Are Republicans Anti-Science? In This Case, Yes

Written by Richard Schiffman

“We’re very excited.” So Minnesota Republican Representative Michele Bachmann told the Washington Post, commenting on the shutdown that ground many critical government functions to a halt for over two weeks. “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.”

So, what exactly did Bachmann and her Republican colleagues get out of it? A lot more than they may have bargained for, according to scientists employed by the federal government. It is not just that government researchers were locked out of their labs and offices, but whole programs were wastefully delayed and, in some cases, endangered.

I talked to Tom Greene, an astrophysicist at Nasa Ames research center outside of San Francisco. Greene is working on the James Webb Space Telescope – the eagerly awaited successor of the Hubble, with even more power to peer into heretofore unseen reaches of the universe. He told me that more than 100 scientists had gathered from all over the world to conduct critical equipment tests in preparation for the launch. But that all ended on October 1 when the government stopped writing checks.

Not only did this delay cost the program an estimated $1 million a day, but, given Nasa’s tight schedule, some tests may never get done now. This “is kind of scary,” Greene says, given the immense complexity of the world’s most powerful telescope.

This is only one of thousands of projects that were mothballed when Congress’ failure to approve a budget defunded the US government at the start of the month. Federal websites were taken offline, scientists couldn’t receive emails, attend meetings or interact with their colleagues. Crucial environmentalfood safety and climate monitoring programs were either suspended or substantially scaled back.

Now that the whole bizarre episode appears to be over, it’s a good time to look at what it cost American taxpayers – and the science which we collectively support. Where to start? Let’s begin as far away from Washington as we can get – in, say, Antarctica.

The National Science Foundation, which is funded by the federal government, had to send the scientists home during key field season and shut down projects ranging from climate research to studies of penguins. Will they return now that government funding has been restored? Well, maybe not. “Some activities cannot be restarted once seasonally dependent windows for research and operations have passed,” the National Science Foundation cautioned in a statement. Oops, some projects may have just blown a whole year’s research.

And speaking of Antarctica, a US delegation had to suspend its trip to Australia, where representatives of many nations are gathering in hopes of agreeing on the creation of the world’s largest marine sanctuary. America has been one of the most enthusiastic proponents of this; Russia, which has fishing rights in the area, has resisted.

The meeting starts in a few days. So, with any luck, there might still be time to book the flight. Would it be too much to ask the Republicans in Congress who caused the shutdown to chip in for late booking fees on those tickets?

Closer to home, there are the lab animals that were being used in research on diseases like diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s. (Editor’s note: Care2 does not endorse animal testing and believes there are viable alternatives to medical research that do not involve the testing or killing of animals.National Public Radio reported that thousands may have already died or been killed by researchers who could no longer maintain them, including colonies of genetically altered mice that are unable to survive without constant monitoring by scientists. To revive these unique strains now will be costly, both in time and money.

Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ center for science and democracy, has been looking into the impact of the shutdown on researchers around the country. He told me about a wildlife biologist who tags grey wolves who just missed the heart of his yearly field season; a researcher monitoring currents in the mid-Atlantic who couldn’t get access to his ocean site during a recent tropical storm, which he had been waiting for all year; a cancer trial that had to be cancelled; students who lost critical training time … the list goes on. Rosenberg says:

It’s not just that people go home for a couple of weeks, and then everything gets back to normal and they go back to work. These things have a long term impact.

I asked him about direct federal funding of science – which has been hit hard by the sequester and other budget cuts in recent years – and just how important it is.

“It’s not just the funding stream … it’s the data set,” Rosenberg replied. He is referring to the fact that the federal government is the repository of what may well be the largest trove of scientific information on the planet, on which scientists all over the world depend. When this tap gets turned off, research in many fields slows to a crawl. Rosenberg elaborated:

It is all so interconnected now. Federal researchers collect data that is utilized by researchers in academia, by people working in industry, at state and local levels, so when you ask how dependent are we on the federal government in terms of science, it’s a bit like asking: do you need your left leg?

