Time Magazine Gets It

Via Tara, I see that a major media organ has finally contrasted Bush's "I Heart Science" message in his SOTU speech with the reality of how science has been treated in this administration:

Starting when he was a presidential candidate in 2000, George W. Bush has often assured voters that his policymaking would be guided by "sound science." Last week, in his State of the Union address, the President pointed to scientific research as the way to "lead the world in opportunity and innovation for decades to come." Yet growing numbers of researchers, both in and out of government, say their findingsâon pollution, climate change, reproductive health, stem-cell research and other areas in which science often finds itself at odds with religious, ideological or corporate interestsâare being discounted, distorted or quashed by Bush Administration appointees.

The article doesn't contain many new revelations, but the framing is, to me, striking. It's the exact opposite of this ridiculous softball piece from the Washington Post recently, depicting a president who is newly gaga about science and technology:

The president's fascination with the gee-whiz breakthroughs of modern science may not be new, but it has certainly been more evident in the days since he made unleashing the power of research and innovation a central element of his State of the Union address. As he tours the country promoting his plan to encourage more laboratory advances and improve science education, Bush has been fixated with some of the most tantalizing new technologies in the works.

Really, I'm a bit astonished that the Post's Peter Baker swallowed all of this. It reminds me of 2001, when the White House was putting out the message that Bush was really agonizing over his upcoming stem cell decision, in order to paint the president as a wise, Solomonic decision-maker. Bush wasn't really agonizing, of course--if he had been, one expects he wouldn't have confused stem cell lines with stem cell derivations. But much of the media faithfully reported that the president was thinking hard, even though they had no particular evidence of this.

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Let's hope that Time is able to make more people sit up and take notice. To this Canadian the Bush administration's abuse of science is disturbing for many reasons. We are the US largest trading partner so actions that are likely to reduce the US ability to be innovative and productive have a negative impact on us. The apparent wide acceptance of superstition including the right wing religous rubbish and hatemongering is also troubling. After all when your big, powerful and heavily armed neighbour (yes I spelled it correctly:))shows signs of irrationality you tend to get a little nervous.

To you and all the other bloggers at Sceinceblogs, keep it up, the rest of the world (well at least the rational world) is with you, after all, we're all in this together.

By CanuckRob (not verified) on 06 Feb 2006 #permalink
  • Chris said : "But much of the media faithfully reported that the president was thinking hard, even though they had no particular evidence of this."
  • Maybe they saw him squinting his eyes and interpreted it that way?

    Watch the money!! What is the President actually proposing in his budget that backs up his statements? Actions always speak louder than words and in this case, what is the actual budgeting for science? Is it tax breaks for the likes of Exxon? And breaks for what? Research on true alternative energy sources or more hydrocarbon stuff? And it is easy for politicians to make pronouncements about their great sounding intentions but unless sufficient funds are allocated (the really hard choices) to carry intentions out, it means absolutely nothing. Much enabling legislation is passed (the PR bang) but sufficient funds (the bucks) beyond token amounts are never allocated. Follow the money. I'm betting true energy science and non-industry energy scientists will get whacked further.

    The disturbing thing is that *any* journalist who's not a PR flack, and who's been around more than a year or two, should deeply understand 'watch the money'.

    Sure, follow the money, but three of the science initiatives Bush specifically named - nanotechnology, supercomputers and engineering and math education - are part of a conspiracy to develop better electronic eavesdropping. Nanotech could form the basis of the next generation of digital technology; hence better supercomputers. The engineers are necessary in this effort of course, math abilities to produce better search algorithms and faster code cracking.

    My tongue is way in my cheek - but just because I am paranoid doesn't mean it isn't true!