The Republican Party's Science and Technology Policy Platform

What the GOP thinks about sex ed, fracking, abortion, stem cells, nuclear power, climate change and more.

Science is "the endless frontier," as Vannevar Bush, director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, famously declared in a report back in 1945. Since then, technological progress stemming from scientific discoveries has fueled a sixfold increase in the size of the American economy and more than tripled per capita incomes. Politicians of all stripes recognize the importance of science and technology to our future well-being.

So what does the official Republican Party Platform have to say about science and technology policy in various areas?

Research and Development

Republicans "support federal investment in basic and applied biomedical research" especially in the area of neuroscience which "that may hold great potential for dealing with diseases and disorders such as Autism, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's."  The platform also oddly claims, "If we are to make significant headway against breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, and other killers, research must consider the special needs of formerly neglected groups."

Neglected groups? Women have a 1 in 8 lifetime risk of developing breast cancer; men a 1 in 6 lifetime risk of prostate cancer; and a 2003 article in the Journal of American Medical Association estimated the lifetime risk of diagnosed diabetes mellitus to be roughly 1 in 3 for males and 2 in 5 for females. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends over $1 billion per year on diabetes research, $700 million on breast cancer research, and $285 million on prostate cancer research.

The Republican platform also advocates "a permanent research and development tax credit" for corporate R&D. The current version of the tax credit encourages corporations to invest between $5 and $10 billion in additional R&D each year.

Sex Education

Republicans appear to be obsessed with the sexual and reproductive decisions of their fellow Americans. With regard to sex, the platform advocates “abstinence education” for teens, declaring that it is "effective, science-based, and empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes and avoid risks of sexual activity." For what it is worth, the platform does correctly note that abstaining from sex is "100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually." Of course, abstaining from sex is 100 percent effective in preventing in-wedlock pregnancies too.

But is abstinence education "science-based" and "effective?"Abstinence education since 1997 has been supported by about $2 billion in federal funding, which is matched by state funding. In addition, its enabling legislation declares that, among other things, the abstinence education program teaches that a "mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity." That may be true, but is it science? Apparently because information about contraception and safe sex practices might tempt teens to experiment with sex, abstinence-only education programs generally may not discuss them.

Proponents of abstinence education can point to some studies that suggest that it is "effective," i.e., that it reduces teen sexual activity and out-of-wedlock births. But most research points the other way. For example, a study published in 2011 in the online journal PLoS One looked at the teen pregnancy rates in states with greater emphasis on abstinence-only programs versus those with comprehensive sex education programs. The study controlled for factors like socio-economics, ethnic composition, Medicaid family planning availability and so forth. The study found: "The more strongly abstinence is emphasized in state laws and policies, the higher the average teenage pregnancy and birth rate." Interestingly, the lowest teen pregnancy rates were found in states in which sex education classes discussed abstinence, contraception, and safe-sex practices. More information is better than less — who would have thought that?

Why bother trying to impose a specific type of sex education on kids, since presumably the GOP's school choice plank should make that issue moot?

Stem Cells

The platform calls for "expanded support for the stem-cell research that now offers the greatest hope for many afflictions — with adult stem cells, umbilical cord blood, and cells reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells — without the destruction of embryonic human life." One assumes that "expanded support" in this context means additional federal funding for such research. The platform remains silent on the question of privately funded research on embryonic stem cell research. Is there scientific evidence that the GOP-approved forms of stem cell research offer the "greatest hope" for cures? Indeed, umbilical cord blood stem cells have been successfully used to treat childhood leukemia and a bioengineered trachea using a patient’s own adult stem cells has been successfully transplanted.

Induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs) are adult cells that have been dosed with factors that reprogram them so that they, like embryonic stem cells, can be differentiated into many different cell types. The research aims to take adult cells, say skin cells, from an individual patient and turned into IPSCs. The IPSCs could then be differentiated into young cells, say heart or nerve cells, and then transplanted to repair the patient's damaged organs. Researchers hope that, since IPSCs come from the patient herself, the patient's immune system will not reject the newly transplanted cells.

