Monday, March 9, 2009

Surrender!

Rolling Stone blogger Tim Dickinson shares the grim news, quoting President Obama:

I am also signing a Presidential Memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making. To ensure that in this new Administration, we base our public policies on the soundest science; that we appoint scientific advisors based on their credentials and experience, not their politics or ideology; and that we are open and honest with the American people about the science behind our decisions. That is how we will harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.
Dickinson labels this an overturning of the war on science, but I say it's an outright, abject, gutless, craven surrender. If President Obama is to be taken at his word, we shall derive public policy choices and priorities from a clear-eyed assessment of the best scientific conclusions rather than forcing scientific conclusions to fit the box of our dearest preferences. Bend over, America!

How dare he! Has he considered the possibility that, from time to time, valid scientific conclusions inconvenience large corporations and cherished belief systems? What hath we wrought by placing such a reality-enchanted rogue at the very seat of power?

Kidding aside: there is an ongoing effort to claim that liberals are exactly as ideological as conservatives on this count; Chris Mooney is charting this meme's development, and it bears watching. Liberals sometimes do let ideology cloud their acceptance of science -- Cf. ethanol, "clean coal" -- but they are far, far behind the conservative movement in this respect.

We all should insist that President Obama's very welcome pro-science, pro-reality statement be redeemed in deeds. Today's lifting of the ban on federal funding for stem cell research is an excellent start.

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