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Opinion: America's devastating divorce from science

September 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

The Trump administration's appointment of a climate science denier for a post at NOAA underlines the unfortunate reality that our elected government is increasingly populated with people who do not merely ignore scientific facts, they appear to despise them and the people who produce them, writes Naomi Oreskes. We need to face facts, she says: "I don't know what a new social contract would look like, but I am pretty sure it's time to start looking for it."

In 1945, Vannevar Bush, the MIT dean who mobilized American science during World War II, laid out the blueprint for what would become the social contract between science and American society for the next half century.

America would support science -- particularly through a new agency, called the National Science Foundation (NSF) but also through existing or expanded federal agencies such as NASA, the Weather Service, and the US Geological Survey -- and in return science would support America, through technical innovation that would better our material conditions and information that would enable us to face life's challenges and solve them.

Those presidents also appointed highly qualified people to run science-oriented agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Hiring a notorious climate science denier, David Legates, to help run NOAA -- the federal agency most responsible for providing us with good climate information.

This administration has repeatedly placed people who have questioned or rejected science in positions of authority throughout the federal service.

When we register our outrage at the latest governmental assault on science, we continue our own version of denial.

I don't know what a new social contract for science would look like, but I am pretty sure it is time to start looking for it.

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