John McCain: literally antiscience

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Sept. 15 2008 11:17 PM

John McCain: literally antiscience

I am not a fan of John McCain. He has degenerated in recent times into a pandering tool of the far right, willing to say and do anything -- including outright hypocrisy (he's against lobbyists? Really?) -- to get votes.

I have had my doubts on his support for science, but my fears have been at least in part confirmed. He was asked recently about his VP pick, Sarah Palin. She has secured vast amounts of money in earmarks for Alaska, and McCain has made quite the noise about being against earmarks. When confronted about this, what does he do? He changes the subject (which was about his abject hypocrisy), and attacks Obama. And there was some collateral damage. About Obama, he said:

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death from the Skies!  

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"That's nearly a million every day, every working day he's been in Congress," McCain said. "And when you look at some of the planetariums and other foolishness that he asked for, he shouldn't be saying anything about Governor Palin."

[insert cartoon rapid head shaking and flibbertygibbit sound here]

I'm sorry, did he call a planetarium "foolishness"? Did he really say that?

Yeah, he did.

Now, to be careful, we don't know what the context is here. Maybe Obama asked for a bazillion dollars to install a movie screen in Adler planetarium (in Chicago, Illinois, Obama's state). But somehow I doubt it. And either way, McCain made it clear he meant planetaria. I'm willing to give him the benefit of a doubt, but his recent lies and extraordinarily negative and misleading ads make me give him a lot less slack than I might have otherwise.

A planetarium is hardly foolishness. They excite tens of thousands of children about science every year. They teach science, and the wondrous joy of astronomy. They inspire the next generation of scientists, the kind of thing McCain said he would support when he answered Science Debate's questions for him (I'll be writing on that more later, never fear). A lot of great scientists got their first glimpse of the stars in a planetarium. And the people who work at planetaria do so because they love it. They are constantly struggling for funding, constantly battling bureaucracy, constantly dealing with issues, constantly trying to keep up with technology and new advances in astronomy... and they love it. They do it because they want to teach kids about science.

"Foolishness."

I wonder what Neil deGrasse Tyson -- head of the Hayden Planetarium in NYC -- will have to say about this? Or any of the planetarians in McCain's home state of Arizona?

I know what I want to say, but this is a family-oriented blog.

And in case you forgot, the original question, which he avoided, was about McCain's hypocrisy -- saying how eliminating earmarks is one of his highest priorities, yet asking Palin to be his VP, a woman who hired a lobbyist to secure earmarks (a double whammy) for her small town.

It seems he has a lot to answer for.

Tip o' the Zeiss to BABloggees Adolf Schaller, Jim Cruff, and Don Nelson for sending me this.