In a recent article by the humorously named Scientific American, Joshua Krisch delivered a dire warning on what could happen to “science” if Congress should “shut down” the government again.
Apparently, the two weeks of civil government shutdown in 2013 had dire and lasting effects on the scientific community. Lab rats died (from euthanasia to prevent overcrowding), at least one international conference was skipped, scientists were locked out of their labs, and desperate medical volunteers had no access to experimental remedies. Gasp.
There are so many stupid things in this article. Where do I begin? How about this: the word “science.” The fact that science has taken on this reified quality, like it’s some Greek god in need of appeasing or some character in a badly written dialogue of worldviews, should speak volumes about how degraded our view of science has actually become. You would never hear someone talking about “the damage a government shutdown could do to philosophy.” Because everyone knows that “philosophy” is a multi-faceted, nuanced discourse. Not a unilateral pronouncement. As Michael Crichton pointed out so aptly, consensus science is not science. Science, even more than philosophy actually, is about non-consensus, experimentation, and rebellions against established paradigms.
So what does this have to do with the government shutdown? A lot actually: “Congress funds about one third of all research in the United States . . .” Do you know what that means? Consensus science is functioning at the behest of its patron—the civil government. Congress holds the purse strings, but somehow people think Congress doesn’t also hold the puppet strings. Naïve. The reason why consensus science has become “Science the Incontrovertible” is because the veneer of scientific authority is no more than a rhetorical device for silencing opposition. And not just scientific opposition, mind you. Political opposition.
So long live the government shutdown on science. Scientific research should be forwarded by people who would do it in their basements and garages even if they had no funding. Science has been and ever should be a discourse between the private and renegade pursuits of method and knowledge by people who aren’t milking an everlasting paycheck or waiting on the divine word of the constraining consensus. That’s not science. That’s just government as usual. May it die painfully.