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Attacks On Science 2008 - A Very Partial List
assault on science and scientific thinking under the Bush
administration continued unabated in 2008 and was almost entirely
unmentioned in the press Although the Bush Administration ceased
openly denying the science behind global warming, not a single
regulation addressing the pressing issues of greenhouse gases or
other related topics was initiated. No action was taken on stem cell
research. Issues related to public health and the environment were
denied with further evidence of the muzzling of government scientists
in agencies such as NASA, the EPA, and the US Fish and Wildlife
Service. Equally chilling are the increasing efforts to roll back
women’s reproductive rights and to force religion into science
classrooms. Creationist bills were advanced in state legislatures
across the country - and passed and signed into law in Louisiana (see
lowered the ozone standard from 84 to 75 parts per billion –
ignoring its own advisory board’s recommendation of a more
stringent 60 to 70 parts per billion to protect human health. In
announcing the standard, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson noted he
is prohibited from considering the economic consequences of the
standard and urged Congress to change the law so the costs of
protecting public health would be considered when establishing future
standards. Under Johnson’s proposals, if the cost were high, the
EPA administrator would not be legally required to recommend
regulation or protective standards – “economic consequences”
would allow the EPA to ignore science.
Ben Stein movie/documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed"
was released. The movie is a crude attack on evolution, insidiously
framed as defending the “Freedom of Speech” of individuals who
dare to go up against the scientific establishment. It openly poses
religion in opposition to evolution, and panders to the prejudices of
its intended Christian fundamentalist audience. It poses the little
guy vs. “Big Science”; “faith-based common sense” vs. the
complexities of reality; and Americanism and freedom of speech vs.
the way science has really developed and what science has learned
about the world.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed the Science Education Act.
This new onslaught of creationism/intelligent design is modeled on a
template from the Discovery Institute, the nerve center of the
intelligent design version of creationism, and uses the misleading
argument that scientists and teachers who raise so-called
“scientific” criticisms of evolution are intimidated, unfairly
denied tenure, and otherwise retaliated against. There are no
scientifically credible criticisms of the theory of evolution
(although specifics are debated) and alternative views such as
creationism and intelligent design are not science but are in fact
religious notions that have no place in a science curriculum – as
the courts have repeatedly stated.
Despite four major international conferences on climate change, the
Bush Administration failed to take any substantial action to address
the issue. For example, to comply with a 2007 Supreme Court ruling,
the Bush administration was required to make a determination
regarding the impact of global warming and to regulate greenhouse
gases should the health risks warrant regulation. However, EPA
Administrator Stephen L. Johnson announced that further public
comment will be sought regarding the impact of global warming on
human health and the environment. This means the public comment
period extends well into 2009, assuring that the Bush administration
never issues any regulation limiting greenhouse gas emissions.
candidate John McCain announced his selection of Sarah Palin,
first-term governor of Alaska, as his running mate. Governor Palin
declared in a 2006 political debate that both creationism and
evolution should be taught in public schools and repeatedly indicated
during the 2008 campaign that she did not believe that mankind’s
actions are responsible for global warming. In a policy speech
delivered October 24, 2008 in Pittsburg, Palin mocked grants provided
for basic research with fruit flies as special interest and pork
barrel spending. During the campaign she exhibited an
horrific combination of ignorance and arrogance, promoting
anti-scientific attitudes at every turn.
2008: After over 7
years of doing
nothing to protect worker health (one regulation limiting exposure to
a toxin, implemented under court order), the Bush Administration
published regulations ignoring worker health, adding an additional
layer of review before protective measures can be implemented, and
ignored their own scientists and legal advisors in the process. In
this instance the Department of Labor implemented regulations
favorable to industry, at the expense of workers, without public
comment, and put them in place before the conclusion of the Bush
major party candidates responded to 14 questions about science posed
by Science Debate 2008, an initiative launched in December 2007 to
raise the profile of science in the national elections. Science
Debate 2008 was supported by almost every major scientific
organization, presidents of major universities, numerous Nobel
laureates, and members of the National Academy of Sciences. Despite
the October responses, candidates from both parties largely ignored
science issues throughout the lengthy primary season, and Obama and
McCain never agreed to participate in a forum on the critical issues
raised by the initiative and its supporters.
