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Givens: War on science geared toward what's best for business

POSTED: February 19, 2013 1:00 a.m.

Research into a variety of issues has saved lived countless lives. Obviously medical research saves lives but research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration saves lives too. This agency receives about $62 million per year researching ways to reduce traffic fatalities and has succeeded. Vehicle-related deaths are lower now than they were in 1979, when there were fewer drivers on the road.

Understanding that research saves lives it makes sense to research the causes of and prevention of violence. Sociologists and psychologists as well as medical doctors research the causes and spread of violence just as they do the causes and spread of disease.

Before 1996, the Centers for Disease Control researched the causes of violence, injury and gun-related homicides. Due to heavy lobbying on the part of NRA the law now reads “None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

How can a researcher come to honest conclusions if she must make sure the results come out in a certain way? As a result of this law very little research into preventing gun deaths has been done.

Interestingly enough research into reducing gun violence may have more to do more with our entertainment and media than guns.

In 1996, Bhutan became the last nation on earth to introduce television and the Internet. Though not a wealthy nation, it was not violent. Now it has street gangs, gun violence a rising drug problem and open sexual promiscuity. Their kids are imitating what our television shows show them. They see the “Western” life on television and become dissatisfied with their own lives and families.

Research may reveal that we should be more detailed and serious about our media ratings system and treat violent video games and movies like controlled substances limiting their sale and consumption to persons over 18 or even 21. Any research used to justify such action will find lobbyists trying to discredit or defund it.

Upton Sinclair said, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Due to this there is an ongoing war on science and research. This is nothing new. As early as the 1920s, scientists suspected leaded gasoline and paint was a public health hazard. Doctors such as Randolph Byers were bullied into dropping their research. It took 50 years but the scientists finally won.

Since the facts can often be bad for business, the cycle is familiar, Scientists present research that could be used to support laws to address a problem. The laws will result in a loss of profit. Lobbying groups will then seek to block laws addressing the problem while spreading disinformation.

This has occurred with products and issues from tobacco to chlorofluorocarbons. The most tragic result of all this is that lobbying groups have trained the public to distrust researchers to the point that there seems to be a war on science.

Slandering science earns votes. Not only is science bad for business. It’s also culturally unpopular. Georgia U.S. Rep. Paul Broun described evolution, the Big Bang and embryology as lies straight from the pit of hell. He goes on to say they are lies to keep people from understanding they need a savior.

I understand his personal reasons for disliking evolution, but the Big Bang claims the universe came from a singular source and embryology is the study of how embryos develop. How are they lies being used to convince people they don’t need a savior?

With such prejudiced views of science, we must question, why Broun is on the House Science Committee.

We need leaders who aren’t prejudiced against good research because they don’t like what science is associated with, or because the results will be bad for business.

The NRA and conservative politicians have been pushing the mental health angle as a way to reduce gun violence yet they were the ones behind eliminating the CDC’s research. Locally, this year’s Georgia Budget proposal includes a cut of $2 million to the Severely Emotionally Disturbed student program. It’s time for reasonable voters to write their congressman and say, “We’re tired of blind government and we’re tired of blind cuts that only cost us more in the long run. We want our politicians to be well read and their decisions reason, and not just profit, based.”

Brandon Givens is a Hall County resident and frequent columnist.


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