“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” -Carl Sagan

The President of the United States just released his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and there are some big losers in the scientific world. The EPA, the NIH, NASA Earth Science and many other organizations that exist for the benefit of America and all of humanity are poised to lose a significant amount of federal funding. This doesn’t simply affect the scientists who lose their jobs.

A significant fraction of the scientists and engineers pictured here, in the 2016 installation of the final mirrors, were replacement hires for the originals who were laid off five to six years prior. Image credit: NASA.

A significant fraction of the scientists and engineers pictured here, in the 2016 installation of the final mirrors, were replacement hires for the originals who were laid off five to six years prior. Image credit: NASA.

If we take as a given that the projects that these organizations invest in are vital at some level, and that they will need to be accomplished at some point, we’re actually making it far more expensive in the long run. The loss of expertise, the cessation of production and the exodus of the team that would provide scientific continuity are all extremely costly, and will make all of these projects cost us more than they would have overall. We saw this lesson firsthand just a few years ago with James Webb.

The 2010 NASA mission timeline had James Webb launching in 2015. If that were the case, and if insufficient funding were not provided during two critical years, we would have collected over a year's worth of data from it already. Image credit: NASA's Astrophysics Division.

The 2010 NASA mission timeline had James Webb launching in 2015. If that were the case, and if insufficient funding were not provided during two critical years, we would have collected over a year’s worth of data from it already. Image credit: NASA’s Astrophysics Division.

Are we really willing to throw away so much money and time now just to shave a tiny bit off the deficit for the short-term?

Comments

  1. #1 Wow
    March 23, 2017

    They also don’t want anyone to get to science classes at university. Well, not if you’re in a lower social class:

  2. #2 eric
    March 23, 2017

    In addition to the issue that shutting down ongoing projects greatly increases the cost to (eventually) complete them, I worry about how big a hit there will be to basic science, and thus the long-term US ability to produce innovation and new products.

    Science magazine’s 24 February edition had a small article on Abraham Flexner’s 1939 (yes, I typed that right) essay titled “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge”. The original essay (link provided) is well worth the read. The language is stilted and the examples are dated, but his points are eerily relevant to today’s politics.

  3. #3 Anonymous Coward
    March 23, 2017

    I just finished rereading Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World and it’s a very sober and prescient read that is more relevant now than ever. We are witnessing the rise of pseudoscience and anti-science unprecedented in the modern age. Perhaps America will snuff out the candle in the dark and return to the outer darkness of demons, and then perhaps some other place will be the beacon of science and rationality in the world.

  4. #4 dean
    March 23, 2017

    You need to remember that these are people who believe in huge myths: that tax cuts spur economic growth, that the (in reality non-existent) “free market” can solve any problem, and that education/research can be treated the same way as any other “commodity”.

    Once you realize they are that delusional the type of harmful behavior discussed here immediately follows.

  5. #5 Frank
    Omaha,NE
    March 23, 2017

    I think popularity of anti-science today shows a failure of science education for a long time.
    Obviously students graduating from high school w/o a good understanding of scientific method and basic knowledge of science. For example one of my college professors was thinking radio waves travel slower than light.
    Not just that but I think especially Logical Fallacies need to be a common class in all high schools at least.

  6. #6 Wow
    March 23, 2017

    Why is it a failure of science education and not a failure of media and authority figures who applaud finance and business and strength but deride knowledge?

    When science has to accept uncertainties in its claims, the opposition, from whichever quarter, does not and makes no bones about the “superiority” of inerrant truth they have compared to the wild speculation of “it’s just a theory”, in what way is it SCIENCE’S fault in educating people who are being trained to prefer certainty to honesty?

    And given that research (doubly so teaching) is not as well paid, but cash reward is lauded as the only “sane” goal, what can science do but try to change politics? And then get exoriated for being politicised.

    Science education failing is possibly correct, but there needs evidence that it’s science educations’ fault.

