The Bush administration's attempts to stifle environmental science information made the front page of the New York Times today:
The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.Didn't they get the memo? Evangelicals are now in favor of reducing humans' degradations of the world's ecosystems. The administrators might be getting their main man in trouble with some of his base. (more in expanded post)
I find this part of it especially ludicrous and indicative of a dangerous prevailing mentality:
Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," he said. "We promote openness and we speak with the facts."So scientists are only allowed to report the 'facts' of the problem, not suggest practical potential remedies? To behave as though science were absolutely separate from politics is not only laughable, given, for instance, recent political fights over teaching intelligent design in schools, it also effectively reduces scientists to opinion-less workhorses, whose only job is to report on 'the facts,' never to interpret them. This is the kind of thinking that had contributed to the Pentagon's hold over universities' science departments across the nation, a situation that developed during World War II when the government first began to collaborate with universities which helped with designing weapons technology.
Mr. Acosta said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel whom the public could perceive as speaking for the agency. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen.
Einstein once observed, "It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." He was speaking to the same trend of separating science and politics rhetorically and ideologically while at the same time purposely moving them ever closer so that science is militarized and used as a tool to fulfill only certain political ends.
It's especially important that we question this trend here at Harvard, given that the university's capitulation to the Pentagon's threat of revoking funding (the whole ROTC deal) reflects just how dependent our science research departments have become on the government's military. Additionally, we need to try to reverse the efforts to paint scientists as mere fact-finding robots by insisting on ethical/political education for the scientists being trained here (not indoctrinary ethical education; just something like along the lines of History of Science classes).