I knew there was something else I meant to say about the naughty Bush people, and this is it...
How much does it matter if the US "elite" believe in science or not? Will it work if they only believe in some bits? (I'm using "elite" in quotes to mean whatever-I-want-it-to-mean, of course).
It looks to me that a lot of people are complaining about the Bush executive's attitude to science, which appears to be to censor and/or obstruct anything they dislike or find inconvenient. I'm thinking about climate change, cos thats the bit I'm familiar with (although its not a great example, as any harm doesn't fall particularly on one country), but there are other isses (stem cells (I don't even know what they are...), Creationism, etc etc).
On these issues, science is telling Bush (OK, I'm going to say "Bush" from now on...; map him to a broader group in your mind) things he doesn't want to know. So he pushes away that bit of science. The problem is that doing this with an increasing array of different bits of science will leave him (if he is successful in hanging on) with the idea that this works.
Now I (and many other people) would argue that much of the material prosperity of modern industrial society is built on science/engineering, which simply doesn't work if you push away inconvenient facts. If your widget factory is making deformed widgets, its no good holding a commission of inquiry, then appointing some uncredentialled person to scrawl all over its findinsg, and conclude that the uncertainties are such that its possible some of the widgets are OK. They'll just stop working and if you do this enough your society will grind to a halt.
But... is it possible to envisage a situation where the wacko "elite" all believe in God, Creationism, no Global Warming, etc etc, and yet underneath there is a layer of technology that keeps working, keeps creating, and keeps your society ahead? Perhaps, if they let the underlayer alone, but they wouldn't. The creationists would interfere with the schools and universities. Can you really do genetics if you believe in creationism? (this is possibly a testable question: *are* there any genetics researchers out there (of any quality) who are known creationists?).
Well, I don't know, just thinking aloud. My other Great Theory about the collapse of the US is that it will decay under the weight of lawyers.