Should a Science Magazine Endorse a Political Candidate? Why Not?

seal
This is a seal of approval. (Photo credit: Craig Adderley. He is not responsible for my awful pun.)

Scientific American has, for the first time, endorsed a presidential candidate. I have seen some commentators bemoaning this decision. I, however, believe that SciAm made the right call. Here’s why…

The idea that science is apolitical is farcical. Science, and the scientific enterprise, are inherently political.

For starters, a lot of the research in the U.S. is funded by the federal government (44% as of 2015 – the last year for which I could find data). That means Congress decides how much funding each federal agency receives that it can then use to support research. (Congress, I will remind you, consists entirely of politicians.)

Lawmakers and political appointees at the agency level decide which subjects are off limits (gun control; stem cells). They decide which are prioritized (the cancer “moonshot“).

And science gets politicized all the time. Climate science is repeatedly attacked or belittled by one political party, despite consisting of observable, provable facts. For a news outlet that focuses on science news to pretend that this is not happening would be an abdication of its responsibility to share relevant information with its readers.

Frankly, I find it more ridiculous that Scientific American and other science outlets have historically ducked the issue of endorsing candidates. Of course who is in power matters to the scientific community – and to the process of seeking new knowledge.

Pretending otherwise strikes me as absurd.

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