Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lamar Smith advocates for Soviet style political interference in science

Lamar Smith hasn’t learned a thing from the Soviet Union’s dalliance with political interference in science. In the 1940’s Trofim Lysenko was an agronomist who became director of Soviet biology under Joseph Stalin. Lysenko rejected Mendelian genetics in favor of a theory of inheritance of acquired characteristics. He used political pressure to direct agricultural scientists and farm policies that ruined farm productivity for decades before he was finally discredited. Smith wants to revisit Communist style control of science here in the U.S.

While Smith’s immediate target seems to be political science research that he doesn’t agree with he is a member of the Church of Christ, Scientist which believes that sickness is an illusion caused by mistaken beliefs, and that the sick should be treated by a special form of prayer intended to correct those beliefs, rather than by medicine. Will that non-sense lead him to advocate for eliminating funds for medical research?

Smith’s bill would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. His bill would also start a process to determine whether the same criteria should be used by every other federal science agency. Do we really want a bunch of lawyers deciding what is worthy of scientific research?

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