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The Future of Science Research

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In the bigger context of the horrors to come, the future of science research in this country seems perhaps less significant than attacks on immigrants, Muslim watch lists, etc. But it’s also utterly baffling that we have an entire political party hostile to basic science. And of course it’s not only climate science. It’s a combination of hostility to any government funding for anything that is not defense or an opportunity for personal graft with a disbelief in the basic principles of science. And it’s really frightening because these people have access to the levers of power.

President-elect Donald Trump recently picked Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina to head the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. Like many of Trump’s other Cabinet nominees, Mulvaney seems to have a disturbingly low opinion of science.

In a stunning September 9 Facebook post (that’s since been deleted but is still cached), Mulvaney asked, “… what might be the best question: do we really need government funded research at all.”

The post was written in the midst of a heated debate in Congress about how much more money to allocate to the fight against the Zika virus. It wasn’t clear whether Mulvaney, a budget hawk, was referring to all of the government’s scientific research or just to government-funded research on Zika. (We’ve asked his office for comment and haven’t heard back.)

But Mother Jones’s Pema Levy pointed out that Mulvaney exaggerated the uncertainty around the link between the birth defect microcephaly and Zika to cast doubt on the need for Zika research funding. His argument, in other words, was: Scientists aren’t sure what’s going on with Zika, so why do we need research?

The future epidemics rolling over America will be fun. But both sides do it or something so let’s not be partisan in our criticisms!

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