Friday, November 04, 2005

Kerry says `science under attack’ from right-wing `ideologues’

Kerry says `science under attack’ from right-wing `ideologues’


AP Political Writer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— Sen. John Kerry, dedicating a new brain research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said Friday “science itself is under attack today” by right-wing ideologues and the Bush administration.

The Massachusetts Democrat declared: “We see it in the casual dismissal of Socratic inquiry and peer-reviewed and evidence-driven analysis. We see it in the rigid refusal to listen to what the Earth is trying to tell us about the condition of the air and water and land that surround us and sustain us. We see it in as federal science and research boards are being stacked with partisans and ideologues.”

Kerry recalled the story of American scientist Thomas Midgley Jr., who invented leaded gas and discovered chlorofluorocarbons - both later deemed bad for the environment. Midgley later was stricken by polio, and he developed a harness to get in and out of his bed. He died after strangling in the device.

“Today a group of ideologues are treating science as if it was one great big Midgley experiment,” Kerry said. “And the result is a shortsighted period in the American experience where support for science is withheld and facts are ignored and obscured and distorted.”

He added: “When so many Americans worry that we have become a nation of moral relativists, there are too few Americans who are worrying that we are becoming a nation of factual relativists.”

Speaking a year after he lost the 2004 general election to President Bush, at a time both when Bush’s popularity is at an all-time low and former White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby is under indictment for allegedly lying to a grand jury, Kerry also told the crowd of several hundred: “I must tell you there are times when I wish we weren’t here researching brain concerns but a time machine to have the election today rather than last year.”

A spokesman for the Republican National Committee, which speaks for Bush on many political matters, dismissed the criticism.

“Perhaps John Kerry’s newfound interest in science is a derivative of his longing to travel back in time and run a cohesive campaign,” said Tracey Schmitt, the RNC’s press secretary. “His rhetorical dance reveals more about his internal struggle with the election held one year ago than it does reality.”

Kerry said in an interview afterward he was joking about wishing the presidential election had been held this year.

“It was strictly joking and I’m not spending any time on that,” Kerry said as he clutched the hand of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. “You just don’t go backwards.”

Kerry spoke at the dedication of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. The facility is named for Patrick and Lore Harp McGovern, who founded it with a $350 million donation, the largest donation ever made to MIT. The 411,000-square-foot institute - the largest neuroscience center in the world - will house 40 faculty members and their research groups.

Kerry opened his remarks with a joke, saying, “Somebody told me that researchers here have actually discovered a man who thrived using just the right side of his brain. His name is Judge Alito.”

In an interview afterward, Kerry said he had yet to decide whether he will vote to confirm Samuel Alito as an associate justice to the Supreme Court.

Also addressing the audience was NBC television personality Jane Pauley, who recently revealed she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2001. She recounted how she is repeatedly stopped by strangers seeking to share their own stories about illnesses stemming from the brain.

“I think we really are very, very close to a tipping point in public attitudes towards mental health,” Pauley said. “I know bad things happen in a normal life. So my goal is to try and yank mental illness into the realm of the sad things that can happen to a person in the course of a normal life.”


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