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Thursday, December 04, 2003

Science v. Bush (guess who's losing) -  

Nicholas Thompson has a nice recent essay (link via Tapped) describing the extent to which science, and more broadly technical expertise is being ignored in the Bush administration.

Thompson's explanation for this phenomenon is, broadly, that scientists just don't matter politically. In of itself this is not a problem, obviously. What is a problem though is that many viewpoints supported almost uniformly by the scientific community turn out to be strongly opposed by communities that do matter poltically (e.g. religous convervatives strongly opposing therapeutic cloning and the teaching of evolution, the oil industry strongly opposing the recognition that humans have induced changes in the climate). In these cases the Bush administration regularly opts for political appeasement. A particularly damning incident...

...on Christmas Eve 2002, Bush appointed David Hager--a highly controversial doctor who has written that women should use prayer to reduce the symptoms of PMS--to the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Commission

To me the solution to this problem seems obvious. I work in the climate science community and for a long time the popular wisdom has been that administrations peopled by skeptics are good for scientists: policy is avoided but research budgets are enlarged. But on issues on which there is near consensus scientists can no longer afford to be bought off. Too much, our ability to cure disease, our life on a planet with a climate suitable for human habitation, is at risk.

UPDATE: I haven't read Hager's work so I'm at a disadvantage here. It is worth noting that he has apparently never suggested that prayer alone can be used to deal with PMS. The extent to which he suggests/proscribes prayer as a part of an approach to holisitic medicine is unclear (link from reader AVV). It is equally important to note that this in no way invalidates the central point of Thompson's article.
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