science and politics

The war on expertise is not a new phenomenon. Nearly 60 years before Tom Nichols published his bestselling book, The Death of Expertise, author C.S. Lewis wrote about it in an essay titled "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," a follow-up to his internationally renowned book The Screwtape Letters.

In the novel, a senior devil, Screwtape, writes a series of letters to a junior devil, Wormwood, on how to be a good tempter. Thus, every moral pronouncement in the book is precisely the opposite of how humans ought to behave. The Enemy, to whom Screwtape refers constantly, is God. 

In his toast, Screwtape explains to a large gathering of "gentledevils"...

On November 8, I published an article titled, "Whoever Wins On Election Day 2016, American Science Is Still #1 In The World." That is every bit as true now as it was then.

Mr. Trump promised to be a different kind of president. So, nobody should be surprised that he is living up to his campaign pledges. However, his budget proposal for 2018 should raise some serious concerns. Cutting science funding, particularly that of the NIH, is not aligned with his goal to "Make America Great Again."

How Bad Are the Proposed Cuts?

In many ways, Mr. Trump's goal of reducing the size and scope of the federal bureaucracy is...

For the first time, President Trump is giving a speech to a joint session of Congress*. Since the President has a habit of keeping us all guessing, here is a wish-list of things we would like to hear Mr. Trump talk about.

Healthcare reform. The Affordable Care Act had good intentions. It is obviously within society's best interest to have as many people covered by health insurance as possible. However, the ACA is flawed. Medical costs keep rising. CNN Money reported in September 2016 that "[p]rices for medicine, doctor appointments and health insurance rose the most last month since 1984." Our award-winning resident pediatrician, Dr. Jamie Wells,...

Politics makes utter fools out of otherwise rational people. The vitriol aimed at President George W. Bush by his political opponents caused psychiatrist and political commentator Charles Krauthammer to coin the tongue-in-cheek term "Bush Derangement Syndrome." It caught on. Pundits subsequently seized upon the terms "Obama Derangement Syndrome" and "Trump Derangement Syndrome."

Now, it appears as if some psychologists want to give these satirical diagnoses an air of medical authority. An article in Kaiser Health News, which was (unbelievably) reprinted by...

At the end of my senior year in high school, our class opened a time capsule that we made in 2nd grade. Each of us had filled out a piece of paper asking us questions like, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I wrote "Scientist."

Of course, in 2nd grade, I didn't have a lot of insight into what scientists actually did. (In fact, I didn't truly appreciate it until graduate school.) I thought science was cool. I owned a chemistry set. Whatever science was, I wanted more of it. 

Oddly, the website for the "March for Science," which was organized by scientists, reads a lot like what I wrote in 2nd grade. After weeks of planning, the site's page on Principles and Goals continues to be...

Americans don't agree on much these days. But one thing upon which we do agree is that something is deeply broken in our society.

Consider the right track/wrong track poll, as aggregated by RealClearPolitics. This is perhaps the simplest gauge of how Americans feel about their country. The numbers aren't just negative; they are overwhelmingly and embarrassingly negative. And it's been that way for years. Americans, internationally renowned for being an optimistic people, have been uncharacteristically pessimistic for quite some time. Why?

It's difficult to escape the conclusion that our culture has changed, both dramatically and for the worse. I believe three factors...

A much-discussed "Science March," which germinated on the social news site Reddit and then experienced a meteoric rise on all social media in the past two weeks, now has an official date: April 22nd. While a march to support science sounds like a good idea, given the agenda, this scientist will not be attending.

I wrote previously of my concern that the Science March would be hijacked by the kind of political partisanship it should instead be concerned about – and that has indeed come true. This fear was based on not-so-subtle hints provided by its Twitter feed, such as embracing "intersectionality" (a concept taught in classes on feminism) as a core principle. To its...

A potentially heartwarming development has occurred in recent days. A grassroots movement supporting a "Science March" has amassed a gigantic following on social media, which in turn has resulted in substantial mainstream media coverage. The website, which is still in development, says that "anyone who values empirical science" can participate. Good.

Unfortunately, some of the other statements have sent mixed messages. Consider this:

I agree 100% with every sentence. So, what's the problem?

The problem is that this message is aimed at one particular side of the political...

Science is one of the few institutions in America that has largely remained above the hyperpartisanship gripping our nation. However, there is a small but growing perception among Americans that scientists are becoming politically biased. Indeed, surveys have confirmed that Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans in academia. And, over the last few months, the behavior of high-profile scientific journals has only served to reconfirm these perceptions of bias. 

Consider an editorial in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, a journal...

One of my extended family members is a former smoker. Nagging him to stop did little good. Warning him against its health dangers produced similarly poor results. He was addicted, and he appeared to like smoking, anyway. 

Then e-cigarettes came along. After giving them a try, he quit cigarettes for good. No nagging was necessary. He received the same kick from vaping minus all the nasty smoke that makes cigarettes so dangerous. His blunted sense of smell and taste returned to normal and breathing became easier. 

His story is not unique. Many former smokers credit e-cigarettes with changing their lives for the better. A study in the journal Tobacco Control concluded that...