Remember Your Lines

Seems to me that a lot of politicians are using “I am not a scientist” when they shouldn’t, and forgetting that fact when they should remember it.

Science bashing: The latest threat to research in America

Line-item science bashing by eyeballing titles and brief study descriptions is one of the most concerning consequences of the NIH budget crisis, and certain sciences will bear the brunt of the ridicule given accessibility of the topic. For example, we all have personal theories about nutrition and human behavior, but few of us have personal theories about DNA mutation or B cell development. The confidence that superficial knowledge creates amongst legislators and outspoken others has the potential to be devastating to science. Now more than ever, scientists and health care professionals need to be educating the public about the worth of our work.

The problem here is that the deficit model isn’t necessarily valid — if there’s an ideological bias at work then education won’t fix the problem. I think it’s less about false confidence and more about not liking research that might conclude something that runs afoul of one’s established world view. To paraphrase something I recently saw on twitter, these are people who want science to reinforce their beliefs. If it’s going to contradict those beliefs, they want to shut it down.