Tuesday, November 07, 2006


While the major point of contention in the election is going to be Iraq, science is also going to have its fingers crossed about the outcome. As Paul says, there are so many cribs that science has about the Bush administration. But it's not just about allowing this or that kind of scientific research, it's about respecting the very notions that science stands for- truth, candor, skepticism, and rationality. What science needs from the government is not so much of funding as of trust in the objective evaluation that it does, and more importantly, the wisdom, equaniminity, and guts, to support its conclusions. While political agendas always take precedence over 'truth' and all politicians cherry pick on scientific findings to some extent, the Bush administration has stretched the line about falsifying and cherry picking the conclusions of sound science. One of the best accounts of the administration's egregious behaviour that I have read is Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science which might as well be titled The Republican War on Honesty.

Biodiversity research, stem cells and global warming have seen their good share of mudslinging and manipulation, Plan B was almost stifled, and we don't even have to get started on creationism. In the case of Plan B, it wasn't about just respecting science, but about respecting human dignity- it would give the roughly 4000 women who get pregnant from being raped every year, a chance to regain and retain some of their dignity.
About creationism, curiously as I mentioned previously, Bush has actually failed to get creationism taught in biology classes, hard as his minions have campaigned for it. In my opinion, he started out on the wrong foot; he could have probably managed to get it included in a comparative philosophy class, or one on the history of (bad) ideas. In fact, why not teach creationism in a class on Christianity, and tout it as a well accepted religious 'theory'? Too bad he missed this chance.

Be as it may, the Bush administration's track record for respecting science has been the worst ever. And so at stake in this election (and the 2008 one) is not only funding for science, but the very recognition of science as a candle in the dark, as an epitome not of faith, but of doubt. Because that's what fuels progress.


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