This spring, a bipartisan group of legislators from the House and Senate proposed the creation of the honorary position of US Science Laureate. The bill was considered “so innocuous” that it would have been voted for under special rules requiring a two-thirds majority and allowing no amendments. Yet, when the American Conservative Union (ACU) discovered the bill, the war on science and reason began.
Larry Hart, Director of Government Relations for the ACU, discovered the bill and immediately sent a letter to Congress and other conservative groups saying the bill was a sneaky attempt by the Obama administration to appoint someone for the position “who will share his view that science should serve political ends, on such issues as climate change and regulation of greenhouse gases,” Science reports.
The bill was sponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), along with Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX).
A harmless, bipartisan bill that gained widespread bipartisan support throughout Congress and was expected to pass easily and without consequence last Tuesday has now been upset by one group whose members refer to themselves as “the nation’s oldest conservative lobbying organization.”
Not only is Hart’s, and conservatives’, argument completely absurd because it inherently suggests that climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are debatable, harmless, or potentially non-existent, it also suggests that a simple bipartisan effort to create the unpaid, honorary, science equivalent of the US Poet Laureate, is a political power play.
The legislation would have allowed President Obama to name up to three laureates at a time to an unpaid position that could last for a maximum of two years. After Hart’s letter was distributed, the House Republican leadership pulled the bill from the floor schedule.
According to a House Democratic aide, Rep. Lofgren (D-CA) and Rep. Smith (R-TX), who introduced the bill, don’t share many of the same opinions, yet they both agreed on “the value of creating this honorary position.”
Another co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) also found Hart’s protest absurd. “This is not a presidential appointment, and there would be no taxpayer money involved,” he said. “The bill is simply a chance to show our children that discovery science is important and that science can be an exciting and rewarding career.”
Though no one was opposed to the creation of an honorary Poet Laureate, science is evidently just too risky for conservatives. This never-ending opposition to science still persists in spite of the fact that there is no disagreement among the majority of the scientific community about climate change or greenhouse gas emissions.
On a subject about which 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific publications agree, the fringe opinion to the contrary has as much legitimacy as the opinion of those scientists who argue that HIV does not cause AIDS.
There is no argument or controversy over whether climate change is happening and whether human carbon dioxide emissions are responsible for its progress.
Yet, as evidenced by Hart’s successful charade, conservatives in the United States government are still perpetuating the deception that a controversy exists by allowing something as simple as an honorary, temporary position (intended to help get kids interested in science) to be stifled by the political, economic, and religious interests of a small minority of individuals who essentially don’t believe that smoking is linked to cancer.