Friday, August 12, 2005

WSJ Needs Lessons on Science From Its Own Science Writer

The writers for the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal should talk with their science writer. Sharon Begley has an article on entitled U.S. Science Research Is in Danger of Losing Place on Cutting Edge.

That’s what happens when you have a one party system which is anti-science. Many of the same Republicans that the opinion section of the Wall Street Journal routinely backs are fighting to substitute religion for teaching of evolution in the schools and restricting funding of stem cell research.

Begley acknowledges the ramifications of current Republican policies:

Allowing a minority opinion to stifle research is only one symptom of politics undermining science. Some appointees to federal scientific advisory panels have been chosen for their ideology rather than their expertise; staffers with no research credentials alter the scientific (not only the policy) content of reports on climate change. Politicians’ attacks on the science of evolution continue, even though “intelligent design” may make a fascinating lesson for a philosophy class, but is not biology.

“This anti-scientism couldn’t be more damaging to young people contemplating devoting their life to research,” says neuroscientist Ira Black, whose own stem-cell institute in New Jersey has been stalled by political red tape. “The sense of opportunity that was always predominant in the U.S. now lies elsewhere.”

Since scientific innovation has long fueled economic growth, there is a danger “that the U.S. will no longer be dominant in innovation,” says G. Wayne Clough, president of the Georgia Institute of Technology and a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. “A larger number of international patents are being obtained overseas, R&D facilities are moving overseas. If we are not innovating here, the economic benefits will go elsewhere, too.”

An interesting battle will come when a lab in Singapore or Seoul or Britain uses embryonic stem cells to develop a therapy for diabetes or Parkinson’s or heart disease. Its use in the U.S. would require approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Will opponents of stem-cell research demand that the FDA reject it and deprive patients of their only hope?


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