert Einstein and his ideas, instead preferring the "Nordic physics" of Kepler and Newton. Then the Nazis stopped in their tracks when they realized that the theory of relativity was not only correct, but useful for building scarier weapons.
“”BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
Hans Hörbiger's Welteislehre (Cosmic Ice Theory) is a cosmic-catastrophe crackpot cosmology that states that the Earth has had several moons before the Moon that it now has, and that most Solar System objects are covered with ice. Hörbiger claimed that his theories were rejected because they were contrary to "astronomical orthodoxy" (read "facts"), and his followers would sometimes heckle astronomers' meetings: "Out with astronomical orthodoxy! Give us Hörbiger!" They formed a pressure group to get people to accept the WEL, and when the Nazis rose to power, they associated themselves with Nazism. They even compared Hörbiger to Hitler, stating that they were both successful Austrian "amateurs" who successfully fought Jewish influence. Some Nazi officials ended up stating that one could be a good Nazi without believing in the WEL. After World War II, though, the WEL's advocates dropped out of sight, though they reappeared in the 1950s and 1960s. Since then, however, they seem to have disappeared; they have no discoverable Internet presence.
Lysenkoism was a pseudoscience that had its heyday during the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union. Trofim Denisovich Lysenko was a plant breeder and quack geneticist who claimed that he could do a much better job at breeding useful crop plants than mainstream biologists. He claimed that genes do not exist, that mainstream biologists were wasting their time crossbreeding fruit flies, and that he could systematically alter crop plants' heredity with his experimental treatments.
His experimental procedures were remarkably shoddy; he claimed that statistical testing is a waste of time. But that did not stop him from making grandiose claims of success, and so he got the favor of Communist Party officials, all the way up to Stalin himself; and, as we all know, in Soviet Russia,
research performs you Stalin was omniscient. Lysenko's followers struggled with mainstream biologists in the 1930s and 1940s, with the Lysenkoites unfortunately triumphing in 1948. Among their victims was the eminent biologist Nikolai Vavilov, who discovered "Vavilov zones" of plant domestication. He was sent to prison on trumped-up charges that he was a British spy, where he died some months later of malnutrition. Other mainstream biologists were made to recant their bourgeois idealist Mendelist Weismannist Morganist heresies.
This is particularly ironic given the recent claims of Young Earth Creationists that the Soviets favored the teaching of evolution, since that's exactly what Lysenkoism attacked.
Don't tell the creationists that though Of course it never makes a difference when this is pointed out to creationists; they'll simply repeat the accusation once they think no one who knows any better is listening.
Some Lysenko imitators hoped for similar triumphs in physics, declaring quantum mechanics to be contrary to dialectical materialism, the philosophical basis of communism. But the mainstream physicists beat them back, enabling the Soviet Union to develop nuclear bombs. What have we learned? Authoritarian pseudoscience always gives way to nukes.