When Donald Kennedy, a biologist and editor of the eminent journal Science, was asked what had led so many American scientists to feel that George W. Bush’s administration is anti-science, he isolated a familiar pair of culprits: climate change and stem cells. These represent, he said, ”two solid issues in which there is a real difference between a strong consensus in the science community and the response of the administration to that consensus.” Both issues have in fact riled scientists since the early days of the administration, and both continue to have broad repercussions. In March 2001, the White House abruptly withdrew its support for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and the U.S. withdrawal was still a locus of debate at this summer’s G8 summit in Scotland. And the administration’s decision to limit federal funds for embryonic-stem-cell research four years ago — a move that many scientists worry has severely hampered one of the most fruitful avenues of biomedical inquiry to come along in decades — resulted in a shift in the dynamics of financing, from the federal government to the states and private institutions. In November 2004, Californians voted to allocate $3 billion for stem-cell research in what was widely characterized as a ”scientific secession.”
Yet what remains most divisive, according to Kennedy, is not the Bush administration’s specific policies, but a more general sense that ”scientific conclusions, reached either within agencies or by people outside of government, are being changed for political reasons by people who have not done the scientific work.” It is this sense that science is being ”misused” that has given rise to two Congressional bills.
The piece spends a great deal of time discussing the President’s science advisor and his relationship with the President and the administration.