May 08, 2003

Science yes; theocracy no

I wrote about this problem here; now Nick Kristof has picked up on it.

How can scholars investigate how AIDS spreads without using words that make the religious right blush?

Perhaps this seems like an obscure issue. It's not: the fundamental question is whether elements of the Bush administration are politicizing science, using budgets, advisory committees and the fear of embarrassment to chill the way science is conducted in America.

"I would recommend avoiding all electronic communication to any N.I.H. office," one scientist warned in one of many e-mail notes buzzing among AIDS researchers. "Phone communication does not appear tapped at this time. Even so, I am advising staff to speak `in code' unless an N.I.H. staff member indicates you can speak freely. In short, assume you are living in Stalinist Russia when communicating with the United States government."

Kristof concludes:

The bottom line, though, is that Mr. Bush must make it clear that he is on the side of scientists, not the witch burners. He can't stay on the fence. Too many Americans have already died of AIDS to allow promising fields of research to wither because some Americans get the willies when they see terms like "anal sex."

To which I can only add, the sooner the better, Mr. Bush. Your restrictions on stem cell research have already alienated the American scientific community; if you don't address this quickly, the consequences could be far worse.

Posted by Linkmeister at May 8, 2003 10:56 PM

The picture seems to look bleaker by the day on all fronts, doesn't it? So many fires to put out and so many tides to turn....

Posted by: Raye at May 9, 2003 06:22 PM

The problem is that Bush doesn't care. And more importantly, he feels like he doesn't need to.

Just like we thumbed our nose at the UN, France and Germany, he will now thumb his nose at scientists and intellectuals. Why? Because his agenda has nothing to gain from these people and they don't make up a large enough voting block to matter.

Address it quickly? Why would he do that? It's exactly what he wants. He wants these people to either shut up or work in fear. He is using the tactics of a dictator in the middle of a democracy. The crazy part is, that seems to work wonderfully.

As strange as it sounds, the way to beat Bush is to embrace traditional American values. Those being - Individual rights and liberties, freedom from unreasonable searches and harassment, superior technology and infrastructure, an independent and free press, separation of church and state, due process of law and right to counsel, and freedom of speech and protest.

Here are the principles the United States was based on.

"During the debates on the adoption of the Constitution, its opponents repeatedly charged that the Constitution as drafted would open the way to tyranny by the central government. Fresh in their minds was the memory of the British violation of civil rights before and during the Revolution. They demanded a "bill of rights" that would spell out the immunities of individual citizens."

"tyranny by the central government" Bingo. That's what we have now. We need to throw Bush out and return to the ideals our founding fathers fought for.

Posted by: Jon at May 14, 2003 11:45 AM