SOPA’s author now head of science committee.

Remember the piece of bullshit overreaching legislation known as SOPA?  The legislator who gave us that was Lamar Smith, a Republican out of Texas (never a good combo).  Guess who is the new head of the House science committee and who doesn’t like peer-review at all.

“The new chair of the House of Representatives science committee has drafted a bill that, in effect, would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. For good measure, it would also set in motion a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by every other federal science agency.”

Smith’s shenanigans did not sit well at all with Bernice Johnson, the top Democrat on the committee.

Smith’s request to NSF didn’t sit well with the top Democrat on the science committee, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). On Friday, she sent a blistering missive to Smith questioning his judgment and his motives.

“In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF,” Johnson wrote in a letter obtained by ScienceInsider. “I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value.”

In her letter, Johnson warns Smith that “the moment you compromise both the merit review process and the basic research mission of NSF is the moment you undo everything that has enabled NSF to contribute so profoundly to our national health, prosperity, and welfare.” She asks him to “withdraw” his letter and offers to work with him “to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort” to make sure NSF is meeting that mission.

Good response.  But why do we appoint people who dislike and don’t understand science to these types of positions?

Oh yeah: because Republicans.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    When science defies the narrative one creates for reality, the solution should not be to change how to fund scientific research.

    • Loqi

      It makes sense in the conservative mind, since truth is defined as “whatever the people with all the money tell us is true.” Take the money away from science, and science becomes less true!

      • Glodson

        The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

        This quote, sometimes attributed to Karl Rove, appeared in this article.

        It is a direct denial of basing your decisions on empirical data and rationality. And they really want to twist reality to their views. It isn’t working so well.

        edit: Messed up the link. Fixed now.

        • John H

          This is the use of postmodern epistemologies and discursive tools for evil ends. In many ways, if one can convince enough people that something is true, it might as well be true (not in all ways and not even in all important ways – I’m a dedicated postmodernist, but I still think empiricism is the best tool we have for measuring the material world; however, we must pay careful attention to how social context determines to what ends we apply empirical inquiry – what questions we ask, what objects or systems we study, what metrics we decide are important or relevant, how we interpret the data, and how we present and represent our results). As someone concerned with the well-being of humanity as a whole as opposed to simply my own aggrandizement at anyone’s or everyone’s expense, this kind of application of analytical tools I love and help refine disturbs me greatly.

  • Feminerd

    I love Bernice Johnson so much. She’s a Rep from Dallas- not mine, sadly, since I live in one of the suburbs, but I’ve heard her talk at university panels. She is a badass. Every time I feel super awful about John Cornyn and Ted Cruz (again, sorry rest-of-the-country), I remember we also send people like her to Congress.

  • Gehennah

    What would make any lawmaker thing that they should determine how science works, especially by replacing something as important as peer review with something else?

    Oh wait, because it’ll let ID be called a science.

  • Zugswang

    I suppose that, having already demonstrated he doesn’t know how the internet works, Lamar Smith needed to further ingratiate himself to idiots by showing he doesn’t know how science works, either.