March 5, 2024

Bush under pressure from scientists

 More than 4,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel laureates and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences have signed a letter accusing the Bush administration of imposing a conservative political ideology on American science. The same letter was released in February by an environmental lobby group, the Union of Concerned Scientists, with only 62 names. Their opponents, however, counter that government-funded science has always been politicised and that it is odd for scientists to be running a highly politicised campaign against politicised science.

Many of the scientist complain that they deserved to be appointed to important government boards and panels because of their eminent professional standing. However they had been passed over because they opposed President Bush on issues like abortion, stem cell research, the morning-after pill or environmental regulation. Janet Rowley, an Australian scientist who was dropped without sufficient explanation from the President’s Council on Bioethics, charged that the Bush administration had exaggerated the usefulness of adult stem cells.

The Democrats are wooing the science vote by painting themselves as champions of stem cell research. Senator Kerry has promised to "lift the barriers that stand in the way of stem cell research". However, the mainspring of his bioethical vision is far from clear. This week he told an Iowa newspaper that although he favours abortion rights he still believes that life begins at conception. His campaign spokeswoman said that this idea was news to her.