Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Rights and Reason: Scientists for State Science

Even a group of scientists have jumped on the 527 bandwagon:

While Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews and other rock stars sing on a "Vote for Change" concert tour, another disgruntled group - this one of scientists - will crisscross the well-worn landscape of battleground states over the next month, giving lectures that will argue that the Bush administration has ignored and misused science.

The group, Scientists and Engineers for Change, another addition to the flood of so-called 527 advocacy groups that have filled this year's election discourse, announced its existence and plans yesterday in a telephone news conference. At least 25 scientists will give talks in 10 contested states: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Among the headlining lecturers are 10 Nobel Prize winners, including Dr. Douglas D. Osheroff, a professor of physics at Stanford; Dr. Peter C. Agre, a professor of biological chemistry at Johns Hopkins; and Dr. Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health.

[. . .]

The group has no direct ties to the campaign of Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, but 9 members were among 48 Nobel laureates who signed a June 21 letter endorsing Mr. Kerry. Several of the scientists have also signed a statement from the Union of Concerned Scientists that accuses the Bush administration of manipulating scientific findings to support its policies. The union opposes the administration on numerous issues, including the environment and energy.

At the news conference, Dr. Vinton G. Cerf, one of the architects of the Internet in the 1960's and 1970's and current chairman of Icann, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, said, "Science counts, and it has not counted sufficiently in this administration."

Dr. Cerf said he was a registered Republican, but that he joined the group "in the hope that we bring debate, science and technology, into the political debate so that the electorate understands the importance that it has in our society."

Dr. Cerf said the United States was "at risk of losing the edge" in technology because the Bush administration was cutting basic research budgets at the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. [New York Times]
Manipulating scientific findings to support its policies? How about scientists who manipulate scientific findings to secure government grants?

The Bush record on science is certainly appalling, not because it allegedly cuts funding (it doesn't) but because it interferes with the freedom necessary to conduct science. The Republican’s attempt to squelch cloning science with the seeming support of the administration is a disgrace. That said, it look like "Scientists and Engineers for Change" are hardly any improvement.

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