Scientists Stand Up To Congressional Attacks

Jun 4, 2016

By Phil Plait

To the surprise of no one, Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is continuing his unfounded attack on science, ratcheting it up even higher than before. This time, he’s trying to tie up the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The good news? They’re having none of it.

OK, let’s get you caught up first. Smith is the head of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and is also a 100 percent head-in-the-sand climate change denier, as well as a conspiracy theorist. A list of his nonsensical claims would take a long time to catalog, so here are just a couple: He thinks that scientists are manipulating data to make it look like the Earth is warming, and that the global warming pause is actually a thing, despite huge, overwhelming amounts of evidence that it isn’t.

Sadly, as head of the science committee he has the power to manifest his conspiracy ideations. He has used the threat of “Congressional oversight” to harass scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including subpoenaing its administrator, Kathryn Sullivan, a scientist and ex-NASA astronaut. The minority (Democratic) committee ranking member, Eddie Bernice Johnson, protested this move vocally. The NOAA refused Smith’s ridiculous request. Smith then slipped into some sort of alternate reality, demanding information from the NOAA because he thinks he has whistleblowers who claim NOAA scientists rushed a global warming paper into publication. Johnson wrote yet another letter to Smith protesting his actions. Smith responded by overreaching even more, broadening his McCarthy-esque fishing expedition against the NOAA.

And that brings us to now.

Smith’s been ramping up a new(ish) tactic, trying to flush out what he thinks is a cabal of scientists fighting the fossil fuel industry. On May 18, 2016, he sent a letter to the UCS, an obvious attempt to create a chilling effect on their work to help scientists maintain the freedom they need to do their research. Reading the letter, I don’t think George Orwell could have done any better. He’s claiming that the UCS is trying to “deprive companies, non profit organizations, and scientists of their First Amendment rights and ability to fund and conduct scientific research free from intimidation and threats of prosecution.”

That loud noise you may have just heard was my irony gland exploding.


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11 comments on “Scientists Stand Up To Congressional Attacks

  • Let me get this straight, Lamar is using his position as head of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to benefit the coal and gas industries?

    IF, this country was just, he would be indicted for misuse of a congressional position.
    But this is the US where the constitution is not recognized by right wing nutballs, unless it pertains to their guns.



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  • @OP – Smith is the head of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and is also a 100 percent head-in-the-sand climate change denier, as well as a conspiracy theorist. A list of his nonsensical claims would take a long time to catalog,

    Those so profoundly ignorant, that they are totally unaware of the profundity of their ignorance, show real determination in seeking influential political positions, where their stupidity can cause real damage as they dispute informed expert opinion!

    In the UK we have the imbecilic Tredinnick on the parliamentary health committee!

    https://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/david-tredinnick-quack-candidate-for-health-select-committee-chair/
    David Tredinnick – Quack Candidate for Health Select Committee Chair

    Tredinnick appears to be a true-believer, fully steeped in the propaganda that is CAM (so-called complementary and alternative medicine). He has said:

    Ninety per cent of pregnant French women use homeopathy. Astrology is a useful diagnostic tool enabling us to see strengths and weaknesses via the birth chart.

    And, yes, I have helped fellow MPs. I do foresee that one day astrology will have a role to play in healthcare.

    That is frightening enough, but he goes on to say of his critics:

    “Opposition to astrology is driven by “superstition, ignorance and prejudice”, he said. “It tends to be based on superstition, with scientists reacting emotionally, which is always a great irony.”

    “They are also ignorant, because they never study the subject and just say that it is all to do with what appears in the newspapers, which it is not, and they are deeply prejudiced, and racially prejudiced, which is troubling.”

    You need to have a profound level of scientific illiteracy to hold such opinions.
    These statements also represent irony of epic proportions.
    Astrology, of course, is nothing but superstition, and is steeped in scientific ignorance.
    Scientists are dismissive of astrology because it is patent nonsense, not because they do not understand it.

    The profoundly ignorant have a manner supreme confidence, and no awareness of their own manifest ignorant stupidity!
    Somehow this has a lowest common denominator appeal to voters who keep on re-electing them!



