REPUBLICANS WANT to turn over as many government functions as they can to the private sector. Medicare, education, environmental protection, and the economy in general would all be passed to private hands, monitored only by informed consumers in a free market.
Republicans would also take government out of funding scientific research. But as James Carroll points out, while free-market consumers know at least something about health care and the environment, the majority knows almost nothing about science.
In the past, non-scientists could relax as long as we were sure that government was monitoring discoveries; that a breakthrough in, say, genetics, would not lead to the sale of human clones in Walmart; that an oil company would not frack an entire geological layer out from under us.
But Carroll urges caution. As he presents the case, alternatives for the general public are these: Get up to speed in physics, chemistry, molecular biology, evolutionary biology, probability, and astronomy, or encourage the government to stay deeply involved in scientific research so we, through our vote, can have a say in how breakthroughs are used.