Garth takes the hill

Garth Illingworth

UC Santa Cruz professor of astronomy and astrophysics Garth Illingworth testified on Capitol Hill before a congressional subcommittee last week. He was there testifying at a hearing on NASA’s space science programs. He warned that NASA’s budget is woefully deficient, especially considering it’s mandate as outlined by President Bush.

“NASA science missions have played a central role in the scientific advances in the last two decades,” Illingworth said. “Yet this leadership in the scientific and technological arena. . .is clearly at risk in the coming years.”

The issue here, as I see it, is that scientists must continue to take an active role in political decisions, as distasteful as they may find that prospect. This country is supposed to operate on freedom of expression, and the ability to form an argument to convince others that your position is the correct one. Science (and scientists) will lose if scientists leave the debate to others.

There is (at least) the perception that the Bush Administration is hostile to science, if that science contradicts the policies and views of the president (although this article on The Scientist website contends that this is hardly new or unique to our current president).

On one hand, I keep hearing and reading about transgressions on the realm of science by political hacks and/or religiously motivated people (see this, or this or this  or this)  and on the other hand hear and read that the Bush administration is funding science programs at a rate greater than any of his predecessors (see this).

Which is true? Well, I suppose neither, either, or both, depending almost entirely on your point of view.  The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, although I think that its fairly easy to make the case for Bush as “the antiscience president”.

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