April 27, 2004


Bush-League Lysenkoism: The White House bends science to its will (The Editors, 4/26/04)

Starting in the 1930s, the Soviets spurned genetics in favor of Lysenkoism, a fraudulent theory of heredity inspired by Communist ideology. Doing so crippled agriculture in the U.S.S.R. for decades. You would think that bad precedent would have taught President George W. Bush something. But perhaps he is no better at history than at science.

In February his White House received failing marks in a statement signed by 62 leading scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, 19 recipients of the National Medal of Science, and advisers to the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. It begins, "Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy. Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, this input should always be weighed from an objective and impartial perspective to avoid perilous consequences.... The administration of George W. Bush has, however, disregarded this principle."

Just in case you thought science wasn't a religion, here's a special pleading that it be treated like an Orthodox Church of America.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 27, 2004 1:42 PM

And of course, as a reminder to those fretting about progress being stifled, the Bush administration is not restricting science but federal funding of science. Not the same thing, although these people seem to think so.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at April 27, 2004 2:25 PM

It's amusing I guess that a group like the UCS, inherently political in nature, decries the politicization of science.

Posted by: Jeff at April 27, 2004 2:37 PM

The name of that magazine became doubly oxymoronic several decades ago.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 27, 2004 3:04 PM

Thus continues the death spiral of a once great magazine (Scientific American), mortally wounded by the politicization of its contents.

Posted by: jd watson at April 27, 2004 7:02 PM


Quite. I subscribe for about twenty years, until a pack of idiots decided Omni was a good example, and pushed SA off a cliff.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 27, 2004 8:26 PM

"...advisers to the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations..."

Did Copernicus sign too?

Posted by: jsmith at April 27, 2004 8:42 PM

Well, actually, John, the US government has restricted one branch of science. Made it illegal even with private money.

I probably agree with the restriction -- it isn't something I care about so much one way or the other -- but it is a legal restriction and pretty drastic.

The dumbing down of SA parallels the dumbing down of Technology Review. Gresham's Law, I suppose.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 28, 2004 12:04 AM

My apologies, Harry; I thought the stem-cell stuff could still be done with private monies.

The editorial still seems terribly overwrought; sure sounds like the calm, patient, analytical eye of science, doesn't it?

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at April 28, 2004 12:27 AM


You're right and Harry's wrong. Private stem cell research is unaffected. Science is just used to feeding from the public trough.

Posted by: oj at April 28, 2004 8:54 AM

Activist scientists criticizing the administration for practicing activist science.

JDW Same thing happened to the Sierra Club. I dumped both years ago.

Posted by: genecis at April 28, 2004 10:34 AM

I assumed Harry was referring to cloning, which has been banned, no?

Posted by: brian at April 28, 2004 1:50 PM

No, Democrats are filibustering it in the Senate, I think.

Posted by: oj at April 28, 2004 2:01 PM

Actually, the editorial is still wrong even if Harry was referring to cloning - that ban was passed by none other than Bill Clinton. Not that I read Scientific American, but I suspect similar adjectives weren't used in 1997 to describe Clinton's action.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at April 29, 2004 10:14 PM