Sunday, April 17, 2005

Science and Government

In general I'm enjoying my time in Tampa and will post a longer description of the conference and its highlights when I return to Syracuse. This is just a short posting to get something out of my system.

I just got out of the session on Scientific Integrity in Government, in which the panelists were Kurt Gottfried, John Marburger and my friend and collaborator, Lawrence Krauss. I missed Gottfried's talk, but got there in time to catch most of Marburger's and Krauss'. Krauss discussed the appalling record of the current administration with regard to suppressing, twisting and misusing scientific data and opinion. Marburger is the White House Science Advisor and he faced a number of questions about this in the Q&A part after the talks. While he was gracious and polite, I really felt that his answers were dismissive of the well-documented and heartfelt concerns of many serious scientists. The questions from the audience were fine enough, but I don't think they got to the heart of the problem. I wanted (but time didn't permit) to ask Marburger a more wide-ranging question.

Lawrence had raised the point that 45% of Americans don't think that evolution is correct, and had pointed to well-known cases of government officials, both inside and outside the administration, who echoed that sentiment. I wanted to ask Marburger about the extent to which highly-placed people like himself, who believe themselves to be advocates for science, were consulted about issues such as this, and if so, how, if at all, they responded. This is something that is, quite honestly, a mystery to me. How does a scientist work in an administration headed by a president who thinks the jury is still out on evolution? I'm curious to know what he thinks about this and am sitting here somewhat frustrated by the whole session. Still, I feel somewhat better for having written this down.
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