Earth Science Is Not Hard Science

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U.S. geoscientists are accustomed to being used as a punching bag by climate change skeptics in Congress, who challenge the science of global warming. But some influential Republican legislators are now going a step further, by denigrating the discipline itself.

Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), the new chair of the science and space panel within the Senate commerce committee and an unofficial presidential candidate, asserted yesterday at a hearing that the earth sciences are not “hard science.

” Freshman Senator Cory Gardner (R–CO), a member of the panel and a rising star within the Republican Party, echoed Cruz’s words. And the new chair of an important science spending panel in the House of Representatives, Representative John Culberson (R–TX), has said repeatedly in recent weeks that the earth sciences don’t meet his definition of “the pure sciences.”

“We’ve seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds going to the earth sciences program at the expense of funding for exploration and space operations, planetary sciences, heliophysics, and astrophysics, which I believe are all rooted in exploration and should be central to NASA’s core mission,” Cruz said at yesterday’s hearing on NASA’s 2016 budget request. “We need to get back to the hard sciences, to manned space exploration, and to the innovation that has been integral to NASA.”

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