However, science has rarely been apart from politics – at least in the last 50 or 60 years in this country.
New York Times columnist John Tierney dealt with the intersection of the two in a Monday piece – headlined "Politics in the Guise of Pure Science" -- in which he raised questions about whether some of President Obama's scientific advisers can be "honest brokers."
He quoted Roger Pielke(see photo) of the University of Colorado on the matter, whose book, not so coincidentally, is entitled "The Honest Broker." Tierney said Pielke argues that "most scientists are fundamentally mistaken about their role in political debates. As a result, he says, they’re jeopardizing their credibility while impeding solutions to problems like global warming."
"...(T)oo often, Dr. Pielke says, they pose as impartial experts pointing politicians to the only option that makes scientific sense. To bolster their case, they’re prone to exaggerate their expertise (like enumerating the catastrophes that would occur if their policies aren’t adopted), while denigrating their political opponents as 'unqualified'or 'unscientific.'"Tierney cited recent statements by John Holdren and Steven Chu as examples. Tierney did not discuss human embryonic stem cell research in his piece, but he could have.
The case for hESC research is often imbued with messianic zeal and rhetoric about "missions" that seems more appropriate to an ideology rather than cold, hard scientific research. Hyperbole does not necessarily serve the public or scientists well over the long term, perhaps not even in the short. Instead, it can become a justification for spending on ill-considered, dubious efforts advanced to attain some sort visionary goal. Pielke's and Tierney's cautions are something for the overseers of California's $3 billion stem cell research program to keep in mind as they evaluate the agency's efforts in the next few months.
(Editor's note -- Tierney's column drew 156 comments at the time of this writing. You can read them here). Sphere: Related Content