For now, at least, that left leg has been restored, and scientists in the US and beyond are breathing a sigh of relief. Yet, for many federally funded programs, irretrievable damage has already been done.

This post was originally published in The Guardian

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago

thanks for the article.

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

Suba I can't control what Cletus said. Yes he used a lot of insults in his post, but his post were true. Yes, I always agreed with him, and I never questioned his language. But that is why I don't understand why you comment on my language, and insults to your friend. If an insult is not directed at you, then you should not worry about it. You say that you are not a moderator, but that is exactly what you are. You critique me for my choice of words addressing your friend, and yet you say nothing about the insults he hurls at me. If the insult is not directed at you personally, then I think it would be best if you stay out of it, and don't weigh in. I never commented on Cletus's use of words because that was between him and your friend. If your friend was offended, then he should say so. So don't worry about what other people say to each other. If the insult is not directed at you, then it's not your business. And if the word son, is mild, then my use of the word your boy is equally mild. So please don't try to act like you are so offended by my use of the words "your boy" in my post to you, when your friend used the same words describing me as "boy" in his post to you, and you said nothing. If you don't like the word hypocrite, then don't act like one, and please stop calling me out for my choice of words, and overlooking your friends poor choice of words. Stop being the word police. Your friend has used many insulting words about me, and you have said nothing.

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

"The polar ice is growing and sea levels are lowering."

More lies from the conspiracy nut. Kiribati, as a nation, may no longer exist in 60 years and that Kiribati's population of 90,000 may have move elsewhere much earlier than within the 60-year timeframe in order to survive. The country is located in the Pacific Ocean with close neighbors being Samoa, French Polynesia and a little further away, Fiji. The ocean is rising you moron, and many tiny island nations are already dealing with rising sea levels.

Although the Artic had a slight decrease in temperature and respite from the effects of GW, the long-term trend of the last 30 years: the Arctic is warming rapidly, becoming greener and experiencing a variety of changes, affecting people, the physical environment, and marine and land ecosystems.” According to the NOAA 2013 report card.

The conspiracy nuts lies have been exposed, now get out of your mothers basement, and get a job.

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

GW is anthropogenic. It is only ignorant republican members of the Flat Earth Society, that deny the overwhelming science that GW is anthropogenic. And yea you are a republican, because only republicans like you are ignorant enough to deny the overwhelming science that proves GW is anthropogenic.

Finally "A moderator is someone who bounces you or says you cannot say that. Suba has done neither.'

Really. Suba got offended when I referred to you as boy, in my post to Suba, and she told me to stop using the term, even though you were the first one to use the term when referring to me, and you used it in a post to Suba. Suba didn't complain about that, of course, in her endless desire to protect you. So Suba has been playing the moderator here, calling me out, whenever I say something that offends her, but giving you the pass to say anything you want. I guess because your stupid, she figures you don't know any better.

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

Lie 2 "GW has been debunked. We are in the middle of one of the worst winters in history dumbass. You just want to spread your junk science to sell crap. Grow up and get over it'

Listen you imbecile, Global Warming is having more extremes on both sides of the equation. Colder winters, and hotter summers. Just as the USA is having colder winters, Australia has had record breaking heat waves, and high temperatures. C2, just had a recent article, on GW, that showed four stupid republicans like you that tried to make that same point, that was thoroughly debunked.

Lie 3 "There’s no practical solution unless people stop breeding, and when the green energy advocates themselves contribute to the overpopulation, it’s obvious that their motive is far from “saving the planet”.

Yes, it's true that we will all die if overpopulation is not addressed, but accusing and stereotyping all green advocates, and suggesting they all contribute to overpopulation is very delusional. Many green advocates also push for population control, and to simply say all green advocates think a certain way is very foolish.

Son, the GW debate has already been decided. GW is anthropogenic. When you get older, you will learn that when you lose an argument, to stop trying to defend it, and make a fool out of yourself. Most scientific organizations including the IPCC, NASA, NOAA, and the Union of Concerned Scientist along with 97% of the world's scientist, have all concluded that GW i

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

I see the retard is back. More of the same lies, hoping to score a victory by over posting, and recycling his garbage. Let's dissect your lies. Lie number 1.

