Saturday, October 25, 2008

McCain's science advisors off to a bad start

Actually, McCain doesn't seem to have any science advisors yet (what? after 26 years in the senate?), so the science described by Sarah Palin in the McCain Campaign speech she recited Friday was misunderstood, misrepresented, and, of course, politicized. This was to be a speech calling for more Federal assistance for children with disabilities such as autism (read: "redistribute the wealth"), paid for in part with the money saved from cutting back on scientific research. In particular, Palin referred to fruit fly (Drosophila sp.) research, which she called an "earmark."

Sarah, I'll quote Rabelais: Thy Bung hath flung some dung at us!

Fruit flies are one of the workhorses of biological research, and they are important economically (remember the Medfly problem, and fruit quarantines?). The specific fruit fly research Palin was critical of is described here, and involved the olive industry, Pierce's Disease of grapevines, and Sudden Oak Death in the United States. The McCain campaign wishes to trivialize important, applied scientific research, exploiting the appeal of esoteric-sounding work to the scientific illiterates that the Bush administration, Creationists, and wingnuts have been engaged with for lo these many years. How Mavericky is that?

Palin's foolish attitude toward science caught my eye in a post by Mike the Mad Biologist; tristero had more details on the subject, and PZ Myers had more on it. I wish the "mainstream media" could be savvy enough to notice, but then, they'd probably figure they had to give the anti-science crowd equal time. Or maybe not--David Ryan, writing for the Napa Valley Register half a year ago, had the good sense to read the statement by (Democratic) Congressman Mike Thompson, responsible for gaining funding of the research.

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