The Corpus Callosum

I guess Fox News is starting a series of vignettes, hoping to show that
stimulus money is being wasted.  In an early attempt, Hannity and
Carlson track
down an entomologist, at Michigan State University, who got a $200,000
grant from stimulus funds.  The scientist is href="http://www.ent.msu.edu/Directory/Facultypages/Cognato/tabid/135/Default.aspx">Dr.
Anthony Cognato, Associate Professor in the Department of
Entomology.

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I will let the viewers judge for themselves if the Fox crew managed to
demonstrate anything at all.  One thing that is clear: they do not
understand basic science, or anything about science.  They also
fail to appreciate how foolish it is to confront experts, without
having done some serious preparation. 

If you are trying to make a point, you should not ask questions to
experts, unless you have a pretty good idea of what they are going to
say. 

It this video, it appears as though they expected to find that the
grant did not produce any jobs.  But it did produce jobs: four
students for two years, at 8-10 dollars per hour, plus the
manufacturing jobs for those who made the supplies.  They expected
to find that the project has no value, but it does have value. 
Scientists need data, and for entomologists, some of that data comes
from collections.  At an agricultural university, the study of
insects happens to be rather important. 

While there is no guarantee that this particular collection will lead
to important discoveries, that is always the case with basic
research. 

They may be skeptical of the value of basic science.  Indeed,
there are valid arguments to be made about how much funding should go
to pure vs. applied research.  However, they did not address that
at all.  They merely dismissed it out of hand, with no attempt at
analysis. 

The only value in a vignette such as this, is if you are attempting to
incite the passions of those who already have a particular belief, and
who are susceptible to href="http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/c/confirmation_bias.htm">confirmation
bias.  Such persons see evidence that appears to confirm what
they already believe, so they do not examine the evidence (or the
issue) any further. 

Comments

  1. #1 Zeno
    March 26, 2010

    I used to have great contempt for Tucker Carlson, but now I’m breathless with admiration for his bravery. He dared to walk into a major entomological research center despite being a weird little insect, worthy of being pinned to a display board.

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