There’s a movement afoot for scientists to run for public office. 314action.org (meant to represent the first three digits of Pi) describes itself as a non-profit founded by members of the STEM community, grassroots supporters and political activists. Its stated goals are:
- Strengthen communication among the STEM community, the public and our elected officials;
- Educate and advocate for and defend the integrity of science and its use;
- Provide a voice for the STEM community on social issues;
- Promote the responsible use of data driven fact based approaches in public policy;
- Increase public engagement with the STEM Community through media.
Sounds great! I can’t wait to run for office. I’ll trade my days of doing research, writing and teaching for a meager salary for raking in big bucks from wealthy donors all the while railing against waste, fraud and abuse.
In the debates I’ll accuse my opponents of being creationist Luddites who have been part of the War on Science since Galileo. Any response will be dismissed with “are you a scientist?”, because it’s clear that only those who have worked in the Ivory tower of academia have the real world experiences and common sense necessary to lead this nation.
In the statistically improbable event my campaign fails, I’ll accept a position on the Fox News Channel or talk radio as the token scientist and get paid to argue with people.
….Unfortunately I have a few concerns about 314 Action’s approach. First, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not convinced “more public funding” is the way for science to go. Whenever the government gets involved, they will control what gets funded and what doesn’t. Do you believe the committee doling out government grants will be immune from bias and political pressure? What will prevent them from funding only those scientists whose views they agree with?
Second, and this is the much bigger problem, this site is run by a plagiarist who copies the words of others with no attribution. Since citing your sources is one of the most basic aspects of science, I suspect 314 Action may be the work of paid astroturfers masquerading as scientists. Here’s an example, from their page on gun violence:
Edit: After I posted this, 314 Action took down the page to try to hide their plagiarism! Fortunately, I took some screen shots 🙂
With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence.
This was taken word for word from the statement by the American Medical Association after the Pulse nightclub massacre:
“With approximately 30,000 men, women and children dying each year at the barrel of a gun in elementary schools, movie theaters, workplaces, houses of worship and on live television, the United States faces a public health crisis of gun violence,” said AMA President Steven J. Stack, M.D.
If the author of that post were a student in my class, he or she would find him or herself on a trip to the Honor Court. If I did that, I’d lose my job. Worse, the claim is misleading at best. Out of those 30,000 deaths, 21,334 were suicides.
The CDC studies several forms of violent activities, including child abuse, youth violence, suicides and sexual assaults, but the organization does not collect data on gun violence due to legislation dating to 1996 that prohibits research funds from being used “to advocate or promote gun control.”
Once again, this is a plagiarized quote. It’s taken word for word from an article in The Wire, published on December 17 2015 by Tom Waring. If I plagiarized twice in my profession, I’d never work as a scientist again.
But is this even true? Can the CDC really not research “gun violence”, a misleading term since violent acts are committed by human beings, not inanimate objects? Of course they can, here is a map from the CDC on firearm mortality by states.
What is the CDC barred from doing? The answer is in the last part of the sentence, “to advocate or promote gun control.” A government agency can’t advocate against a Constitutionally-protected right and for good reason. The Bill of Rights was written to place limits on the federal government to prevent exactly this kind of behavior.
I could go on debunking more of their claims, but I think you get the point. I know many of my friends in science want to become more politically involved. But don’t be fooled by phony sites like this one.