During the speech Sarah Palin went off on a weird tangent and mocked fruit fly research, during a general tirade against earmarks. This was a speech about autism and disabilities, so why would Palin mock "fruit fly research" as wasteful pork? Didn't anybody in the campaign do any research? Fruit fly research, pardon the pun, has been very fruitful for scientific research. It is one of the foundations of modern biological research.
In her remarks Palin said:
This is a matter of how we prioritize the money that we spend. We've got a three trillion dollar budget, and Congress spends some 18 billion dollars a year on earmarks for political pet projects. That's more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good -- things like fruit fly research in Paris, France...
Here is what science blog BiochemicalSoul.com had to say:
Keith Olbermann covered this on his show Friday night in his first segment, and the he interviewed Richard Wolfe of Newsweek. Richard had the best line when he said "This is the most mindless, ignorant, uninformed comment that we have seen from Governor Palin so far, and there's been a lot of competition for that prize."
The fruit fly (Drosophila) has probably been the single most important organism for the study of genetics for over a century now. Almost everything we know about genetics, development, cell biology, neuroscience, and every other field of biology has strong roots in previous and current work on Drosophila. The fruit fly is one of a small handful of “standard model organisms” used by thousands of scientists across the world to learn how our bodies, organs, genes, and proteins work. Most of what we know about how a single fertilized cell becomes the amazingly complex beings we are comes from studies initially done in Drosophila. Vast amounts of our understanding of the brain (and brain disorders, diseases, and defects) also come from initial studies in fruit flies.
In fact, recent research from my own graduate alma mater, the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, on fruit fly brains has had an impact on the understanding of autism and has boosted autism research:
“[S]cientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for..nerve cell connections to form and function correctly. The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies may lead
to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders, as recently, human
neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.”
To decry research in [condescending and amazed tone] “the fruit fly” is a testament to the true idiocy of this woman and to the failure of our public education system.
In fact, her own father, Chuck Heath, was a biology teacher – obviously a complete failure of a biology teacher.
Why has the Republican Party made the decision to not respect science? It is too pervasive throughout the party, to have not been a conscious decision by the party. It's one more example of the intellectual laziness that pervades the GOP. Why do modern Republicans respect stupidity and ignorance?
Palin’s dismissal of all earmarks in her remarks were also dishonest. A simple search of the Office of Management and Budget website shows that there are at least 19 autism-related projects in the 2009 budget:
- $250K to Parents as Teachers National Center, St. Louis, MO, to develop research-based materials and training for home visiting professionals for families of children with autismNot every earmark is a waste of money, not every earmark is pork. And history shows that when it comes to priorities, there is little history that backs up Palin's grand statements in her speech.
- $200K for Southern Penobscot Regional Program for Children with Exceptionalities, Bangor, ME, for services for families with autistic children
- $100K to Marywood University, Scranton, PA, for campus-based autism education programs
John McCain and Sarah Palin run around all over the country giving speeches where they try to scare Americans about the dangers of expanding SCHIP and Medicaid for poor and sick children, yet this "evil socialism" would be avoided if the government is able to fund medical research or other special needs initiatives, to reduce disease and cure genetic disorders.
Palin’s rhetoric in the speech also does not square with her record, McCain’s individual market-centric health care plan, and penchant for gutting all forms of government programs.