On issues like stem cells, climate change, sex education and contraceptives, the Bush administration sought to tame and, in some cases, suppress the findings of many of the government’s scientific agencies. Besides discouraging scientific pronouncements that contradicted administration policies, officials insisted on tight control over even routine functions of key agencies.
In early 2004, more than 60 influential scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, issued a statement claiming that the Bush administration had systematically distorted scientific fact in the service of policy goals on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry.
The administration, it said, had “misrepresented scientific knowledge and misled the public about the implications of its policies.”
Just last month, the inspector general of the Interior Department determined that agency officials often interfered with scientific work in order to limit protections for species in danger of extinction.
We no longer have President George W. Bush, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Senator John McCain announcing in August 2006 their support for teaching Intelligent Design in pubic schools. That was a mobilizing moment for the champions of rational thinking such as Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins, Daniel C. Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and P.Z. Myers to mount an unrelenting campaign against superstition, supernaturalism, and ignorance. The dilemma as Coyne notes is that against the backdrop of scientific knowledge available to us today, these three words are applicable not only to the texts that inform literal fundamentalists but also to the rarefied theological mumbo-jumbo of the most refined, liberal theologians.
On inauguration day, President Obama announced the goal of "restoring science to its rightful place" while, in the same speech, acknowledging that nonbelievers are citizens of this nation in the same way as followers of religion.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison,” – Nelson Mandela, proof that the final form of love is forgiveness.
It is rare that one soul can impact all of ours – and make us more patient, more powerful and more human. Mandela was such a soul. And he will never leave us.