Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The wrong tool for solving political disputes

Excerpts of Daniel Sarewitz's column at Nature News:
Of course, during the regime of Republican president George W. Bush, opposition Democrats got surprisingly good political mileage from accusations that science and scientists were routinely suppressed, flouted or abused on issues ranging from stem cells to air pollution. But the political resonance of this subject has mostly died down during the Obama administration. Could this be because less than 10% of US scientists are Republicans? In any case, the fact is that Obama, like Bush before him, is not sacrificing his political agenda on the altar of science. (...)

The decade-long brouhaha over the politicization of science in the United States reflects an incorrigible cultural delusion: that if science were left alone to speak truth to power, it would exercise a purifying magic on the miasma of politics. The delusion serves politicians, who are free to hand over difficult choices to scientists, as they did with Yucca Mountain — and later with climate change. It also serves scientists, who get to maintain their position of high cultural authority and do a lot of research in the process.

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