  7. #7 Denier
    United States
    March 23, 2017

    If you think it was a good idea for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions then I hope you are happy now. The gutting of the EPA is your fault. As I wrote earlier [1], you have to understand that actions have consequences.

    If you really wanted to help the environment then you should have listened to George W. Bush. Yup. Dubya. I know environmental types haaaaaaaaate everything about Dubya. He pulled out of Kyoto. He doctored scientific papers that could have proved global warming. Yada yada. It is staggering how many people are wrong about George W. Bush.

    The truth is that Bush appointed an EPA head that fully believed in human caused global warming [2]. Bush himself believed in it. The following was taken from a letter authored by Stephen Johnson:

    …the state of the latest climate change science does not permit a negative finding, nor does it permit a credible finding that we need to wait for more research.

    A robust interagency policy process involving principal meetings over the past eight months has enabled me to formulate a plan that is prudent and cautious yet forward thinking…it follows your May 14th 2007 Executive Order and creates a framework for responsible, cost-effective and practical actions.

    I want to thank you for talking with me about this plan when we met last month and, of course, I welcome your guidance as we move forward.

    ‘http://www.motherjones.com/files/enclosureletter_presdidentfromstephenjohnson_2.8.2011_2.pdf

    The Bush officials were also instrumental in putting together the Bali Action Plan, without which the Paris Climate Accord probably wouldn’t have happened [3]. Not only was Bush concerned about how other people were impacting the planet, but also took it into consideration when building his own house. I remember a humorous email a decade ago comparing Bush’s house with that of supposed climate savior Al Gore. It is Snopes Confirmed. [4]

    The proof is really in the pudding. The per capita carbon emissions of the US have been in decline for some time but no President matched the 2000-2008 reduction under Bush [5]. Bush backed out of Kyoto then set about trying to meet the targets anyway. By comparison the Obama years of 2009-2014 were practically flat [6]. Obama talked a great game and did nothing. Bush was quiet or even antithetical but got done what could be done.

    George W Bush along with his AGW-believing EPA fought to keep the EPA out of CO2 regulation. They fought all the way to the Supreme Court. The EPA is too important to land itself in those political crosshairs. They lost. We lost. The Supreme Court required the EPA to take on CO2 and has now for political reasons been gutted.

    If you don’t like seeing the EPA defanged, don’t blame Trump. Blame those who screeched about CO2 without bothering to understand the bigger picture. One of those responsible may be staring you back in the mirror.

    [1]’http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2017/03/19/comments-of-the-week-153-from-the-expanding-universe-to-the-cmbs-location/#comment-578931

    [2] ‘http://www.motherjones.com/files/enclosureletter_presdidentfromstephenjohnson_2.8.2011_2.pdf

    [3]’http://www.politico.com/story/2015/11/paris-climate-talks-george-w-bush-216214

    [4]’http://www.snopes.com/politics/bush/house.asp

    [5]’https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/co2pc.jpg

    [6]’https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/images/2015.04.20/main.png

  8. #8 Wow
    March 23, 2017

    “If you think it was a good idea for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions”

    It is a good idea. Do you think that standing up to ISIS was a good idea but now look at the death and destruction and their targeting of US citizens and think that you should not have cared if ISIS gained their own state?

    No.

    Likewise EPA regulation of GHGs is a good idea, but republicans such as yourself are so incensed with rage at anything accepting the reality of AGW that you are, ISIS like, targeting EPA with terrorist attacks (an action taken for political reasons against the innocent).

    The action is not invalidated just because some nutjobs went apeshit about it.

  9. #9 Denier
    March 23, 2017

    @Wow wrote:

    Do you think that standing up to ISIS was a good idea

    There are different way to stand up to ISIS. Would it be good to make huge announcements followed by publicly deploying US Military boots on the ground? -OR- Would it be better to keep quiet while deploying Special Forces and Contractors working with local forces all while doing a whole lot of killing with drones?

