On the April 5th edition of Real Time with Bill Maher, science education activist Zack Kopplin confronted The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore over myths about science funding, pointing out that Moore, who questioned the need for funding research on “snail mating habits,” is “not a scientist”:
As it turns out, the reason actual scientists are conducting this type of research is because snails carry parasitic worms that kill children:
Watch where you jump in for a swim or where your bath water comes from, especially if you live in Africa, Asia or South America. Snails that live in tropical fresh water in these locations are intermediaries between disease-causing parasitic worms and humans.
People in developing countries who don't have access to clean water and good sanitation facilities are often exposed to the infected snails. Then they're left open to the parasitic worms.
The worms' infectious larvae emerge from the snails, cruise in shallow water, easily penetrate human skin and mature in internal organs.
The result is schistosomiasis, the second most socioeconomically devastating disease after malaria. As of 2009, 74 developing nations had identified significant rates of schistosomiasis in human populations.
Moore is not some fringe right-winger. He is the senior economics writer and an editorial board member for The Wall Street Journal. And, while on a nationally televised show, he called for killing a government-funded scientific study while bragging about not understanding the research behind it.
If this sounds familiar, it's because Rush Limbaugh said virtually the same thing on his radio show earlier that day, suggesting that science today is an extension of the Democratic Party:
For conservative media like Moore and Limbaugh, scientific ignorance is a feature, not a glitch. From climate science and polar bears to economics to condoms to social sciences to duck penises, conservative media peddle the same anti-science behavior over and over and over. The logic goes that scientists are inherently biased because they care about science. It's third-rate sophism combined with fourth-rate Luddism.
This is not to say that all scientists are correct just by virtue of them being scientists. Rather, media should respect the scientific method, whereby scientists present arguments with data and rigourously test ideas until a consensus emerges. It's essentially a free market for scientific ideas. Does that sound like something conservatives should be interested in?
For more on the scientific method and research projects, check out Zack Kopplin's petition.