"We know from geological evidence the earth cools and heats but it doesn't tell you what the temperate was day to day. You cannot come to a hard and fast conclusion from only a small sample."

Global Warming is causing colder winters, and hotter summers. Yes, you moron, the earth has heated, and cooled for thousands of years, but never has the earth warmed, the ice in the Artic, Greenland, and all the world's glaciers melted so fast, as they have in the last thirty years. The artic, Greenland, and all the world's glaciers will be ice free in 20 years.

Rainbow W.
.2 years ago

"There’s no practical solution unless people stop breeding, and when the green energy advocates themselves contribute to the overpopulation, it’s obvious that their motive is far from “saving the planet”.

Nailed it, Suba. Don't you love those so called eco friendly minivans tooling down the highway with a "go green" bumper sticker and another one right beside that reads "I love my 8 kids."

"A while back you USED TO BE civil."
All civilities is lost when one know the argument is lost.

Rainbow W.
.2 years ago

"That's why you continue to post on this old C2 post, because you know nobody is reading it."
Strange, that's exactly what I claimed you were doing and why I think you are Benghazi Bill's son: Just like that rethuglican you keep a dead topic alive trying to prove a dead point. He keeps posting his Obama hate theories, even though he has been disproven since the anal/ oral thread opened. He's still at it; like father like son. []

You do the same. You have been soundly whipped, but you can't take your beating like a man and go home. GW has been debunked. We are in the middle of one of the worst winters in history dumbass. You just want to spread your junk science to sell crap. Grow up and get over it.

"Really, your not the moderator? then why this quote in your previous post:"
Idiot thinks that pointing something out is being a moderator. A moderator is someone who bounces you or says you cannot say that. Suba has done neither.

Rainbow W.
.2 years ago

Cut and paste salesman is at it again. Boy seems to think if he can keep repeating his nonsense like a religious liturgy it will drown out reason and people will buy his do-das. We have been over this before. Boy is a broken record. Maybe he is spam.

"Once again, you demonstrate your complete ignorance."
Are you even out of high school? Just because the industrial age began more than two hundred years ago with the Industrial Revolution; a transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to 1840, we only have hard data for a half century. We know from geological evidence the earth cools and heats but it doesn't tell you what the temperate was day to day. You cannot come to a hard and fast conclusion from only a small sample.

"The Artic will be ice free in 20 years"
The polar ice is growing and sea levels are lowering.

"Suba No, I don't get it."
Finally you admit it. You love to twist things don't you boy. You posted 2:19PM PST on Jan 5, 2014 " Your boy, unfortunately is brainwashed by them." You are attempting to denigrate both of us with your childishness.

"Could it be that you and your friend are afraid to go to newer post on C2 about GW, because you will be proven wrong, and suffer humiliation, and embarrassment?"
You are a flaming idiot. THIS was a new post and we were debating with people when it was fresh. What does the age of a post have anything to do with it?

"That's why you continue to post on this old C2 post, because y

Brian Foster
Brian F.2 years ago

Suba "Brian, For the 10th time, it's not the word "boy" that I objected to, but the repetitive implication that another poster is my henchman. (As I asked before, is Cletus your henchman, or are you his henchman?)'

So, the implication, your making, is that it's ok for him to refer to me as "boy" in his post to you, but if I refer to him as "boy" in my post to you, then I am insulting you and referring to him as your henchman. That's hypocritical Suba. You can' have it both ways. If you are insulted, and think that I am calling him, your henchman, by my use of the word "boy" in my post to you, then you must be equally insulted, when he calls me "boy" in his post to you. I know you like him, and want to stand up, and agree with everything he says, but you have to treat me fairly. You can't just take sides and give him a pass, on doing the same things, that you don't like me doing. If you don't want me referring to him as "boy" in my post to you, then don't allow him to refer to me as "boy" in his post to you.