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In The United States Today Science, Is Under Attack As Never Before

  1. Nov 25, 2006 #1
    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.

    The situation is so serious that more than 6,000 scientists have already signed the "Restoring Scientific Integrity" statement of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which denounces the Bush Administration for "abuse of science"; and Scientific American published an editorial under the title: "Bush-League Lysenkoism: The White House Seeks to Bend Science To Its Will."

    CONSIDER THIS:
    * Particular Christian fundamentalist "moral codes" are increasingly imposing restrictions on what kinds of questions can be investigated by scientists and what kinds of answers scientists can come up with. HIV-prevention studies have come under attack for even attempting to study prevalent sexual practices. Funds have been cut and researchers have faced intimidation and harassment from fundamentalists inside and outside of government who insist that scientific study of HIV/AIDS begin and end with the demand for "abstinence-only" programs - regardless of the human and social cost. Research into human sexuality in general has been suppressed and faulty studies and outright disinformation about the effectiveness of condoms and other birth control methods have been promoted and disseminated by the Administration. The Department of Health and Human Services is known to have deleted from its web site scientific health information which conflicted with the Administration's "abstinence-only" approach to sex education...THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    * Entire new fields of scientific inquiry, like stem-cell research, with potential for path-breaking medical breakthroughs, are denied federal funds because of fundamentalist religious objections...THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    * Scientists whose findings conflict with corporate interests or policies of the Bush Administration face threats of retaliation or denial of funding. There have been "gag orders" forbidding government scientists from talking publicly about important scientific questions and, at times, even mentioning terms like "global warming." In studies by government scientists on global warming and its potentially devastating consequences for the planet and humanity, titles of reports have been changed and whole sections deleted by high political officials. There are repeated efforts by government officials to over-rule scientists on such things as which plant and animal species to include on the "Endangered Species" list, which natural habitats are in critical need of preservation, how to set air and water quality standards, and so on...THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    * In a practice many have denounced as "Scientific McCarthyism," scientists who are candidates for scientific advisory boards and panels have been asked how they voted or whether they support particular policies of the Administration, and some have been denied appointments because of their political views...THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    * Official government-run bookstores at the Grand Canyon have carried books promoting as fact the literalist Biblical notion that the Grand Canyon was formed only a few thousand years ago by "Noah's Flood," in direct contradiction to the overwhelming geological evidence and scientific consensus that the Grand Canyon contains rocks that are billions of years old and that the Canyon itself was carved out by a river, over a very long period of time, millions of years ago...THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    And that is not all: Here we are in the 21st century, and the head of the government himself, George W. Bush, refuses to acknowledge that evolution is a scientific fact! THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

    The President claims: "On the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out on how God created the earth," and then sits smugly by while Creationists carry out an assault against evolution in classrooms, museums, libraries, government bookstores, and even IMAX movies and science theaters.

    No, Mr. President, the verdict is NOT out on evolution. EVOLUTION IS A FACT -- IT IS ONE OF THE MOST WELL-ESTABLISHED AND WELL-DOCUMENTED FACTS IN THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE. TO DENY AND ATTACK EVOLUTION IS TO DENY AND ATTACK ONE OF THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL FACTS ABOUT ALL OF NATURE AND REALITY AND ONE OF THE MOST CRUCIAL FOUNDATION STONES OF ALL OF MODERN SCIENCE.

    Evolution is not a matter of "controversy" in the scientific community: It is recognized as a fact by the overwhelming majority of scientists in the U.S. and throughout the world. Evolution is just as well-established as the fact that the earth goes around the sun -- a scientifically-demonstrated truth which, several centuries ago and for some time, was also opposed and even viciously suppressed because of a religious inquisition, resulting in great harm to science and to humanity. We cannot, and will not, allow the same kind of thing to happen with the scientific fact of evolution.

    Therefore, we, the undersigned scientists and members of the scientific community, are issuing this urgent call to everyone in society to take up the challenge to DEFEND SCIENCE.

    To be clear: Many who continue to hold religious beliefs can and should rally to this call to DEFEND SCIENCE. This is not about science trying to destroy religion. It is about defending science from a specific right-wing political agenda which, coupled with a fundamentalist, Biblical-literalist religious ideology, is setting out to implement a program that will fundamentally pervert and undermine science and the scientific process itself.

    Individual scientists may be atheists or agnostics, or may hold various religious beliefs; and their politics range over the full spectrum of political views. But one thing the overwhelming majority of scientists have in common is their understanding that, when conducting scientific investigation and applying the scientific method, it is essential to use as a starting point previously accumulated scientific knowledge -- the storehouse of well-established scientific evidence about reality which has previously been arrived at through concrete and systematic scientific observation and experiment and has been subjected to rigorous scientific review and testing. This is what we scientists stand on as our foundation when we set out to further investigate reality and make new discoveries. This is how science has been done and how it has advanced for hundreds of years now, and this has allowed science to benefit humanity in countless ways.

