When is a nation’s science policy formulated without much input from actual scientists? It’s when that nation is the United States and when the policy in question is that of George W. Bush.
According to speakers at the national meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science last week, the Bush administration is putting the hush on input from scientists in key federal agencies. In fact, some scientists are being pressured to change their study conclusions if they do not support administration policy.
What that amounts to is bad science. But it’s not the scientist’s fault. It is simply an issue of the president ignoring the results of scientific studies he doesn’t agree with, or worse, forcing his own scientists to fudge the results to make them fall in line with what he wants.
Kurt Gottfried of Cornell University and the Union of Concerned Scientists said a survey of scientists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that about 42 percent said they felt pressured to not report publicly any findings that do not agree with Bush policies on endangered species.
Despite all the talk about going back to the moon or going to Mars, this president is doing more to harm fundamental research than any president in recent history. Reagan and Nixon were not big on science, either. NASA’s space program suffered tremendously under both administrations.
But neither of them, to the best of my knowledge, tinkered with scientific data to make it match administration policy.
Bush has also slashed the funding for basic research projects. He has made it more difficult for bright young scientists and students from abroad to enter the country and carry on their research. In fact, some scientists feel so hamstrung by administration policy that they have elected to go abroad.
Researchers working on embryonic stem cells, for example, are finding it easier to do their work in other countries, such as Britain.
California has had to step up to the plate itself to promote this vitally important area of research. Voters there approved a referendum to fund embryonic stem cell research even if the federal government does not. Massachusetts is considering a similar policy.
Some scientists have claimed the Bush administration has cut scientists out of some of the policy-making processes, particularly on environmental issues. They say during past administrations scientists were always at the table when policy was being developed, even if they didn’t always have the last voice.
Proven, widely accepted research on issues such as global warming is typically ignored by the Bush administration. Bush policymakers, who are non-scientists, are questioning the long-standing conclusions of world environmental scientists on these issues.
It’s one thing to ignore proven scientific facts in favor of political gamesmanship, but not to acknowledge that global warming is even a problem is the epitome of arrogance.
Conservative Republicans don’t care much for the environment because, frankly, many of them don’t believe humans will be here long enough to worry about long-term environmental problems. They won’t say it publicly, owing to the public flogging Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, took when he alluded to such a belief himself. But many of them think they will be “Raptured” away before global warming can cause much damage.
So their Rapture-friendly policies don’t leave room for much real science, despite the fact that most people, even many Christians, don’t even believe in the Rapture. It’s just one more sign of how the right wing policymakers in Washington are turning our country into a theocracy.
In a theocracy, one of the first things to go is science.