    I’d go with the latter. When you commit US troops it is constant news and as they start dying it sours public opinion. From there the clock it ticking on how long you can stay. If it isn’t done then too bad.

    With the quiet and small footprint along with killing via drone you can do what can get done without having to deal with so much political blowback. You can get more done and you can more easily finish the job.

  10. #10 CFT
    March 23, 2017

    Oh joy. Wow is back, so much for polite discourse. It was nice while it lasted.
    .
    All presidential administrations have had varying priorities, each and every one has had to juggle priorities of what they think limited funds should be spent on. Many big science programs like NASA have actually been in decline for decades (even under democrat presidents Bill Clinton and Obama). Other big science programs like the EPA under Obama have grown far beyond their original mandate as he empowered them by executive decree far beyond the scope of their charter.

    The error is in thinking science = government, and that big science is necessarily better science, usually it’s often just bureaucratically wasteful as many programs are actually needlessly replicated across several government agencies and have a strong tendency to be very groupthink and conformist oriented in their inquiry. Competition, not collectivism is what drives innovation, especially in science or in technology, the cold war and IT innovation has taught us that.
    .
    As for the government being somehow more effective than the free market, it depends on the endeavor. Space X has actually been showing more innovation and creativity than NASA has in years, and with a considerably smaller budget. Great innovators of the past century were hardly all in the employ of the government, most did quite nicely in the private sector. Generally, the more government has moved to fund scientific endeavors, unsurprisingly, the more political those endeavors have become. President Eisenhower specifically warned of what would happen if a scientific elite were allowed ever greater access to political power, and given how things have turned out, he was pretty spot on.

  11. #11 Wow
    March 23, 2017

    And you only ever post to whine and complain.

    One of many reasons why your complaints are irrelevant.

  12. #12 Denier
    United States
    March 23, 2017

    @CFT

    Space X has actually been showing more innovation and creativity than NASA has in years

    It is not the ‘space ships’ part of NASA that Ethan is crying about. They’re still building the James Webb Space Telescope. The part that Ethan is concerned about getting the axe is NASA Earth Sciences. You know, the part of NASA that cries about global warming.

    Sure there are lots of other parts of the US Government that cry about global warming, such as NOAA and the science departments of virtually every state run university in the US, but NASA Earth Sciences is also getting cut so we’ll only have a bazillion instead of a bazillion and one sources.

    As far as the NIH goes, their work production pales in comparison to the US biotech sector, but there was once a NIH grant that helped my wife and by extension my family so I’m sad to seem them under the budget knife.

  13. #13 dean
    March 23, 2017

    “As far as the NIH goes, their work production pales in comparison to the US biotech sector, but there was once a NIH grant that helped my wife and by extension my family so I’m sad to seem them under the budget knife.”

    Here we see the inherent evil that exists in libertarians. Anything that helps them is good: anything that benefits society in general (as research in climate science does) is bad.

    Despicable.

  14. #14 Denier
    March 23, 2017

    @dean

    The picture you paint is so funny. It is as if I have a black mustache and cape as I tie helpless damsels to train tracks in my spare time.

  15. #15 Wow
    March 23, 2017

    Yeah, you soulless libertarians find human misery and death funny. As long as it’s not your own.

  16. #16 dean
    March 23, 2017

    Denier, you are no different in your actions than the people who deny that vaccines are safe and effective. Neither you nor they have a shred of evidence to support your position. You and they are being completely dishonest in your assertions (yours against climate science are all false, theirs against vaccines are all false). You both make intentional misrepresentations about the studies and the scientists.

    There is no defense for their positions, and there is no defense for yours. And both you and they would, if you could implement your wrong-headed beliefs, cause serous harm to others.

    You have no legitimate defense. Not a thing in my description of you is wrong.

  17. #17 Young CC Prof
    March 23, 2017

    “The per capita carbon emissions of the US have been in decline for some time but no President matched the 2000-2008 reduction under Bush.”

