Thursday, March 23, 2006

Twisting reality

Physicist and staunch advocate for sound science education (i.e., teaching evolution) Lawrence M. Krauss makes an interesting observation—several, actually—in the April/May Free Inquiry (not yet available online, but I'll post a link if and when).

Krauss contrasts statements issued by two U.S. presidential administrations a mere 13 years apart:
Science, like any field of endeavor, relies on the freedom of inquiry. And one of the hallmarks of that freedom is objectivity. Now, more than ever, on issues ranging from climate change to AIDS research to genetic engineering to food additives, government relies on the impartial perspective of science for guidance.
This administration looks at the facts and reviews the best available science based on what's right for the American people.
The first of these was spoken by the first President Bush to the National Academy of Sciences in 1990; the second by Scott McClellan, his son's press secretary, in 2003.

Now, I wasn't a particular fan of George H. W. Bush, but here he had it exactly right. It's disheartening to see what's happened on his son's watch: instead of using science (that is, objectively developed knowledge about the world we live in) to evaluate policy, the Bush II White House wants to use policy to evaluate science. If you're looking for reasons why George W. Bush has gone so wrong on so many issues, this reversal of priorities is not a bad place to start.

Perhaps this is why, as reported by Bob Woodward in Plan of Attack, the President never consulted his own father, who might have been presumed to have useful things to say on the subject, about his decision to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein:
He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength. There's a higher Father that I appeal to.
You see, Bush I was a member of, or at least paid eloquent lip service to, the "reality-based community" that a Bush II aide so famously derided in a conversation with Ron Suskind. And a dose of reality is the last thing you want if you're bent on twisting reality to conform to your preconceptions.