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  • A Republican from Texas denies science ? Well knock me over with a feather ! I seem to remember ex Governor Rick Perry publicly praying for rain in that state, just a few years ago. The result, horrendous wild forest fires ! Do these characters ever take their minds off the next buck, and instead reflect on the very real REALITY out there?



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  • Mr DArcy #4
    Jun 5, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    A Republican from Texas denies science ?
    Well knock me over with a feather !
    I seem to remember ex Governor Rick Perry publicly praying for rain in that state, just a few years ago.
    The result, horrendous wild forest fires !

    Ah! But doG works in mysterious ways, and not to Perry’s timetable! 🙂

    https://weather.com/storms/tornado/news/plains-severe-weather-outbreak-historic-flooding-continues

    State of Disaster Declared in 31 Flooded Texas Counties as Storms Dump More Rain



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  • I don’t care for Alexander and his anti-science witch hunts. However, I don’t much care for the UCS either which has the word “scientists” in its name but is more of a political activist organization. Its Wikipedia entry makes that very evident. As a political activist organization, the UCS should be open to criticism for its political advocacy and this shouldn’t be painted as some attack on science in general.



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  • prietenul #8
    Jun 6, 2016 at 8:32 am

    I don’t care for Alexander and his anti-science witch hunts.

    I am uncertain what “Alexander” has to do with Smith’s OP attack on NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) or on UCS.

    @OP – This time, he’s trying to tie up the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). The good news? They’re having none of it.

    However, I don’t much care for the UCS either which has the word “scientists” in its name but is more of a political activist organization.

    Of course it has the word “scientists in its name”! It is a body of scientists campaigning on the politics affecting important scientific issues – such as pseudo-science quacks like Smith and other science deniers misdirecting policy and harassing honest scientists! (such as those at NOAA)

    Its Wikipedia entry makes that very evident. As a political activist organization,

    It is a political activist organisation of scientists promoting proper use of science!

    the UCS should be open to criticism for its political advocacy and this shouldn’t be painted as some attack on science in general.

    You have this backwards!
    UCS exposes pseudo-science claims and attacks on science in general from the likes of Smith, and from the other stooges of the carbon industries.
    UCS is indeed open to criticism, but it is well known that pseudo-science stooges can normally only respond with propaganda political harassment, and rhetoric, as they are usually too incompetent (Smith is a prime example) to debate honestly and effectively with scientists.

    @OP – link – Smith, who has done nothing but intimidate and threaten scientists with prosecution, has the temerity to accuse the UCS of this. Amazing.

    In the letter, Smith says the UCS is conspiring with a score of state attorneys general to work “… against those who have questioned the causes, magnitudes, or best ways to address climate change.”

    Yeah, in that last part he means climate change deniers.

    Yep! UCS is running political campaigns debunking the false claims of climate-change deniers – and this is perceived as “a threat to the profits of the coal, oil and gas corporations”, for whom Smith is a prime stooge politician!

    @OP link As I have said many times, this is an abuse of power on Smith’s part, pure and simple. He will do anything to slow or stop research into climate change and cast aspersions on scientists, no matter how untrue his claims are.

    The final irony? We now know for a fact that Exxon has been misleading the public for decades; they knew in the 1970s that their product could harm the Earth’s environment. Maybe someone should clue Smith in on this, if he can hear it over the sound of fossil fuel industry donations pouring into his coffers.



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  • ” the UCS should be open to criticism for its political advocacy and this shouldn’t be painted as some attack on science in general.”

    And the criticism is what? That science is false?

    Science IS being attacked. That is what the article is about.



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  • alf1200 #10
    Jun 6, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    And the criticism is what? That science is false?

    Science IS being attacked. That is what the article is about.

    The suggestion that the likes of Smith have any competence to honestly and constructively criticise scientist debunkers of pseudo-science propaganda, is comical in the extreme!

    Flat Earthists V astronauts !!!! ?
    No contest at an intellectual level, but in the minds of conspiracy theorists and the corrupt, the bizarre and perverse trump all properly researched evidence!



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