Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bush Science

An editorial in yesterday's New York Times highlights another example of the Bush administration's negligent anti-intellectualism and short-sightedness, this time in its subversion of science for political ends. In this case, the White House has censored government agencies and scientists who might sound the alarm about the impact of global warming. As the Times points out, "the Bush administration has worked overtime to manipulate or conceal scientific evidence — and muzzled at least one prominent scientist — to justify its failure to address climate change. Its motives were transparent: the less people understood about the causes and consequences of global warming, the less they were likely to demand action from their leaders."

The reality that politics and science behave like conjoined twins is hardly a new development in history. Politics and warfare have likely done more to push science forward than any other force. In the U.S., for example, Thomas Jefferson surely possessed a genuine interest in the specimens and data delivered by the Lewis and Clark expedition. Indeed, he was likely the most scientifically inclined president in our history. Nevertheless, he also understood the political ramifications of sending American explorers into territory that fell beyond the boundaries of the recently acquired Louisiana Purchase.

Additionally, few of us would deny the obvious connection between politics and the "space race" of the 1960s and 70s. John F. Kennedy's idealism and enthusiasm notwithstanding, competition with the Soviet Union drove the United States and NASA to the moon. But if fear of Soviet control of space helped lift Saturn V rockets from the launch platforms of Florida, the effort ultimately spurred an era of positive innovation that lasted long after the last Apollo astronauts returned from the moon.

In the case of the Bush administration, however, politics has had a negative impact, hindering scientific inquiry and education. As a result, the U.S. now lags behind much of the world in addressing the global warming crisis. Rather than tapping into our legacy as a nation committed to innovation, the country now seems content in its inertia, thanks to the perfidy of the White House. As the Times concludes: "This administration long ago secured a special place in history for bending science to its political ends. One costly result is that this nation has lost seven years in a struggle in which time is not on anyone’s side."

1 comment:

jblack designs said...

Perhaps the effects won't be long-lasting. We can hope.