Though it may not be a meat and potatoes
issue, science has sprung to relative prominence in the
presidential campaign. Actually, John Kerry and his advisors have
tried to force the issue and make science a political issue this
year. It’s not hard to see why. The word science
doesn’t threaten many people, the Democratic base likes it
and Kerry hopes he can grab a few voters in favor of stem cell
research because they have family members with terminal,
debilitating diseases.

Jason Pesick

The overlapping interests between one of those families, the
Reagan family, and the Kerry campaign motivated the former
president’s son to speak at the Democrats’ convention
in Boston. But by deciding to give a speech promoting stem cell
research, Ron Reagan not only inserted himself into the debate over
who should be the next president, but also added his voice to the
cultural debate Republicans have used to their advantage every time
they face a Democrat too unwitting to see he can’t connect to
the American people. Kerry is such a Democrat — the proof
being his comment “Who among us does not love
NASCAR?”

At the convention, Reagan said, “Like all generations who
have come before ours, we are motivated by a thirst for knowledge
… .”

And it’s easy to agree with liberal claims that
Republicans and conservatives don’t believe in science. The
Democrats like to view themselves as the party of the future, of
progress, while Republicans represent a backward-thinking past.

Just turn on the “700 Club” to see traditionalist,
fundamentalist Christians stressing the power of God to heal. The
hosts sit in a circle, healing viewers from physical ailments, and
they recount stories of viewers whom God has healed. The
implication is that you can trust God to heal you, not doctors.
This is a very dangerous message, to say the least.

These same conservatives believe that being gay is a sinful
lifestyle — and a lifestyle people willingly choose. Then,
these individuals use what has unfortunately become their de facto
political arm, the Republican Party, to write the nation’s
marriage laws according to their irrational ideology.

And the president himself has shown a disdain for the laws of
science. He has of course refused to support stem cell research,
refused to support scientists’ claims regarding global
warming and refused to listen to independent economists’
recommendations. The White House even had its Medicare
administrator threaten to fire the program’s top actuary if
he revealed to Congress the actual cost of the president’s
recent Medicare legislation. Bush has an aversion to facts; for
instance, his claims that al-Qaida and Saddam were linked in any
sort of meaningful way just won’t go away.

That’s a pretty bad record indeed. And lucky for us, John
Kerry has said some pretty rational, pro-science things. During his
speech at the Democratic convention this summer, he said,
“What if we have a president who believes in science, so we
can unleash the wonders of discovery like stem cell research to
treat illness and save millions of lives?”

But Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, only believe in an
uninhibited search for pure knowledge in areas in which they see a
political advantage in speaking the truth. To exploit the
president’s troubled and troubling economic stewardship,
Kerry and his party have decided to play to the left of his party
even though that requires that they ignore the teachings of a
legitimate field of social science, economics.

When the noted economist and chairman of the president’s
Council of Economic Advisers, Gregory Mankiw, wrote that
outsourcing “is probably a plus for the economy in the long
run,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle described the
statement as “Alice in Wonderland economics.” Mankiw
may have been showing a lack of prowess on matters political, but
he was stating a fact that economic modernization is a good thing.
Surely Daschle wouldn’t describe the painful economic
dislocations that took place when the United States became an
industrialized nation after being an agricultural nation that way.
It may also be relevant that the New York Times columnist and
Princeton economist Paul Krugman, who rarely misses an opportunity
to criticize the administration, didn’t critique this
comment.

Kerry has promised to create 10 million jobs in his first term
as president. He plans to do this by changing the tax code so
companies will not move jobs overseas. But according to the U.S.
Labor Department, only 2.5 percent of major layoffs in the first
quarter of this year resulted from jobs going overseas.
That’s about 4,600 jobs. If Kerry’s plan is 100 percent
effective in bringing back all of those jobs — many of which
were probably in manufacturing — he’ll only have
9,995,400 jobs to go!

Kerry and Edwards are playing to a skepticism of economics that
exists in this country, especially on the left — a skepticism
reminiscent of fundamentalists’ qualms with central tenets of
biology, like the theory of evolution. But to be the science
candidate, you can’t choose which academic fields
you’re going believe in and which you’re going to
choose to ignore when it’s convenient.

 

Correction: In my final column of last year’s winter term,
I stated that many students stopped supporting the fall 2002 Daily
boycott when many of the boycotters wanted press coverage of the
conference promoting University divestment from Israel. One of the
boycott’s leaders challenged my assertion and while
researching his claims, I discovered I had no evidence to support
my claim. I should not have made it, although I believe that the
column’s argument remains intact, with the most troubling
assertions left unchallenged.

 

Pesick can be reached at
“mailto:jzpesick@umich.edu”>jzpesick@umich.edu.

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