    Genuine science never proceeds from, or uses as its starting point, any set of subjective "beliefs," "opinions" or "faith-based edicts" handed down by religious or secular authorities and proclaimed to be beyond human questioning, testing and investigation. To bring into the scientific process assumptions, religious or otherwise, which were not arrived at by scientific methods, and which by definition cannot be tested by scientific methods, would destroy science as science.

    In conclusion: We must refuse to accept a situation where scientific inquiry is blocked or its findings ruled out of order unless they conform to the goals of the government, to corporate interests and to the ideology of religious fundamentalists; where dogma enforced by governmental and religious authority takes the place of science; where the scientific approach of seeking natural explanations for natural phenomena is suppressed. We must insist on an atmosphere where scientists are allowed to seek the truth, even when the truth conflicts with the views and policies of those in power, and where the scientific spirit is fostered, where science education and the popularization of the scientific method are valued, where people are encouraged to pursue an understanding of how and why things are the way they are; where all that has been learned by humanity so far, all that has repeatedly been tested and found to be true, serves as the starting point for further investigation of reality.

    IT IS UP TO US. IT IS TIME TO TAKE A CLEAR AND DECISIVE STAND IN DEFENSE OF SCIENCE. THIS IS OF CRUCIAL AND URGENT IMPORTANCE NOT ONLY FOR SCIENTISTS BUT FOR PEOPLE THROUGHOUT SOCIETY, FOR HUMANITY AS A WHOLE AND FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.



    WHAT YOU CAN DO
    Scientists and Members of the Scientific Community:
    Sign and Circulate This Statement. Help Raise Funds to Have it Printed in Newspapers Across the Country, and Internationally. Get This Statement Adopted by Scientific, Educational and Other Associations and Institutions. Urge Others to Become Involved.

    Members of the General Public: Reprint and Circulate This Statement, Help Spread the Word, Contribute Your Ideas About How to Wage This Crucial Battle & Join With People in the Scientific Community and Others to

    http://www.defendscience.org/statement.htmlWage This Battle.



    But being the logical thinkers that your are. Ask the important question: Qui Bono? Who Benefits ?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 25, 2006 #2
    Here here. If Thomas Jefferson et al knew what state American politics was in now, they would've wondered why they even bothered.

    Btw, you need put a space between 'html' and 'Wage' in that link ;)
     
  4. Nov 25, 2006 #3

    selfAdjoint

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    When I was a reading older kid, during WW II, I took evolution for granted and couldn't see disosaurs, for example, as separated from evolution. It shocked me when I was a little older to learn that other people, even educated people dismissed evolution and thought dinosaurs had perished in Noah's flood. Stupidity! Except these people were obviously not stupid in any other way. So this "attack" has been around for a long time. It wasn't just yesterday that a politician couldn't be elected dogcatcher in most places if he was a declared atheist. For that matter look up Brann the Iconoclast.
     
  5. Nov 25, 2006 #4

    Danger

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    Great post, Xare.

    By the way, you might also consider changing the last line from:

    But being the logical thinkers that your are. Ask the important question: Qui Bono? Who Benefits ?

    to:

    But, being the logical thinkers that you are, ask the important question: "Qui Bono? (Who Benefits?)"

    Just a suggestion...
     
  6. Nov 26, 2006 #5
    Qui bono? Oftentimes, you've just gotta follow the money.
     
  7. Nov 26, 2006 #6
    Most of this post is thoughtless nonsense regurgitated from the not-so-funny liberal talk-show hosts (not funny and not clever, unlike Rush Limbaugh). Don't get me wrong, folks, I voted for Clinton, Kerry, e.t.c. However, this tripe like I said is garbage from the leftist sensationalists trying to copy Limbaugh.
    Truth be told, our scientific community remains teh envy of the world. We graduate more PhD's than all of the European countries combined! We are earning Nobel Prizes at a continued, upward, record pace.
    Our pharmaceutical companies such as J&J, Squibb, Merc, e.t.c. continue to lead the world in new drug discoveries, compliments of American education.
    Our military force is peerless. This is due to a first-rate scientific community and scientific education.
    Our manufacturing technology sector is so utterly beyond cometition from foreign nations that China and Korea is buying over 90% of their manufacturing equipment from the United States.
    Our national space administration ("NASA") remains untouchable. While the European Union lost their Beagle2 from the outer orbit of Mars, the US not only sucessfully landed the rover Spirit on the planet's surface, but a second -- Opportunity -- as well. This due largely to American education.

