Barack Obama, Saving Science from the Bush Dark Ages
Obama is already shining a saving light on science after the Dark Ages of the Bush administration. How? Apparently by being willing to accede to any left-wing "scientific" recommendation on stem cells, global warming, and sex education, the Times' Gardiner Harris and William Broad report in a Thursday story, "Scientists Welcome Administration's Words but Must Wait for Action," that reads like a good-government press release from a liberal group.
When he vowed in his Inaugural Address to "restore science to its rightful place," President Obama signaled an end to eight years of stark tension between science and government.
But many of the Bush administration's restrictions on science, like those governing stem cell research, will take time to be removed. And whether the Obama administration entirely reverses its predecessor's strict controls over the government's main scientific agencies remains to be seen.
On issues like stem cells, climate change, sex education and contraceptives, the Bush administration sought to tame and, in some cases, suppress the findings of many of the government's scientific agencies. Besides discouraging scientific pronouncements that contradicted administration policies, officials insisted on tight control over even routine functions of key agencies.
In early 2004, more than 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, issued a statement claiming that the Bush administration had systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry.
The administration, it said, had "misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies."
Just last month, the inspector general of the Interior Department determined that agency officials often interfered with scientific work in order to limit protections for species in danger of extinction.
These are the sort of wounds to scientific integrity that President Obama promised to heal in his Inaugural Address. The quickest-acting balm was the change of tone, delivered instantly in the speech.
The article says nothing about Obama's unscientific support for partial-birth abortion (despite sonogram technology showing what a fetus looks like in the 20-26 week rangeof gestation) or the fact that calling oneself a scientist doesn't give you the deciding vote in a democracy.
The reporters conclude with a quote from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a left-wing special interest group often favorably cited by the Times, which has been on an unscientific crusade against the Strategic Defense Initiative and nuclear power since it was formed in opposition to the Vietnam War in 1969:
And even though Mr. Obama and his staff members have promised to use science to drive policy, scientists say they need to stay vigilant against efforts to allow politics to drive science.
"Just because we have well-meaning smart people in there now doesn't mean this can't happen again," said Francesca Grifo, director of the scientific integrity program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.