    As per your own citation, almost all of the decrease in emissions under Bush occurred during the gas-price spike of 2007 or the resulting economic catastrophe of 2008. I’d hesitate to describe the Great Recession as effective environmental policy.

    Under Obama, emissions rose slightly during the recovery, then continued to fall during a period of slow but steady economic growth.

  18. #18 Denier
    United States
    March 23, 2017

    @Young CC Prof wrote:

    I’d hesitate to describe the Great Recession as effective environmental policy.

    I’d argue that it is the only effective environmental policy. You can look at the carbon emission curve and plot our economy. You can look at China’s and plot their economy. Technology gets better and things get ever more efficient so the emission curve naturally drops over time relative to GDP but for the most part they are linked.

    Drastic changes to carbon will effect GDP and drastic changes to GDP will effect carbon. Obama was good for the economy. I’d personally love 8 more years of Obama, but despite all the lip service and donations he didn’t do all that much to accelerate per-capita carbon reductions. The economy won.

    The cost of the Great Recession was ~$2 billion off the GDP spread over half a dozen years. Great for carbon, not so much for the economy. Given the choice between an Obama or a Dubya Bush, I’m going with Obama but everyone says I am an evil selfish whatever I am.

    The whole problem is over stated and technology will fix this all on its own. We don’t need to crash the global economy just so people can feel better about the CO2 ppm.

    PS – good to have you around.

  19. #19 Denier
    March 23, 2017

    Sorry. Typo. The cost of the Great Recession was ~$2 T-t-trillion off the GDP.

    The cost of ignoring climate change is paltry compared to real world GDP damage.

  20. #20 Jonathan
    March 23, 2017

    CFT wrote: “Oh joy. Wow is back, so much for polite discourse. It was nice while it lasted.”

    That’s an unfair assessment, Wow’s contributions in this thread were civil and on target.

  21. #21 John
    Baltimore
    March 24, 2017

    Stepping back from the sordid details of whose ox is being gored, it remains discouraging to see that the overarching goal is not to balance the Federal Budget.

  22. #22 CFT
    March 24, 2017

    Jonathan @ #20,
    You have no idea what you are talking about, or just don’t want to know, or are just being contrary. For the last couple of entries of this blog Wow was absent, and discussion flourished. Read some of the past entries on this blog if you unaware of Wow’s long history of verbal abuse and trolling, he was temporarily silenced just a few days for said behavior (in case you haven’t been paying attention).
    .
    If you share Wow’s political views, that’s perfectly fine. If you share his scientific views, that’s great too. If you share his love of profanity laced trolling and abuse …that’s not ok at all. Wow, You, and every other person who disagrees with someone else has to learn how to share their viewpoint without verbal abuse or Trolling. Most people in the world will disagree with you about something, Insulting them has little to no ability to convince them of your position is more correct, usually quite the opposite.

  23. #23 dean
    March 24, 2017

    “The cost of ignoring climate change is paltry compared to real world GDP damage.”

    You are a monumental idiot.

  24. #24 Wow
    March 24, 2017

    And massively wrong idiot to boot.

    I’ve already given the Stern report link,but for the hard of thinking due to broken ideology here it is again:

    http://www.sternreview.org.uk

    Experts say not, and did the working out to show it. where are the deniers’ support of their alarmist and doom-mongering claims?

  25. #25 Wow
    March 24, 2017

    “You have no idea what you are talking about”

    And kiffed doesn’t read. Only presumes what is there. Reasons to ignore them, part four?

    If you wonder why you can’t shame me with this broken record of censure, look at their actions in reality not in what you prefer to see.

  26. #26 Denier
    United States
    March 24, 2017

    @Wow wrote:

    I’ve already given the Stern report

    The Stern report is nothing but wishful thinking. In your vernacular; It’s rubbish.

