Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I'm not entirely sure what the point of this article is:

President Obama’s directive on Monday to “guarantee scientific integrity” in federal policy making could have a far-reaching impact, affecting issues as varied as climate change, national security, protection of endangered species and children’s health.

But it will not divorce science from politics, or strip ideology from presidential decisions.

Mr. Obama delighted many scientists and patients by formally announcing that he was overturning the Bush administration’s limits on embryonic stem cell research. But the president also went one step further, issuing a memorandum that sets forth broad parameters for how his administration would choose expert advisers and use scientific data.

The document orders Mr. Obama’s top science adviser to help draft guidelines that will apply to every federal agency. Agencies will be expected to pick science advisers based on expertise, not political ideology, the memorandum said, and will offer whistle-blower protections to employees who expose the misuse or suppression of scientific information.

The idea, the president said in remarks before an audience of lawmakers, scientists, patients advocates and patients in the East Room, is to ensure that “we make scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology”: a line that drew more applause than any other. Irv Weissman, who directs an institute at Stanford University devoted to studying stem cells, called the declaration “of even greater importance” than the stem cell announcement itself.

It was also another in a long string of rebukes by Mr. Obama toward his predecessor, President George W. Bush. Mr. Bush was often accused of trying to shade or even suppress the findings of government scientists on climate change, sex education, contraceptives and other issues, as well as stem cells. But Mr. Obama’s announcement does not elevate science to some new and exalted place in his administration.

“Scientists should have no illusions about whether they make policy — they don’t,” said Harold Varmus, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and co-chairman of a panel that advises Mr. Obama on science matters.

The directive, Dr. Varmus said, was simply intended “to provide the best available scientific information” to those who make policy decisions.

So if you follow that, the fact that the Obama administration has altered standards to ensure that scientific principles are rigorously followed in the hiring of science advisors and in crafting policy is Obama, according to the headline of this article, putting "his own spin on mix of science with politics" and this does not "elevate science to some new and exalted place in his administration." Worse yet, the reporter gives Bush administration officials venue to spout nonsense like this:

But Mr. Bush’s defenders see Mr. Obama as just imposing an ideology of his own. They say Mr. Bush did not ignore scientific facts; rather, he took the counsel of scientists and used it to make a policy determination that reflected his values, just as Mr. Obama is doing in lifting Mr. Bush’s restrictions on stem cell research.

“Those who suggest that the Bush administration did not rigorously apply science are themselves ignoring the facts,” said Karl Rove, the former president’s political strategist.

Mr. Rove called Mr. Obama’s declaration on restoring scientific integrity “simply hyperbole and hyperventilation,” and he disputed Mr. Waxman’s accusation on climate change, saying the Bush White House “put more money into global climate research than any administration in history, by a significant factor.”

Why were any former administration officials even asked their opinion on this change, other than out of some sort of misguided sense of journalistic fairness and "balance" that requires any news that might be somewhat favorable to the present administration to be balanced by critiques, however disingenuous and uninformed, from Republican partisans? It's not as if reporters for the NY Times didn't repeatedly chronicle throughout the Bush administration's tenure one bastard hybridization of science and policy after another. And where does the throwaway line about the "exalted" place of science come from? Are NY Times readers now so stupid that they don't realize that this decision doesn't mean a cabal of scientists will now rule the nation?
What a dumb and useless article.

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