Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Return of the Geeks
An excellent Mother Jones piece on Republican political meddling, censorship, and obstruction with science.

Waxman had this to say: "While I appreciate the value of vigorous scientific debate, I question why White House economic advisers are apparently conducting their own research on right whales and why the vice president's staff is challenging the conclusions of the government's scientific experts." And indeed, the whole saga does seem pretty over the top. But it also perfectly fits a recurring pattern across President Bush's two terms.

Again and again, at agency after agency, government science has been undermined, torqued, twisted, muzzled. For eight years the scandals have just kept coming—so much so that even very high-level appointees like the surgeon general and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have encountered interference with their attempts to convey scientific information. "It is an outcome of the 'faith based' presidency, with many decisions made based on instincts rather than facts," says Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, who's served as a nasa adviser. "The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence. The Bush administration treats science as if you have a choice regarding whether or not to accept demonstrable scientific knowledge, analogous to the choice of which church to go to or which type of automobile to drive." Meanwhile, the battery of insults has dragged down the morale of scientist civil servants and amped up the cynicism of Americans who've watched their government grow increasingly dysfunctional. "We're beyond 'here's another abuse,'" says Francesca Grifo, director of the scientific integrity program at the ucs. "It's more how they changed the system to turn it into this new kind of machine that perpetually sidelines the science."