    So when we get lame-brains coming on this message board complaining that the GWB admin is somehow undermining a scientific community, we need to flame the lame-brain severly with an unrelenting assult of facts.
    These guys, after hearing some dude in Kansas putting warning labels on textbooks for childeren or some Senator saying we can't do stem cell research for ethical reasons, get worked up into an incredible frenzy. Not unlike the chimpanzee that gets all worked up when a fellow chimp bangs a couple metal pieces together.
     
  8. Nov 26, 2006 #7

    Mk

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    I think the original post was somewhat sensationalist and attractive to this type of community just because of the scaremongering effect. "Science is under attack, more than ever!" Sounds like a newspaper headline.

    The signs are eveywhere... other scientists are doing it... you would be blind to reality if you didn't beleive this... ad hominem... this can sound like the politicized science that Xare warns of and is against.

    Oh. The site is being promoted.

    I don't believe scientists or mathematicians have ever been a "call-to-arms" kind of people.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2006
  9. Nov 26, 2006 #8
    About time! After the Hwang Woo-Suk retractions, those lazy editorial hacks deserve all the criticsm they get.
     
  10. Nov 26, 2006 #9

    ZapperZ

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    I disagree.

    While I do agree that the message posted is a bit sensationalistic, I do not agree that there isn't an assault on Science. [Note to Xare: Next time, simply give a link to the website. Do not copy and post something that can be read elsewhere.]

    First of all, let's look at your "facts".

    1. Nobel prizes are awarded for work done MANY years ago. This is certainly true for the ones awarded this year. So this was an investment in science that was done not within the past few years. Secondly, even when it appears that it is won by someone at a US institution, look at the Nationality of the winners. You'd be surprised by how many of these winners are not US born, or did not get educated in the US. Alex Abrikosov and Tony Leggett are two clear and recent examples. Abrikosov, in fact, did all of this major work while he was still in Russia. So citing the rate of Nobel winners is misleading.

    2. Quality of education. The US higher education is certainly the envy of many countries. However, below this level, the quality of US education is miserable when compared to Europe and East Asia. There has been one report after another regarding the drop in the number of US high school students going into science, and physics in particular (see, for example, the statistics released by the AIP). What this tells me is that the US higher education system in Science and Engineering is being fed and supported by international students. In fact, I know of many schools here around the chicago area that would have to shut down their graduate program in physics if they don't get any international students. When Sept. 11 happened and visa restrictions went out of control, US universities were the ones hardest hit. Every one, from US colleges to the AIP/APS, various scientific organizations, and even the National Academy of Sciences appealed to the US govt. to reformulate the visa procedure that was driving international students away. If you look at all the statements from these various agencies, the common thread running through all of them is how much the US depends on the scientific and technical expertise and knowlege from these international students and scholars.

    3. Has GWB undermine the scientific community? You need to keep in mind that scientists as a whole are usually considered to be a rather conservative group. Until this past presidential election, I don't ever recall them being political, or even do anything like this. Certainly, the major scientific organizations such as the AIP, APS, NAS, etc. have not taken any stand on such a thing. However, when GWB came in, two ominous things occured: (i) the position of Science Advisor didn't get filled for months even as the science agenda was being set, (ii) the position of science advisor was demoted to no longer report directly to the president. Note that previous science advisors from Neal Lane to D. Allan Bromley (who served under the senior George Bush) has pointed out in several joint statements on how the Bush Administration has pushed aside science in favor of politics. This, and many other statements by various scientific organizations regarding the actions of the sitting president, are unprecedented. I certainly would not call this a by product of a liberal push. I mean, considering how slow scientists react and accept things, it is inconceivable that they would turn "liberal" all of the sudden and simply due to someone telling them to do so.

    4. I do not believe there is an over-reaction to the Creationism/ID assault. People forget that the battle between evolution and creationism isn't a scientific battle, but rather a social battle where the general public is being asked to evaluate the issue. Yet, as I've written somewhere else, you have to be glib, perky, and superficial when dealing with the general public. The public's support of science is based on a "perception" of the importance of science, not based on an understanding of science. This view is even shared by Pat Dehmer of the DOE-BES program office. This means that the support for science is based on a rather shaky grounds. Consequently, if there's any perception of the failure of science, the support goes away as easily as it comes! We have seen this many times, and I have personally seen it with my own eyes with the closure of the Brookhaven high flux beam reactor where style and substance trumped over solid scientific facts. Therefore, when one part of science undergoes systematic attack not within the scientific aspect of it but rather via the public arena, science in general is being dragged along with it. All one needs to be convinced of that is to read Physics Today from the past few years to consider all the powerful arguments in support of this.

