Changing the Channel
How are political parties like cable television packages?
This blog is generally about science and related ephemera. This morning, in the wake of the Conservative Party’s victory in Canada, my thoughts were about how people make their voting decisions on the basis of a selective subset of what each party stands for. Which may not sound much like talking about science, but I assure you that it is related.
When people vote for a political party, they generally home in on the part of the platform that most interests them, whether it is taxation, health care, or a moral issue such as abortion. In so doing, they ignore (or may actually be ignorant of) the party’s stand on other issues. In this sense, choosing a party is much like purchasing cable TV. Cable companies often offer channels in “packages,” where to get what you want you also must receive a lot of other things. You know why you are buying the package, but you probably never even look at the parts of it that are at some remove from your areas of interest.
In voting for a Conservative government, it seems that Canadians have selected the package that has the family channels, sports, and economic news channels that they want, but unfortunately they have made this decision for all of us. Did we all really want that 24-hour channel of nonstop monster trucks and tractor pulls? Why does this package have no arts channels other than country music?
From my perspective, a real concern is that the scientific channels now seem to feature a mix of “intelligent design” justification, gee whiz pieces on new entertainment devices, and climate change denial advertisements funded by big oil.
Canadians have long been envied by scientists in some other countries because our government provided solid funding for both applied science and pure, inquiry-driven research. When the Conservatives had a minority, they indicated that they were only interested in the former, and that the latter far too often opposed the economic or religious beliefs of some of their bedrock supporters. Now that they have a majority, will this be a body blow to Canadian scientific research? I sincerely hope that I am wrong, and that our new cable package will still have room for the Discovery Channel and the CBC.