Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Gosh, no! We're non-partisan! Really!

(reprinted in whole, by permission)


President Bush last week added fuel to the argument that he is willing to devalue science in favor of politics by dumping two highly respected members of a presidential bioethics advisory council and replacing them with political appointees whose opinions are clearly aligned with those of his Administration.

The President dismissed renowned biologist Elizabeth Blackburn, of the University of California at San Francisco, and ethics scholar William May, of Southern Methodist University, from his Council on Bioethics. Both had expressed support for human embryonic research, a stance that brought them into conflict with the Administration's positions.

They are being replaced by Benjamin Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, who supports a greater role for religion in public life; Diana Schaub, chairman of the department of political science at Loyola
College in Maryland, who has called embryonic research "the evil of the willful destruction of innocent human life;" and Peter Lawler, a professor of government at Berry College in Georgia, an outspoken abortion critic.[1]

Blackburn told the Washington Post that she believes she was let go because of her political views. "I think this is Bush stacking the council with the compliant," she said, in a Washington Post story that ran Saturday.

"She was one of the basic scientists who understood the biology of many of the issues we're talking about," Dartmouth neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga, another committee member, told the Post.[2]

The bioethics panel is one of several that have been stripped of respected scientists who were replaced by appointees whose views match those of the Administration, as documented in a report released two weeks ago by the Washington, D.C.-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

The UCS report, Scientific Integrity in Policymaking, and an accompanying statement signed by more than 60 of the country's preeminent scientists (including 20 Nobel laureates), criticized President Bush for a series of actions that "suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies," and "undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels."

In the two weeks since the report's release, at least 1, 000 more scientists have contacted the UCS website to add their names to the statement.

The issue is also being monitored by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, ranking member of the House Committee on Government Reform, whose website lists numerous scientific advisory panels being investigated for "manipulation" by the Bush Administration. They include committees advising federal agencies on environmental health; HIV/AIDS; global warming; lead poisoning; and substance abuse.[4]

"In case after case, scientific input to policymaking is being censored and distorted," said Dr. Neal Lane, senior fellow at
the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, and head of the National Science Foundation under
President Clinton. "This will have serious consequences for public health."[5]


Let Bush know that you want to protect the integrity of science at


[1] Washington Post, "Bush Ejects Two From Bioethics Council," February 28, 2004.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Union of Concerned Scientists press release, "Preeminent Scientists Protest Bush Administration's Misuse of Science,"
Feb. 18, 2004.
[4] Politics & Science,
[5] Union of Concerned Scientists press release.



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