However, a 2011 study in Nature comparing immune tolerance of embryonic stem cell and IPSC transplants in mice found that mice were more likely to reject IPSCs, possibly because of abnormal gene expression in the IPSCs. Nevertheless, further research in IPSCs could yet yield cures. What the Republican platform fails to recognize is that the development of IPSCs depended on earlier research on embryonic stem cells that identified the biological factors that make them possible. In addition, research in mice shows that IPSCs can be turned into embryos, so someday human IPSCs might be used to produce healthy human babies.  But perhaps this possibility is covered by the Republican Platform's stand in favor of a "ban on human cloning and on the creation of or experimentation on human embryos."

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  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Ronald Bailey Parses the GOP Platform's Sci-Tech Policy Planks

    Ronald Bailey, I rename thee "Sisyphus"

  • ||

    more than tripled per capita incomes

    In 1964 you could buy a gallon of gas for one silver quarter.

    In 2012 that same silver quarter can buy you a gallon of gas....

    Does Ron think inflation is a technological advancement?

  • Ron Bailey||

    Corning: The GDP and per capita income figures I used are inflation adjusted. BTW, the price of gasoline in 1960 in inflation adjusted terms would be about $2.35 in today's inflated currency.

  • Ron Bailey||

    "in inflation adjusted terms would be about $2.35 in today's inflated currency." The Department of Redundancy Department strikes again!

  • T o n y||

    If solar socialism is bad, why is nuclear socialism OK?

    Great question. Perhaps for the same reason that government telling kids about condoms is bad, but government forcing women to give birth against their will is good. Cultural preference--the Republican party being a sick, twisted culture of depravity.

  • ||

    Perhaps for the same reason that government telling kids about condoms is bad, but government forcing women to give birth against their will is good.

    That does not happen Tony. We do not live in the world of "The Handmaid's tale" that world is a work of speculative fiction.

  • Zombie Jimbo||

    And absolutely hilarious to boot.

  • T o n y||

    Granted it's not the only way to describe outlawing abortion--but it is certainly one way.

  • OldMexican||

    Re: Tony,

    Perhaps for the same reason that government telling kids about condoms is bad, but government forcing women to give birth against their will is good.

    And you're absolutely right - government should not tell anybody about condoms or make women do anything. Women that kill their babies should be shunned by anyone who believes in the sanctity of life, not to be given services or goods in exchange or charity - that would be the non-aggresive way. But to have the government make them do anything is wrong. Just like making people give their money agaisnt their will is wrong.

  • Brutus||

    I dunno, OM, if government doesn't protect life and property, what good is it? And if it actively participates in the subversion of both, hasn't it truly slipped its leash?

  • KB Marx||

    I don't agree with taxpayers money for abortion or anything else related to one's own health care for that matter however, I will ask you, Old Mexican, if men could get pregnant, don't you think the right to an abortion would be in the constitution?

  • Brutus||


  • KB Marx||


  • ||

    I believe you heard him correctly. If the government is supposed to protect life, liberty, and property, then this includes everyone's life, liberty, and property.

  • David Emami||

    For your "someone who can get pregnant will automatically support abortion" logic to hold, we wouldn't see any pro-life women. But we do. And while I don't know how the opinion polls break down about women vs. men's support for abortion in general, from what I've seen pro-life women tend to be *much* more vehement about the issue than pro-life men.

  • ||

    This fits my anecdotal experience as well. The most vehement anti-abortionists I know are women.

  • ||

    Tony, of course, favoring any sort of socialism, just so long as it leads to unproductive outcomes.

    And of course, forcing individuals to pay for women to terminate their pregnancies (a major plank in this year's DNC platform) is an exercise in virtuousness while forcing women not to terminate their pregnancies is twisted depravity.


  • Brutus||

    If men aren't supposed to proffer opinions on abortion, shouldn't men who only put their semen into other men especially STFU? Talk about having no dog in the fight...

  • OldMexican||

    But is abstinence education "science-based" and "effective?"

    Just what is so difficult about teaching that "penis" plus "vagina" equals "baby"?

    The morality of abortion will not be decided by scientific evidence,

    As with anything else in this world, Ron. Good and Evil are not decided on utilitarian or pragmatic terms because it leads to god awful results we are very familiar with.

  • OldMexican||

    The Republicans promise to end the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "war on coal" and encourage its safe development.

