Last week we almost had a U.S. Science Laureate. You know, an American scientist who’d travel around the nation talking to folks, giving interviews, speaking at schools, fostering a greater understanding of science and the scientific process, trying to inspire more young people to enter the sciences. It would have been an honorary position, like the U.S. Poet Laureate. Well, mostly honorary. The Science Laureate would have received a stipend of US$35,000, which is also the amount provided to the Poet Laureate. In fact, this is possibly the only time in U.S. history when a poet earned as much as a scientist.
Anyway, we almost had one of those. The Science Laureate bill was on the fast track because members of both parties considered it innocuous. Everybody expected it would pass easily.
But no. Congressional Republicans decided to quietly pull the bill creating the Science Laureate position. Why? Because some conservative Republicans thought President Obama might appoint somebody…
“…who will share his view that science should serve political ends on such issues as climate change and regulation of greenhouse gases…. [It’s] a needless addition to the long list of presidential appointments.”
In other words, Republicans had two concerns. First, there was the danger that a Science Laureate might deliberately and willfully talk to people about actual science. Second, it was necessary to kill the position because Obama wanted it.
There’s a third reason Republicans opposed creating a U.S. Science Laureate: