When Sen. James Inhofe recently quipped that a recent EPA study drawing potential connections to hydraulic fracturing and groundwater pollution was “not based on sound science but rather on political science,” my first thought was what scientific credentials does Sen. Inhofe have to question this study by the EPA? It turns out that Inhofe’s forays into insurance, field aviation, and real estate don’t constitute scientific expertise. This leads me to the question: shouldn’t members of Congress who deal with scientific issues be required to undertake some form of formal scientific education?
It seems like a situation out of a dystopian novel: well-respected EPA scientists conduct scientific analyses, make qualified and careful conclusions after rigorous research, and then have their results refuted by an insurance executive in the U.S. Senate. Not to be outdone by himself, however, Inhofe is also a climate change skeptic who apparently thinks that the overwhelming agreement within the scientific community regarding climate change is some left-wing conspiracy.
This brings me to my next point. We often hear that both parties are to blame regarding our country’s economic and political roller-coaster ride. Both sides are to blame to some extent, to be sure, but the Republican Party takes the prize for stepping outside the bounds of reasonableness into the netherworld of ideological zealotry.
When Sen. Joe McCarthy accused hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans of being “communists,” he never handed over his sources and the scourge continued unabated for some time. In our times we have our own red-scare. This time it’s a scare over the “true interests” of academic and government scientists (i.e. these individuals are somehow attempting to implant a left-wing policy agenda). Their crime is following the scientific method and conducting themselves in a professional manner. Even when these individuals triple-check their results and take every precaution in their research it seems as though this only confirms their guilt in the eyes of Republican legislators and political pundits.
But science cannot be trumped by demagogues like Inhofe who would ironically turn science into his own handmaiden. Science built us solar panels, created our iPads, turned the atom into a source of energy, and shot us to the moon. The only thing that Inhofe and his colleagues in the Republican Party have offered is hate, ignorance, and unscrupulousness.