Magazine article World Watch

Send in the Clones? (Editorial)

Magazine article World Watch

Send in the Clones? (Editorial)

Article excerpt

"But it does move!" Galileo is said to have muttered, just after church authorities pressured him into "confessing" that the earth did not revolve around the sun. Events proved him right, but this episode became famous in the annals of science corrupted for political ends.

Less famous, but equally disturbing, are some recent examples of the same thing. Late last year, U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton misrepresented a scientific study from the Fish and Wildlife Service suggesting that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could harm caribou. In mid-April, Bush administration pressure forced climate scientist Robert Watson out of his job with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which he had headed since 1996. Watson was emphatically public in his belief that human economic activity, especially the burning of fossil fuels, is changing the climate.

Governments naturally try to control events on behalf of the policies they favor. But it is unsettling that a democratic government would (a) twist the science to (b) contravene the wishes of the people from whom it derives its legitimacy. Poll after poll testifies that most people in the United States are worried about global warming and oppose risking ANWR for the trickle of crude that lies below the no-longer-so-permafrost.

Politics as usual, you might say.

That's the trouble. Even democratic political systems are generally structured to limit popular input, and spinning the science is merely a tool to compromise it further. …

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