“As expertise grew in stature in an increasingly science-dominated world, smarts came to be resented – at least in the eyes of the burgeoning modern conservative movement: its adherents saw intellectuals putting themselves above everybody else, speaking with dripping disdain and walling themselves off in ivory towers where their liberal politics made them even more suspect. This is very much what the Reagan revolution was all about, and George W. Bush was its heir. Thus intellect became a central issue in our so-called “culture wars”…

John McCain and Sarah Palin certainly did try out the rhetoric of anti-intellectualism on Obama. Palin mocked the fact that he’d made much of his personal wealth through the sale of books and sneered at research on fruit flies and grizzly bears in a bid to make science sound like a self-indulgent pursuit that spends money but doesn’t produce anything useful. The attacks failed…

The goal must be nothing less than to break the cycle – to make intellectualism a permanent value of American culture. A two-term presidency would help. So would maintaining those early pledges of support to science. And most of all, there is leading by example, continuing to extol thinking, and not being afraid to come to its aid now and again.”