24, 2008: Public comment closed on US Department of Agriculture’s
revision of regulations of genetically modified crops; this applies
to both food crops and pharma crops – those crops modified to
produce pharmaceutical substances. The regulations will allow
biotech firms to determine which crops are regulated by the USDA and
include a provision for a “low level presence” policy,
essentially ensuring that genetically modified pharma crops will
intermingle with conventional and organic food crops. This completely
ignores calls from the Union of Concerned Scientists and others to
ban outdoor, essentially uncontrolled, cultivation of pharma crops. In
spite of recent evidence from Oaxaca, Mexico that genetically
modified corn is rapidly contaminating wild and traditional crops,
the Bush administration has indicated its intention to push the
regulations through prior to leaving office.
As part of the
effort by the Bush administration in its final hours, the Interior
Department readied a regulation granting a "life of mine"
environmental permit to Peabody Mining for the Kayenta coal mine. The
permit now includes the Black Mesa mine, closed since 2005, meaning
that it could easily be re-opened without completion of additional
environmental impact studies. The Navajo and Hopi tribes, who are
concerned about the depletion of groundwater, are opposing the
change. The Bureau of Land Management also auctioned off drilling
leases in over 100,000 acres in Utah, ignoring federal law that
requires review of the impact on natural and cultural resources prior
to such sales.
2008: The Endangered
has been under nearly continuous attack by the Bush Administration.
Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced regulations eliminating
independent scientific review of projects by the Fish and Wildlife
Service or National Marine Fisheries Service. The Department of
Transportation, Department of Defense or public entities with
large-scale projects on federal land will determine the likely impact
on endangered species themselves. This eliminates input from
scientists who are knowledgeable of, and committed to, the protection
of endangered species and creates conflict of interest in the review
attempted to block the implementation of the Endangered Species Act
at every turn,. They have delayied regulation of commercial shipping
speed in the migration route of the endangered right whale (and
protecting the right whale in a much smaller geographic area than
recommended by marine mammal experts), and listed the polar bear only
as a threatened species – rather than endangered -- after
explicitly allowing natural gas and oil exploration to continue
within the bear’s habitat. On August 12, 2008, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service announced that habitat set aside for the spotted owl
in Oregon, Washington and California would be reduced by 23%, despite
evidence that the owl population is declining at a rate of 4% per
18, 2008: HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced the so-called “Right
Conscience Rule” that requires entities receiving government
funding (that’s 584,000 institutions, including 89% of all
hospitals) to certify that workers need not provide medical care, or
information regarding treatment options, they find objectionable on
moral grounds. The regulation broadly defines health care workers
“involved in procedures” to include anyone from doctors and
pharmacists to others such as those who clean surgical implements. Health
care workers are allowed to impose their morals on
patients seeking treatment for sexually transmitted disease,
infertility or contraception, abortion, life-ending drugs (available
to terminally ill patients in states with “Right to Die”
statutes), and any other procedure, drug, or treatment the health
care worker finds objectionable, despite the legal, safe, and
scientifically-tested status of all such procedures. The regulations
include explicit provisions that health care workers are not required
to mention to patients the existence of safe, legal, and
scientifically-tested procedures. Rape victims may be denied
access to, and even information regarding, the morning after pill.
The regulations are widely recognized as an attack on women’s
reproductive health and most specifically the right to abortion and
contraception, and are an attack on scientific standards in medicine.
President-elect Obama picked Christian fundamentalist minister Rick
Warren to give the invocation at the Presidential inauguration. Warren
believes that the world is only 6,000 years old, and that
species did not evolve. He is an active advocate of teaching
evolution as only one possible explanation for how the diversity and
complexity of life came to be, and for opening the door to teaching
creationism in public schools.
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