Andrew Dessler on the Threat to American Science

January 17, 2019


You don’t need education if you’re planning for a nation of serfs.

Andrew Dessler on Twitter:

As the shutdown continues to harm U.S. science in myriad ways, I worry a lot that we’re on the cusp of a long-term decline in U.S. science.

U.S. research universities are the envy of the world. These research universities and the research they generate produce enormous economic benefits for us — see, e.g., Silicon Valley, biomedical research …
Our research universities also attract the smartest students from around the world; they all want to come to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies.
This in turn is one of the things that makes our universities so good — we get the world’s smartest students. I note that there are plenty of smart Americans, but there are not enough who want to get a Ph.D. to do all of the research our universities are doing.

Many of these foreign-born students return home after graduation, which is why if you go to China you’ll find their faculty is full of U.S. Ph.D.s. Because they’ve lived in the U.S. for several years, these faculty spread a positive view of the U.S., which is good for us. But here’s the kicker — we keep the very smartest of them. The most productive, most original, most entrepreneurial, etc. get faculty jobs here in the U.S. or jobs at gov’t labs. See @climateofGavin, @khayhoe and many others for examples.

This is the key advantage U.S. science has over other countries. When I worked at NASA Goddard, I marveled that you could walk down the halls and see people who were born all over the world. We’ve taken the smartest people from around the world and they work for us now!
A lot of what Trump has done is diminishing the U.S. lead in science. This shutdown is harming science in numerous ways, and the immigration policies also make it harder and less attractive for very smart people to come to the U.S. e.g.,

At some point, smart people will say, “I don’t want to go there.” Perhaps that will make some Trump supporters happy, but I can assure you it will degrade our scientific enterprise and we will be worse-off for it.
Many other countries would love to take the mantle of science leader away from the U.S. China, for example, is investing huge amounts of money in research and research infrastructure. If we’re not cognizant of these risks, the U.S. will become a 2nd-rate science power.

Below, Dr. Dessler at his best, explaining satellite temperature data.


8 Responses to “Andrew Dessler on the Threat to American Science”

  1. ecoquant Says:

    Not only American science … The frankly unwelcoming attitude, not only by this administration, but by the attitude projected by their supporters, the hostility towards cities and centers hosting major educational institutions, and to, frankly, high technology, has talented engineers, scientists, and mathematicians who might hail from Pakistan or Iran or India, or South America to feel a place in the USA working for a United States company is something that’s getting old.

    They do want to return home to visit family, and if the return trip is delayed and hell because they are perceived to be a threat, this is unpleasant.

    Moreover, I have witnessed business meetings at high tech firms disrupted because people traveling from India were outrageously delayed by TSA and Borders.

    Ultimately, to the degree to which companies cannot find this talent in the United States — and they can’t — this means not only our quality of life will suffer, but the very military and Department of Defense that seems to be the focus of much of these measures will deteriorate and become second rate. This won’t be seen soon, since the time from lab to field deployment is long. But it also means that talent will be going elsewhere, more friendly. And it means countermeasures to U.S. military assets will also be coming along.

    This is an unlearning of the lesson Vannevar Bush so singly conveyed after World War II.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Once again, ecoquack demonstrates how out of touch he is with the reality of what’s happening in America. Perhaps understandable from the perspective of someone who lives in a well-to-do, 98% white town like Westwood, MA (and has the deep and narrow “silo” vantage point of an engineer as well), but that makes his “opinions” worth little beyond demonstrating that he holds himself in high regard and wants us to know it.

      The real problem is that the Repugnants and Trump are destroying the prospects for the middle Americans in flyover country and the lower 3/4 of the income spectrum, black, brown, and white—-declining life expectancy, opioid epidemics, increasing suicide rates, reduced access to education, ever-increasing income inequality, racism and sexism—-it is not the alleged shortage of “technical” types coming here from abroad that is going to ruin this country, but the way we treat the people who are here.

      To look at just immigrants from South Asia—-this country is loaded with Patels, Singhs, and Khans—-many of them ARE technical types, at least the ones that came first—-lately they have tended to go into the motel-convenience store-donut shop business, where they dominate in many areas. Good Americans all, and living the “dream” but far from ecoquack’s little world.

    • redskylite Says:

      Arrrgghhhhh – John Lennon (RIP) is turning in his grave, sorry John;

      Proud mom Michelle Kornowski captured video of her son, Adam, performing the song during the talent show at Lakeside Elementary in Chisago City, Minnesota, on May 24.(2018)

  2. redskylite Says:

    Good, thought provoking article, and not only applies to the U.S – Brazil recently swung to the far right, as have several European states and of course the ongoing saga of BREXIT. I”m sure people from other countries come into contact with this anti immigrant/foreigner sentiment from local sources.

    While in the world of politics, we often see a pendulum swing between ideologies, lately it seems to be going more and more to the right.

    I have been wondering if this is in part, due to the knowledge (subconscious or conscious) that with looming sea level rise, unlivable temperature highs and other climate extremes (on top of local conflicts & war), even more people will be sadly clamoring to relocate to greener and safer pastures.

    Is this a closing of ranks? part of an inherited tribal survival – or just crass human behavior.

    Will the U.S return to relative normality in 2020? – I pray for it; The world needs reassurance and steadying from the leader of the Free world.

    • redskylite Says:

      Arrrgghhhhh – John Lennon (RIP) is turning in his grave, sorry John;

      Proud mom Michelle Kornowski captured video of her son, Adam, performing the song during the talent show at Lakeside Elementary in Chisago City, Minnesota, on May 24.(2018)

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