    This "war on coal" canard is just a mirage, a dog and pony show. The Republi_rats are just as happy to use the EPA to control people as are the Demo_rats, otherwise any of the subsequent Republi_rat presidents since Nixon would have repealed it the same way it was imposed - by presidential fiat. It does not matter who wins, the EPA will continue to grow and strew misery along the continental US and her territories.

  • Russell||

    "Liberty alone fosters scientific inquiry,." At least we can all agree on that, right?"

    Wrong, Ron- if conservative Republicans are not at liberty to discuss the ramifications of climate change for conservation in their own party platform, how are they to foster the relevant technological innovation, entrepreneurship, and information exchange?

    Romney's caffeine-free teapartese is as bad as Imhofe Perry's Klimate Koolaid.

  • Brutus||

    Ron, you might want to study the effects on a society when it resolves to exterminate 50 million of its potential citizens over 40 years. How many scientists, doctors, artists, businessmen, entrepeneurs have been aspirated from existence? What sort of wealth and wonder have we foregone in the process? And who's going to be paying for all of these welfare-state goodies for the Boomers that aborted their kids?

  • Russell||

    "How many scientists, doctors, artists, businessmen, entrepeneurs have been aspirated "

    into shotgun marriages if male , or involuntary servitude as single parents if female, increasing the surplus population of welfare-state clients in the process?

  • KB Marx||

    The Republicans are the fact-free party when it comes to scientific and technological development. They are incapable of understanding the consequences of the things they are doing. Not only will the cutbacks on stem cell research, contraceptive use, and making all fertilized eggs people damage society but also the economy and the biomedical industries. Fucking morons.

    From an economic point of view, cutting government spending on scientific research and allowing for private investors to take part in these deals would benefit the industry more than banning the whole practice altogether.

    As for morality? Well, I'm sorry but I'm no fool to think that a sperm cell is half a person. Let alone a zygote being given the rights of a full person.

  • Brutus||

    Not only will the cutbacks on stem cell research, contraceptive use, and making all fertilized eggs people damage society but also the economy and the biomedical industries.

    How will this "damage society?" And who's talking about doing anything with contraceptive use, aside from not buying Sandy Fluke her monthly pills?

    And lastly, why should the biomedical industry be supported by taxpeyers over, say, the machine tool or potato chip industries?

  • KB Marx||

    Investors can also be individual people. And I'm not sure if too much tax dollars should go towards RD considering the debt circumstances. We owe trillions and some cuts need to be made. I'm all for scientific advancement and finding cures for disease but not through outrageous government spending. Besides, many non-profit organizations accept donations in order to fund research for cures for disease and other scientific research.

    And have you heard Santorum and Romney a few months ago? Ryan's idea of making a fertilized egg equal to a human being would ban forms of contraception such as the pill, the patch, the IUD, and other hormonal methods of contraceptions.

  • Brutus||

    So you agree with me.

  • KB Marx||

    Not really.

  • ||

    He's trying to tell you he hasn't thought about any of these issues any deeper than "My team's better than your team!"

    Unfortunately, as this Republican agenda clearly demonstrates, neither party is particularly interested in leaving their hands off of the science and technology industries. All you're going to end up quibbling with KB Marx about is how much money should be spent and to what endeavors it should be directed.

  • Homple||

    "Republicans appear to be obsessed with the sexual and reproductive decisions of their fellow Americans."

    And Democrats appear to be obsessed with having the rest of us pay for their genital amusements: Sandra Fluke's birth control, welfare for illegitimate kids, and abortions for the rest.

  • Bill||


    These two sentences read together caused me some initial confusion.

    "That may be true, but is it science? Apparently because information about contraception and safe sex practices might tempt teens to experiment with sex, abstinence-only education programs generally may not discuss them."

    I read it as apparently it is science. I suggest a word such as bizarrely or something like "Apparently it is the opposite of science; information about ......"

  • Ron Bailey||

    Bill: Sorry for any confusion, but I intended the first sentence to refer to the claim that virginity until monogamous marriage might be a "true" observation (in the sense of a certain moral view), but that it's questionable that that claim is somehow necessarily warranted by scientific evidence.

  • ||

    Why should the government be teaching children about the topic at all?

  • Ron Bailey||

    alan_s: What topics should the government be teaching? :-)

  • Jesse James Dean||



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