December 11, 2010

Idiot of the Week: Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE)

adrian smithIf you have followed my Idiot of the Week series, you know that many of my picks are fairly trivial in the sense that we just sort of point and laugh and the stupidity. Sure, some of the politicians can do some harmful stuff from time to time, but mostly they just provide fodder for comedians and bloggers. But every so often, one will come along who reflects a different sort of idiocy - the sort of idiocy that has the potential to inflict widespread harm or significantly retard progress. This week's pick is a sad example of this more serious sort of idiocy.

Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE) wins idiot honors for his appearance in the video below, but House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) deserves his share, as do many other House Republicans who are supporting a dangerous new assault on science in the form of their YouCut Citizen Review.

You see, the YouCut Citizen Review is an attack on the very heart of the scientific process: peer review. If Smith, Cantor, and their fellow members of the Republican Tea Party have their way, proposals for grant funding will be evaluated not by scientific experts who understand the merits of the proposed research but by your average mouth-breathing Americans.

Many worthwhile research proposals are going to sound silly to the untrained observer. This is to be expected because the untrained observer is...wait for it...untrained. He or she has not read the scientific papers in a particular field and would not understand them if he or she tried to do so. The average American is no better equipped to review research grants than I am to perform cardiac surgery or play professional basketball.

Efforts like YourCut Citizen Review seriously undermine the scientific process. They pose a clear and present danger to all Americans who hope to benefit from science and technology. If we want science to have a future, we had better get ready to fight this one. And once again, those of us in the reality based community have a role.

H/T to Wired

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