Home Science Message to Anti-Science Republicans: Denialism, Willful Ignorance Are NOT What Get Us...

Message to Anti-Science Republicans: Denialism, Willful Ignorance Are NOT What Get Us to Mars


Whatever the outcome of the aptly named “Curiosity” mission to Mars (we should know early tomorrow morning if the $2.5 billion rover makes it safely to the surface of the red planet…or not), one thing’s for sure: mankind didn’t make it to the moon, and certainly won’t make it to Mars and beyond, if we embrace the science denialism, anti-intellectualism, and willful ignorance of Virginia Attorney General Grand Inquisitor Ken Cuccinelli and his (mostly right-wing) ilk. Per NASA’s website, here are just a few of the incredibly sophisticated instruments on board Curiosity, ones that required enormous knowledge of biology, physics, chemistry, etc. to develop, implement, and effectively employ on Mars.

*”Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) is a suite of three instruments: a gas chromatograph, a quadrupole mass spectrometer, and a tunable laser spectrometer. Together they search for and measure the abundances of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen – elements that are associated with life as we know it.”

*”The Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) measures the abundance of elements in rocks and soils.”

*”The Dynamic Albedo of Neutrons (DAN) experiment looks for escaping neutrons from the Martian surface. Slower neutrons may indicate the presence of subsurface liquid water or ice.”

And now, here are a few examples of the types of education backgrounds required to work on a project like “Curiosity”:

*Mike Wong has “a PhD in Atmospheric and Space Science from the University of Michigan,” with expertise in “how the atmosphere and climate evolved throughout the planet’s history.”

*Sushil Atreya has “a PhD [in] atmospheric and space science” with “undergraduate and master’s degrees…in physics, chemistry and math,” and specialties in “understanding surface-atmosphere coupling, chemistry and climate evolution, and habitability of Mars.”

*Oliver Botta has a “Ph.D. in organic chemistry,” and works on “understanding…fundamental questions on the habitability of Mars, in the past or perhaps in the present.”

In other words, to be qualified to work on a mission like “Curiosity,” you’ve first off got to be extremely intelligent. Then you’ve got to be curious, which of course is part and parcel of being intelligent. Then, you’ve got to be highly educated and work your butt off at mastering your area of expertise. You need all those things, and more. What you certainly don’t need – and in fact, can NOT have! – is a Dark Ages mentality like Ken Cuccinelli’s climate-change witch hunt, or Rep. Morgan Griffith’s disgraceful (not to mention embarrassing) “zombie climate myths”, or George Allen’s opposition to embryonic stem cell funding (these are several-day-old cells that would be discarded regardless, but the research is absolutely essential for finding treatments for heart disease, cancer, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, diabetes, you name it), or the anti-science horror show we’re seeing in neighboring Tennessee, etc, etc.  

By the way, notice a pattern in all the science-denying, willfully ignorant, know-nothing names I’ve just listed? That’s right, they’re all Republicans. And yes, I’m pretty sure there are a few Democrats out there who are ignorant buffoons as well, but can you think of any in Congress or governors’ mansions around the country? Hmmmm. But Republicans? There are boatloads. Or maybe we should say “arks” instead of “boatloads,” since a lot of these people are Biblical literalists who reject evolution and the entire scientific mindset – rationalism, empiricism, rejection of superstition, the enlightenment concept that we have the ability to investigate phenomena and figure them out – while of course benefiting from the untold advances science has brought, from vaccines to electricity to automobiles to advanced oil and gas recovery (ironic, eh?), to…basically, all of modern civilization).

But guess what: denying science, failing to support it, or even persecuting brilliant scientists like Michael Mann (as Ken Cuccinelli has done) are not the types of attitudes that will get us to Mars and beyond. Heck, this Republican lack of respect for science, for intellectual pursuit, for curiosity (or for “Curiosity,” for that matter), is not even conducive to allowing mankind to live particularly well here on Earth. Yet this is the mindset the back-to-the-Dark-Ages Teapublican Party has largely embraced, or at least not firmly rejected. And for that reason alone, as if we need any others, we should all firmly reject Republicans at the polls, at least until they completely change their ignorance-is-bliss attitude.

  • will likely play a major part.

    Another option for thickening the atmosphere of Mars, and, in turn, raising the temperature of the planet, would be to set up solar-powered, greenhouse-gas producing factories. Humans have had a lot of experience with this over the last century, as we have inadvertently released tons of greenhouse gases into our own atmosphere, which some believe is raising the Earth’s temperature. The same heating effect could be reproduced on Mars by setting up hundreds of these factories. Their sole purpose would be to pump out CFCs, methane, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

    These greenhouse-gas factories would either have to be ferried to Mars or made out of materials already located on Mars, which would take years to process. In order to transport these machines to Mars, they would have to be lightweight and efficient. These greenhouse machines would mimic the natural process of plant photosynthesis, inhaling carbon dioxide and emitting oxygen. It would take many years, but the Mars atmosphere would slowly be oxygenated to the point that Mars colonists would need only a breathing-assistance apparatus, and not a pressure suit as worn by astronauts. Photosynthetic bacteria could also be used in place of or in addition to these greenhouse machines.

  • Those NASA scientists weren’t chosen regarding their opinions on global warming.

    Ken Cuccinelli & Morgan Griffith don’t have the educational background to be NASA scientists.

    There’s no causal link between NASA scientists & George Allen.

    You can do better than this.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    Curiosity has safely landed on the surface of Mars. The scientists and engineers working for NASA, who to a man (and woman) accept that the earth is warming and human activity is playing a large part in that, show once again the skill and expertise that opens new frontiers for the human imagination.

    How do I know that they all accept climate change as real and accelerating because of our activity? They are objective scientists, people who accept a large body evidence before reaching a conclusion. They first gather evidence, then they analyze the evidence, and only then draw a conclusion. The conclusions drawn are then open to examination and review by others.

    That very scientific method is the way a Koch-brothers-sponsored scientist Richard Muller, who has been skeptical of the global warming/human connection, recently said he had changed after examining the evidence objectively.