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July 6th, 2004

Shades of Galileo

by Delbert Grady

Since the Miscreant has been in a Bush-bash mode lately, let’s this time turn away from simple politics to that eternal bastion of honesty and reason, science.

Apparently, just saying no to stem cell research, widely publicized, wasn’t the worst that could happen. An open letter from over 60 prominent scientists, published this year, asserts, among other things, “When scientific knowledge has been found to be in conflict with its political goals, the administration has often manipulated the process through which science enters into its decisions.” The letter was supported by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and rebutted, predictably, by John Marburger, Bush’s science advisor.

Among the tasty items mentioned by the UCS was a shrink who, being interviewed for a National Institute On Drug Abuse job was asked if he agreed with President Bush’s views on drugs and if he had voted for him. (He didn’t and didn’t get the job). Another, an engineer, was apparently eliminated from service on the Army Science Board because of the belief he had contributed to John McCain’s presidential bid in 2000.

This sort of thing seems to have been furthered with the elimination of four accredited speakers from an educational conference (by a high-level official), apparently due to their disagreement with administration policy. One of them, Howard Gardiner, a psychologist at Harvard, said “I actually feel sorry for Marburger because I think he is probably enough of a scientist to realize he has basically become a prostitute.”

As if all of this censorship, obstructionism and foolishness aren’t bad enough, it gets worse. In 2003 the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform acknowledged the USC report and also spoke of much scientific discomfort regarding the missile defense system being pushed by the administration. Another 2003 report by the American Physical Society concluded that booster-phase attack, a primary assumption of the efficacy of that program, would not work. Whoa, Nellie!

Well, stem cells, standardized tests for 4-year-olds and dislike of opponents are one thing, but Lucy In The Sky fantasies aren’t going to get us all out of taking a bite of that huge shit sandwich unless things go better than I think they will, partially as a result of these woebegone disavowances. Then, of course, maybe the sun really does revolve around the earth. And, after all, God will protect our fearless leader, and us… won’t he?

Delbert Grady

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a nonprofit partnership of scientists and citizens combining rigorous scientific analysis, innovative policy development and effective citizen advocacy to achieve practical environmental solutions.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy dismissed the scientists’ concerns and attempted to debunk the specific charges. “UCS stands by the findings and conclusions of our report.”

“We approached their statement as we had hoped they would approach ours-like scientists-fact based and with integrity,” said Gottfried. “We stand by our findings and will continue to voice the concerns of the scientific community as long as these activities continue.”

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