Anti-science abounds

Bashing science has become popular with politicians lately. Yesterday I read Scientific American’s story bemoaning the beating that science has taken from some American politicians, many of whom have staked “anti-science” stances:

Yet despite its history and today’s unprecedented riches from science, the U.S. has begun to slip off of its science foundation. Indeed, in this election cycle, some 236 years after Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, several major party contenders for political office took positions that can only be described as “antiscience”: against evolution, human-induced climate change, vaccines, stem cell research, and more. A former Republican governor even warned that his own political party was in danger of becoming “the antiscience party.”

Americans are not the only ones science-bashing. Yesterday, an Italian court convicted seismic scientists of manslaughter for failing to predict an earthquake:

Rarely since a Catholic inquisition in Rome condemned Galileo Galilei to spend the remainder of his days under house arrest for the heresy of teaching that the Earth revolves around the sun, has an Italian court been so wrong about science.

Today, a court in the central Italian city of L’Aquila, 380 years after that miscarriage of justice, sentenced six scientists and a government bureaucrat to six years in jail on manslaughter charges for their failure to predict a 2009 earthquake that left more than 300 people dead.

The seven, all members of the “National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks,” were convicted after an apparently emotional trial in which the testimony of people who had lost loved ones was allowed, as if it was relevant to the question of whether current science can predict earthquakes. No grief, no matter how great, can answer that question (which is a resounding “no,” by the way).

Senior members of Italy’s seismic institute have resigned in protest, and who can blame them? Earthquakes are not predictable and no scientist should be brought up on charges as if he or she created the earthquake. It don’t work that way, folks.

So what do we have here? A worldwide loss of critical faculties? An epidemic of some sort?

Is stupid contagious? And if it is, is there a cure?

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