    It claims we could reduce global carbon emissions by 80% at a cost of only 1% of global GDP. Bull. Shit. They give no historical examples showing it could possibly work in the real world. They don’t even support their own claims in the body of their work. Their graphs and charts don’t have any numbers on them at all. It is just generic arrows and trend lines with axis labels. It is ridiculous.

    There is a good reason your own government isn’t following the recommendations. You aren’t going to save the world with unicorn power and carbon exchanges. All it does is enrich the carbon exchange owners with commissions and transaction fees. It is a scam.

  27. #27 Wow
    March 24, 2017

    It’s something.

    YOU have nothing. Nothing but alarmism, FUD, scare tactics and bluster.

  28. #28 Jonathan
    March 24, 2017

    CFT wrote: “Jonathan @ #20: You have no idea what you are talking about, or just don’t want to know, or are just being contrary. For the last couple of entries of this blog Wow was absent, and discussion flourished.”

    I do know, I was among the people complaining (see Comments of the Week 153, my posts #26 and #36). But lest it seem like anyone is merely on a vendetta, it is not helpful to do as you did in your post #10 here, to start complaining before he even said anything stupid. If you do that, then it has no impact if one day you want to call him out for returning to his objectionable ways.

    I did notice he didn’t post in recent threads, and I also noticed that in this thread the rhetoric was considerably moderated. In a thread like “Does Dark Matter Exist […]” from 2 days ago, the temptation must have been great for him to reply derisively to fairly nonsensical comments like Steve J. #3, and if Wow is embracing the more sensible tack of leaving such posters alone, then that is good. (Such comments don’t need to be shot down hatefully, they can just be ignored–it’s not as if they lead to giant speculative discussions about someone’s half-cocked ideas.)

    For my money, Denier is by far the more tedious in this thread. People who argue the way he does are not discussing in good faith, they are dishonest in not responding to arguments mounted against them, and it is pointless to engage with them.

  29. #29 Wow
    March 24, 2017

    “and it is pointless to engage with them.”

    Then it is pointless to allow them on to discuss at all.

  30. #30 dean
    United States
    March 24, 2017

    “Denier is by far the more tedious in this thread. ”

    He does own the record for number of intentionally dishonest posts.

  31. #31 Denier
    United States
    March 24, 2017

    Jonathan wrote:

    Denier is by far the more tedious in this thread. People who argue the way he does…

    I’ve seen the error of my ways and from here on out I will argue via interpretive dance!

    …or maybe I’ll stick to words, citations, and links to credible sources.

  32. #32 Wow
    March 24, 2017

    Thing is he’s not wrong.

    But the answer of “ignore” is meaningless if you’re still allowed to post. But then again, you do post, where it isn’t in your ideological blind spots where you are a complete and utter crackpot, there’s nothing wrong with your position. So keeping you isn’t wrong. However, that negates the point of ignoring you. As you ridiculously pantomime, it wastes your effort if you’re ignored if you happen to be correct on something.

    Either you should not be allowed to post unchallenged or you should not be allowed to post at all.

    To half-arse it and let you post misleading rubbish unchallenged merely cements “common sense” bullshit over inconvenient and complicated truth in the minds of people here to learn.

    When the complaints are “for” this being a place of learning on the web, that situation is far less tenable than rude swearing and CAPS LOCK SHOUTING. There’s nothing to “learn” from that, only a lack of thing to learn. It is not lying.

  33. #33 Wow
    March 24, 2017

    “or maybe I’ll stick to words, citations, and links to credible sources”

    The only truth there is “words”. You’ve not managed credible sources and don’t bother with “citations” when it comes to Stern. Just “RUBBISH!!!!”. Which is hardly citation.

  34. #34 dean
    United States
    March 24, 2017

    “maybe I’ll stick to words, citations, and links to credible sources.”

    You can’t stick to something you’ve never done. You have a much longer track record of stating Ethan incorrectly quoted a portion of some article, only to have it determined that he was, in fact, correct, and your claim was wrong.

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