Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Friday, September 02, 2005

On disaster, bad science, and political thuggery

The dreadful disaster of New Orleans (why, oh why didn't I visit it last trip? Now I'll never see Bourbon Street as God or Anne Rice intended) has raised some interesting matters.

First of all, this was not unforeseen. Paul Myers at Pharyngula notes a Scientific American item from 2001 in which this very possibility was noted. But the funding was, as Brian Leiter reports, withdrawn, and the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans was reduced to half its budget this financial year by the Republican Congress and House of Representatives.

Why? To pay for the Iraq "war". Basically the money used to pay for this unnecessary war could have fixed the levees and the conservation problems that were in trouble for years. Of course, it could also have gone to fix schools, hospitals and so on, but we'll leave that to one side now.

Here's the interesting thing, for me: politics overrode science (ecology, geography and so on) for short-term political gain. Yet another reason why government involvement in matters of intellectual integrity ought to be very light. But this is a Big Government administration, which thinks reality is open to political negotiation.

So, how are the conservatives dealing with their failure? By being honest and open, and promising to learn from it? Not bloody likely. Leiter also discusses the moral vacuity that is American conservatism these days, with gross and copious examples.

And this, folks, is why science must be defended. These things have consequences, goddamnit!

Late edit: Leiter's name spelled correctly at last.