When I learned that Barack Obama had picked John Podesta as his transition chief, I was not impressed, being that he has a crank belief the government is hiding UFOs.
The folks at ScienceDebate don't necessarily agree, though I think they are going to bless anything Obama does, because about Podesta they wrote a few days ago "Clearly, this is a man who gets it, working, it seems, for a president who gets it."(email, no link on their website)
Well, does he get it for all science? Appointing physicist Steven Chu as energy secretary was certainly a good sign. But we have Larry Summers, who thinks girls can't do math, as director of Obama's National Economic Council and, whether he will admit it or not, has something of a bone to pick with academia for the way he was railroaded out of his job at Harvard by reactionaries. And now President-elect Obama has appointed John Holdren of Harvard as science advisor. Another physicist.
That can't be bad, right?
Well, it depends on what science you are in. I prefer to think of a science advisor as someone who will be thinking about the policy issues of the upcoming decade and he instead has settled on Holdren (and also Jane Lubchenco to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admninistration) and what do they all have in common?
They're actively outspoken about CO2 and global warming.
You'll have to pardon me if I don't think CO2 is the biggest issue we face in the short term. Obviously I have recognized the impact of pollution on the climate for a lot longer than many of the scientist activist know-it-alls who write on the internet but I recognize a lot of hype when I see it as well. Biology issues, outside the detriment Bush heaped on science by restricting human embryonic stem cells research lines, are not hyped. They're not even discussed enough. But they're real and they're coming at us like a freight train. Lubchenco is at least a marine biologist but she isn't going to even meet Obama much less have a meeting with him and help navigate the ethical and policy issues that will come up.
Biology is, at its heart, about breaking the laws of nature and we need someone who understands more than global warming and navigating bureaucracies to help make policy decisions at such an important time.
Now, I am no biologist, so maybe the science community is still in that euphoric 'anyone but Bush' stage so not terribly concerned that life sciences are getting less of a profile than global warming. Clearly global warming is something we have to worry about, it just shouldn't be the sole focus of Obama's science strategy, since we are in 2008 and not 1998.
And 75% of the country is in the middle of a blizzard.
Are Obama's Science Picks A Slap To Life Sciences?