Defending Science

Contributed by
Apr 13, 2006
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If you've been reading my blog for more than about three seconds, you'll know that I am pretty vocal about the issue of science being under attack by political and religious extremists (just go to the "Categories" link on my sidebar and click on "Antiscience"... clicking on "Rants" will net you a few entries as well).

There are many groups whose voices are starting to be heard about this as well. One group that has just started up is called Defend Science. Their goal is, in their own words,

to rally broad opposition and resistance to the mounting attacks on science and scientific thinking which are unfolding in the United States.

I'm for that! In fact, I really am. They are having a rally tonight (Thursday) on the Berkeley campus at 7:00 p.m. I was invited to go, and I was really looking forward to it, but I have come down with a bad sore throat and cannot go. However, I implore you, if you're in the area, to go. The speakers tonight include many scientists, who, like me, are fed up with this blatant, egregious, and frankly appalling attack on reality.

The group also has an online petition. Here is one part of it:

IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY SCIENCE, AS SCIENCE, IS UNDER ATTACK AS NEVER BEFORE.

The signs of this are everywhere. The attacks are coming at an accelerating pace, and include frequent interventions by powerful forces, in and out of the Bush Administration, who seem all too willing to deny scientific truths, disrupt scientific investigations, block scientific progress, undermine scientific education, and sacrifice the very integrity of the scientific process itself -- all in the pursuit of implementing their particular political agenda. And today this dominant political agenda is profoundly allied and intertwined with an extremist (and extremely anti-science) ideological agenda put forward by powerful fundamentalist religious forces commonly known as the Religious Right. These fundamentalists now have extensive influence and representatives in major institutions of the U.S. government, including Congress and the White House. This itself goes a long way towards explaining why science itself is under such unprecedented attack.

It is commonplace under the current Administration for the government to deny funding, censor scientific reports, or in other ways undermine scientific research which might turn up facts which they don't want to hear; to manipulate, distort, or outright suppress scientific findings they find objectionable; to attempt to reshape government scientific panels to obtain policy recommendations on issues ranging from health to the environment, based less on actual scientific findings than on the requirements of the Administration's agenda.

On their list are a few astronomers I know, including Gibor Basri, Andrew Hamilton, and (planet-finder) Geoff Marcy. I added my name there today as well.

This is not some ivory-tower issue (which in itself would be bad enough). When people are denied medicine because of the narrow-minded beliefs of someone else, when we live on a planet on the brink (over the brink) of an environmental disaster of a scale not seen since the Pleistocene, when obvious and evidence-based reality is squashed, mangled, and tortured by a few people who happen to be in charge (and many if not most times have the media as willing accomplices), then this affects all of us, every single one of us.

I will not sit idly by and watch this happen. Groups like Defend Science won't either. Support them.