When it's your job to serve as the president's in-house expert on science and technology, being constantly in the media spotlight isn't necessarily a mark of distinction. But for President Bush's stoically inclined science adviser John Marburger, immense controversy followed his blanket dismissal last year of allegations (now endorsed by 48 Nobel laureates) that the administration has systematically abused science. So it was more than a little refreshing last Wednesday to hear Marburger take a strong stance against science politicization and abuse on one issue where it really matters: evolution.
Today -- Wednesday, February 16, 2005 -- marks a date that some hoped would never arrive. The much-reviled Kyoto Protocol, which U.S. businesses have spent a fortune to defeat and which President George W. Bush summarily rejected in 2001, now enters into force without American participation. While glad to be spared from this new regulatory regime, U.S.-based greenhouse-gas emitters can hardly regard the world's mobilization to address global warming (141 nations have joined Kyoto) with equanimity. Now that other countries have acted, changes at home may not be far behind.
In political speechifying, what goes unsaid can count just as much as what gets blurted out. So when President Bush blatantly ignored the topic of embryonic stem-cell research in his recent State of the Union address, it's no surprise that advocates considered his silence potentially significant.
Launching into a discussion of medical research with his stock catchphrase about preserving a "culture of life," the president announced that "we should all be able to agree on some clear standards," and then declared, "I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts and that human life is never bought or sold as a commodity."
It's official. With recent news of lawsuits over the teaching of evolution in both Georgia and Pennsylvania, even Time magazine now considers the fight over Charles Darwin's theory a live issue again. The New York Times and The Washington Post have both come out against the new anti-evolutionism, while on FOX News, a braying Bill O'Reilly recently announced that "there are a lot of very brilliant scholars who believe the reason we have incomplete science on evolution is that there is a higher power involved in this." O'Reilly then proceeded to call the American Civil Liberties Union "the Taliban" for opposing the teaching of anti-evolutionist perspectives in public-school science classes.
We all have our favorite Bushisms, the top one-liners uttered by our recently reinaugurated president that seem to summarize his view of the world. For some, it's George W. Bush's "axis of evil" line. For others, it's his "Wanted, Dead or Alive" remark about Osama bin Laden (a comment that even Bush now regrets).
For me, it's, "I am not a geologist, as you know."