Science, Empiricism and the Bush Administration
As a political centrist capable of voting for either Bush or Kerry, the LawPundit is increasingly cognizant of news postings which raise flashing red lights in one’s brain about the venturing of the Bush administration into areas where they ostensibly do not belong.
Bush came to power under the campaign slogan of reducing centralized federal power, but it appears that in the relation of the federal government to science, exactly the opposite is happening.
An October 19, 2004 article by Andrew C. Revkin entitled Bush vs. the Laureates: How Science Became a Partisan Issue raises some troublesome issues about the partisan treatment of scientists by the Bush administration. It can not be that appointments to important scientific bodies are primarily dependent on how the scientist “thinks about President Bush”. If that is the case, things have gone too far. How one thinks about politicians should be largely irrelevant to any scientific task at hand.
In our opinion, any scientist of high rank would be highly skeptical of ANY politician in any political party … period, since scientists and politicians ideally have two contradictory objectives.
Scientists – the good ones – are empirical, are guided by facts and are undeterred in their quest by the changing and ephemeral beliefs and mores of the establishment. Politicians – most of them – are, to the contrary, like bobbers in a stream, adapting continuously to the volatile political environment around them. They must constantly be searching for consensus in the present. Empirical truths are secondary.
When science is required to follow “the party line”, empiricism is compromised and disaster may await down the road.
The best example of this is the infamous “scientific era” under Trofim Lysenko, who in the Stalinist period led biology in Russia (the former Soviet Union). He came to power because his ideas corresponded with the political doctrine of the leadership and with the flawed tenets of Marxist ideology. Lysenko denied the existence of genes e.g., a view which was then imposed upon the Soviet scientific establishment by the political body, thus leading to a dark age in Soviet science which lasted nearly 30 years.
We have similar current developments in America through the denial of evolution in some school systems, fully contrary to modern genetic research. If this kind of idiocy were to become widespread, the culture would be doomed.