Monday, March 09, 2009

Good news for science

Today was a great day for science in the United States. As you may have heard, this morning Barack Obama signed an executive order rescinding the ban on federal funding for stem cell research. This is great news for people who have diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, or any number of other conditions, or the millions of us who have family members with those conditions.

It goes beyond that, though.

One of the negative aspects of the Bush administration was that they felt they had license to suppress or falsify the findings of science when they didn't coincide with the political prejudices of the administration. For instance, NASA adopted a policy to downplay and dispute the idea that there was a Big Bang because this scientific theory might undercut the idea that the universe was created by god.

Similarly, the Bush administration leaned on Johns Hopkins to suppress any abortion-related results from its reproductive health database, so that if a search was done using the word "abortion" as a search term, it would find nothing. Nothing.

Obama's statement today announces an end to all that, and explicitly.

He said that he would ensure that his administration “never opens the door” to cloning for human reproduction, adding, “It is dangerous, profoundly wrong and has no place in our society or any society.”

Mr. Obama paired his executive order with another document, a presidential memorandum directing the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to “develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision-making.”

There have been, and there will continue to be, reasons to question and challenge what Obama is doing as president. This is true even, or especially, for those of us who worked to make him president. Still, if the government is once again going to start telling the truth about science, that will be a good thing.


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