Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced amendment 2631 to H.R. 2847 with the aim of prohibiting the National Science Foundation from funding research in political science. Senator Coburn's amendment is not based on an understanding of the nature of scientific research nor a concern for funding scientific projects that, as he says, "expand our knowledge of true science and yield breakthroughs and discoveries that can improve the human condition." Rather, Coburn is attempting to interfere in the funding of science purely on the basis of political motivations and base anti-intellectualism. I strongly urge you to oppose this amendment.
I am an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, and my main area of teaching and research is in the philosophy of science and technology, which addresses, among other thing, the nature of scientific inquiry. While the differences between the natural and social sciences is a complex and subtle academic issue, there is absolutely no basis for the wholesale discrimination against political science and the social sciences generally that Coburn's amendment implies. Political science no less than physics or chemistry aims at knowledge and discoveries that can improve the human condition. If it is relatively less developed than some of the natural sciences, that is all the more reason to fund its improvement, especially in a day and age in which social and political problems are as or more pressing than problems dealing exclusively with the mechanisms of the natural world.
For the sake of the growth and integrity of science, I urge you to vote against such an amendment.
Matthew J. Brown, Ph.D.