    5. And I haven't yet talked about the funding issue. Note the sorry state of high energy physics program in the US. SLAC is now being transformed from a high energy physics facility into a light source facility with the construction of the LCLS. Its operations and funding will be handed over from the DOE HEP office to the BES office. Fermilab's tevatron will cease operation as a particle collider facility by the end of 2009. The only funded program it will have is to provide muons and neutrinos to MINOS, NOvA, and NuMi. In other words, by then end of 2009, there will no longer be any large scale high energy physics facility in the US if the current trend continues. GONE! Where will high energy experiments shift to? CERN, DESY, and KEK. The situation isn't any better for nuclear physics either. Brookhaven RHIC was about to shut down at its PRIME until, get this, a huge sum of DONATION was received to keep it running this fiscal year! The JLab facility is still at risk for a shut down if funding doesn't improve in the next fiscal year. So the field of nuclear physics isn't doing so hot either. Astrophysics suffers even worse. The observatory in Puerto Rico is being completely shut down, as are a number of observatories at Keck.

    6. In 1989, for the first time in history, the APS, publisher of the Physical Review journal series, reported that more than half of submitted manuscripts to their journals orginate from outside the US. The trend has been widening ever since! See http://forms.aps.org/general/annstats05.pdf. To me, this is clear evidence that many of the research-front and publication-worthy work are slowly drifting away from the US.

    These are also "facts". We simply cannot rely on superficial sound bites such as the Nobel Prize winners etc, because as Mies van deRohe used to say, god is in the details. And if we look at the "details" of american science, you do see glaring cracks and breakdown emerging from the system that are causes for concern. To deny such a thing is happening is simply to invite disaster, because many of these things take time to cultivate and correct. The benefits we have today were sowed many, many years ago. Unfortunately, so will the problems. We may not see directly the effects of our treatment of science today, but by the time we notice it, it will be too late. That is why your "facts" on the US scientific standing do not give the true reflection of the status of science. There IS a crisis, but the "hysterisis" between effect and the cause is causing us to be complacent.

    Zz.
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2006
  11. Nov 26, 2006 #10

    Astronuc

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    Much of the manufacturing is done overseas.

    The pharmaceutical companies do a lot of development and testing 'offshore', and the production is done in Puerto Rico, where corporate taxes have much lower rates thanks to a special law. So the money isn't being reinvested in the US, but instead in private bank accounts outside the US.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploration_of_Mars#Spate_of_failures
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Polar_Lander#Loss_of_lander

    NASA's metric confusion caused Mars orbiter loss
    http://www.cnn.com/TECH/space/9909/30/mars.metric/

    And then lets not forget the Challenger and Columbia, both of which were preventable.

    Actually, my colleagues at NASA and DOE bemoan the fact that they are having trouble filling positions with qualified US students!

    When my company interviews students for possible employment, the students are invariably foreign born and educated. Nothing wrong with that, but it does indicate that either the US is not producing students in science and technology, or the students simply are not interested in science and technology.
     
  12. Nov 26, 2006 #11

    Gokul43201

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    I'd like to see a citation to back up that claim. I believe you're wrong, if you are refering to PhDs in science and engineering. But even if this were true, it still doesn't say anything about the role of the present administration.

    What is true, is that the total number of doctorates awarded in Science & Engineering has increased by a giant 9.7% over the period 2001-2005. This includes a 25% increase in the doctorates awarded to non-citizens and a 1% decrease in the number of PhDs awarded to US citizens. This too, however, is only reflective of enrolment and retention trends from 3 to 6 years before (typical time to graduate) those respective dates. [1]

    If true (again, where's the reference?) this is reflective of the environment here, say 20 to 30 years ago. And besides, it says very little about any influence of school or college level science education (unless you consider the country of birth rather than the country where the work was done or the eventual citizenship of the recipient).

    "Compliments of American education?" Care to substantiate this extremely tenuous link? Furthermore, a significant fraction (a quarter of expenditure and about two-thirds of man-hours) of pharmaceutical R&D happens offshore[2].

    That's a more tenuous link than your previous comment. And it reflects no role of the present administration.

    This is likely true, but again, is not indicative in any way, of the role of the present administration. How much of this exported manufacturing equipment was designed, funded and produced in the last 6 years? How many of the technicians, engineers and scientists that designed and oversaw the manufacture of this equipment went to school during these last 6 years?

    ...and the scientists working on the Rover Mission were educated during these last 6 years?

    Good! And when do you plan to start doing that?

    [1] http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf07301/
    [2] http://www.innovation-enterprise.com/7.4/7.4.1.html
     
  13. Nov 26, 2006 #12

    JasonRox

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    Getting Ph.D's in other countries is probably not as easy, and the supply is lower as well. How many of those Ph.D's are true Americans? Maybe half or less.
     
  14. Nov 28, 2006 #13
    Do you have an example of a scientific truth which is under attack from the non-scientific community, but is not under attack from the scientific community?
     
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