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Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Obama Administration's War on Science

The New Scientist is shocked, shocked that the Obama administration is politicizing science. Under the headline We're waiting, Mr President, they tell us that the Obama administration is a far cry from the "dark days" of the Bush administration, but they are … waiting; waiting for the new policy on scientific integrity that's more than a year-and-a-half overdue.   Meanwhile ...

A US government report on a pressing environmental issue is edited to falsely imply that scientists had peer-reviewed and supported the central policy recommendation. Almost 1 in 4 government scientists working on food safety say they have been asked by their bosses to exclude or alter technical information in scientific documents during the past year.

These incidents sound as if they come from the dark days of George W. Bush's presidency, when complaints about political interference in government science reached a crescendo. But in fact, both refer to the behaviour of the current US administration, led by a president who famously promised to "restore science to its rightful place" in his inauguration speech of January 2009.

There is no question in the minds of the editors of the New Scientist that Bush was for fraudulent science. If we need any reminding – this is after all an article about the Obama administration – there’s this:

Francesca Grifo, who heads the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), says that her phone is no longer ringing off the hook like it did during the worst excesses of the Bush administration.
The authors go on to say that during the last year 23% of the scientist at the USDA have been asked to inappropriately alter their findings. Obama has been in office for two years, which makes the following sentence … incoherent:
The survey offers little evidence that things have improved much under Obama.
They then go on to point out, with no sense of irony, that at another agency, politicization of science has increased by 60% under Obama!

As this strange article concludes, we are left with the impression that the people at the New Scientist are beginning to feel like disappointed lovers, speaking of their “fondness” for this president. Obama promised to be theirs, and they’re “waiting.” There is a reference to lots of money going to scientists, illustrating  - if anyone doubted - that scientist can be bought as readily as any other interest group.

Like a star-struck teen, they call him a “…friend of science,” yet other than money, they present no evidence of that friendship. We are tempted to ask what was it in Obama’s history before becoming President, or during his administration, that made them believe he’s a “friend of science?” But we won’t because that’s a rhetorical question. The reason they believe is the reason so many believed: he's not Bush, he gives a good speech, he’s charming and the people at the New Scientist are no different than Obama Girl. They fell in love and reason leaves by the front door when loves comes in the back.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has a funny take on their conclusion. You have to be a student of history to understand. “ … note the “if the Czar only knew” bit in the final paragraph.” And no, it’s not about all the czars that Obama has created.

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