Nuggets of Wisdom

Monday, April 29, 2013

Why Is This A Bad Thing?

Lamar Smith recently drafted a bill that would place criteria on government-funded scientific grants. In order to receive government funding, the research in question would have to be proven to act "in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science."

Aside from the fact that this bill is written by the same man who wrote SOPA, I don't really see a problem with this. Isn't the whole point of government funding to fund stuff that benefits the American public? (Not that the government actually benefits the American public, but still...) So shouldn't a vital criteria for government-funded scientific grants be that they will go to research that will directly benefit the American public? Why is this a bad thing?

As most of you probably know, I'm not a huge fan of government funding, because it rarely funds anything useful; but if we are going to fund scientific research, it would be nice if that research was for discovering a cure for cancer or a new alternative fuel source, rather than studying snail sex or duck genitalia.

And yet this bill has raised the ire of PZ Myers and other "scientifically-minded" individuals who are decrying this as an attack on science and education. I don't get it. Why is it a bad thing to ensure that scientific funding benefits us?