Washington Post | Michael Gerson | May. 7, 2008
There are few things in American politics more irrationally ideological, more fanatically faith-based, than the accusation that Republicans are conducting a “war on science.”
According to Hillary Clinton, the Bush administration has declared “open season on open inquiry.” “When I am president,” she promises, “scientific integrity will not be the exception; it will be the rule.”
The exceptions, in this case, are pretty exceptional: Elias Zerhouni, who has reformed the National Institutes of Health with widely praised efficiency; Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who helped set in motion large-scale AIDS treatment in Africa; Francis Collins of the National Human Genome Research Institute, who led the effort to map the human genome. The “war on science” recently has allowed some extraordinary achievements.
For the most part, these accusations are a political ploy — actually an attempt to shut down political debate. Any practical concern about the content of government sex-education curricula is labeled “anti-science.” Any ethical question about the destruction of human embryos to harvest their cells is dismissed as “theological” and thus illegitimate.
Liberal views are “objective” while traditional moral convictions are “biased.” Public scrutiny of scientific practices is “politicizing” important decisions.
These arguments are seriously made, but they are not to be taken seriously. Does anyone really believe in a science without moral and legal limits? In harvesting organs from prisoners? In systematically getting rid of the disabled?
This last question, alas, does not answer itself. In America, the lives of about nine of 10 children with Down syndrome are ended before birth. In Europe, about 40 percent of unborn children with major congenital disorders are aborted.
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