A Republican House Will Launch “Witch Hunt” on Science

Those pro-science folks who celebrated the end of the Bush administration—thinking that at long last the attacks on critical thinking had ended—should be frightened by the prospect of a Republican takeover of one or both houses of congress Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Times today has an article on what a Republican victory means for the science community:

If the GOP wins control of the House next week, senior congressional Republicans plan to launch a blistering attack on the Obama administration’s environmental policies, as well as on scientists who link air pollution to climate change.

The GOP’s fire will be concentrated especially on the administration’s efforts to use the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over air pollution to tighten emissions controls on coal, oil and other carbon fuels that scientists say contribute to global warming.

The article explains that Republican leaders will use a litany of congressional hearings to put environmental policy makers and agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency on the defensive and exert political pressure. This should be especially worrisome to an administration that hasn’t even been able to garner the political goodwill to pass modest market-based cap and trade incentives for industry polluters.

This is truly disturbing. If Republicans follow through with their plan, it sounds like we could be in for a witch hunt against science. And I suspect it’s unlikely that the attacks on science would end with energy policy. Many of the same people who question the scientific validity of climate change also seem to drink from the same trough as fundamentalist creationists.

As science writer Chris Mooney pointed out in a Friday piece in Miller-McCune, this time the attacks on science will be coming from the bottom up, driven by a general conservative anger, as opposed to the Bush Administration’s top-down approach:

Then, the political meddling was largely a public relations push to align the government’s scientific output with the president’s position on climate action (or his supporters’ position on contraception or stem cell research).

This time, Mooney said, scientific skeptics are not trying to control the administration’s message, but to derail an administration’s goal. Instead of quietly rewritten climate reports, we may get theatrical congressional hearings investigating scientific research.

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