A reader writes:

Believe it or not, sequencing the DNA of Seals, Bears, Lobsters, pick-a-ridiculous-sounding-animal has merit, both in evolutionary and ecological terms.  Why these projects aren't funded through the National Science Foundation or the National Human Genome Research Institute and are instead shuttled off into earmarks is a valid question, but as a genetics professor, I'm tired of our field being the butt of an "easy" joke.

Fine, but your problem is with McCain, not me. Another reader and scientist adds:

You ask:

The DNA of seals?

I get so tired of this kind of response to specific earmarks: "WE SPEND THAT MUCH $$$ ON THAT [funny-sounding scientific research project]???" There are likely very good scientific reasons to study the DNA of seals. Perhaps it will help us understand the whole marine ecosystem of the northern pacific as a monitor of effects of climate change. Or perhaps something else.

We on the left decry the Bush administration for ignoring science, wanting to kill endangered species, etc, but forget that understanding climate change, ecosystems, which species need saving, etc, requires research and this requires money. The issue should not be that federal money is spent on scientific research, but rather the selection process itself. Why is a project like this funded through a congressional earmark, rather than through the standard peer-review process via a funding agency like NSF?

Of course, this is probably too subtle for the current campaign but expressing ignorant outrage like this over funny-sounding research only feeds the nation's continuing slide into anti-intellectualism.  Much of what we know about climate change, for example, may well have been funded by funny sounding earmarks.

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