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NY Mayor Slams GOP War on Science

By DIANE CARDWELL  Posted by Kenneth Anderson (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)   No comments
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From The New York Times

Distancing himself from national Republicans and the Bush administration, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg yesterday urged an end to the political manipulation of science, which he said had been used to discredit the threat of global warming and undermine medical advancements in areas like stem-cell research.

In a speech to graduating students of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Mr. Bloomberg railed against what he sees as ideologically motivated arguments that have fueled debate over hot-button issues like teaching evolution in public schools and the Terri Schiavo case.

"Today, we are seeing hundreds of years of scientific discovery being challenged by people who simply disregard facts that don't happen to agree with their agenda," Mr. Bloomberg said. "Some call it pseudoscience, others call it faith-based science, but when you notice where this negligence tends to take place, you might as well call it 'political science.' "

Mr. Bloomberg has increasingly been using the bully pulpit to wade into national issues like gun trafficking and illegal immigration, and his latest remarks reflect how he is working to chart a third course in American politics as the national discourse remains polarized. Nominally a Republican, Mr. Bloomberg is fashioning a political framework that borrows liberal social values from the Democrats, pro-business fiscal language from the Republicans and a pragmatic approach from the private sector.

Mr. Bloomberg chose friendly territory as a backdrop for the comments, among the most politically charged of his tenure. He attended Johns Hopkins as an undergraduate, has given the university hundreds of millions of dollars over the years and spoke before an audience who might tend to identify with his views.

But beyond the halls of the university, the comments were sure to ruffle feathers and again illustrate the widening gulf between Mr. Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat before his run for mayor, and the Republican Party to which he now belongs.

Having won re-election last year in New York by a decisive margin and with no clear future political ambitions, Mr. Bloomberg, 64, appears to be reveling in his freedom to say what he wants without worrying about the consequences within the Republican Party.

On global warming, Mr. Bloomberg echoed criticism from Democrats and environmental advocates who say that the Republicans have been slow to act, questioning how much human activity contributes to it and debating regulations.

"Despite near-unanimity in the science community, there's now a movement, driven by ideology and short-term economics, to ignore the evidence and discredit the reality of climatic change," he said.

Mr. Bloomberg also criticized the federal government, which under President Bush has restricted financing to create new stem-cell lines for research. Mr. Bloomberg said that by limiting such financing, the government was leaving its responsibility to protect the health and welfare of citizens to the private sector.

He also leveled another indirect attack at Congress and President Bush for taking up the position of Terri Schiavo's parents, passing laws to try to keep Ms. Schiavo, the brain-dead woman in Florida, on life support against her husband's wishes.

"Was there anything more inappropriate than watching political science try to override medical science in the Terri Schiavo case?" Mr. Bloomberg said.

He also went after proposals in school districts to teach intelligent design, which he called "really just creationism by another name," alongside evolution.

Many conservatives, including President Bush, support the addition of intelligent design -- which holds that life is too complicated to have been created without an architect -- to curriculums.

"It boggles the mind that nearly two centuries after Darwin, and 80 years after John Scopes was put on trial, the country is still debating the validity of evolution," he said. "This not only devalues science, it cheapens theology. As well as condemning these students to an inferior education, it ultimately hurts their professional opportunities."

In telling the graduates that science was under attack from ideologues in the public sphere, Mr. Bloomberg compared this era with one more than a century ago, when the medical school was founded, when "medicine was dominated by quacks and poorly trained physicians."
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An astronomer who has worked on a number of NASA projects, Ken lives in Baltimore, where he devotes his scientific training to observations and inferences about current affairs, politics and the media. He authors Shockfront and The Bonehead (more...)
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