by J.R. Pegg
(ENS) WASHINGTON -- Armed with the endorsement of 48 Nobel Prize winning scientists, Democratic presidential contender John Kerry criticized President George W. Bush on June 21 for putting conservative ideology and corporate interests ahead of sound scientific policies and research.
Kerry chastized Bush for proposed cuts for scientific research and for politicizing the science on issues such as stem cell research, mercury pollution and climate change.
"We need a President who believes in science again in America," Kerry said.
"We need a President who will once again embrace our tradition of looking toward the future and new discoveries with hope based on scientific facts, not fear."
The scientists endorsing Kerry echoed the Democratic contenderŐs criticisms.
They said the Bush administration is undermining the nation's future by impeding medical advances, compromising scientific education within the United States, turning away scientific talent with its immigration practices, and ignoring scientific consensus on global warming and other critical issues.
"Unlike previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike, the Bush administration has ignored unbiased scientific advice in the policy-making that is so important to our collective welfare," according to the endorsement letter, signed by 48 Nobel Prize winners from 1957-2003 in chemistry, physics and medicine.
"By ignoring scientific consensus on critical issues such as global warming, [the Bush administration is] threatening the Earth's future," the scientists say.
Kerry told supporters at a rally Monday he would reverse the current ban on federal funding of stem cell research and would base decisions on the advice of the nationŐs scientific leaders, rather than on ideology.
"If we pursue the limitless potential of science -- and trust that we can use it wisely -- we will save millions of lives and earn the gratitude of future generations," Kerry said. "We have the potential to do so much good while at the same time meeting some very practical challenges."
Kerry added that he would reverse BushŐs "global gag rule," which bars the federal government from funding organizations that provide support or education on abortion.
The Bush campaign responded that the United States is the leader in patents, research and development and Nobel prizes, and said Kerry was distorting the PresidentŐs record.
"Only John Kerry would declare the country to be in scientific decline on a day when the countryŐs first privately funded space trip is successfully completed," said Bush-Cheney Ő04 Spokesman Steve Schmidt.
The President, Schmidt added, has requested budgets to raise federal research and development funding by some 44 percent since taking office, and the Bush campaign touted increases for nanotechnology research, homeland security research, clean coal technology, and hydrogen fuel cell research.
But such comments do little to placate critics of the PresidentŐs use of science in its policymaking and concern that funding reflects misguided priorities.
"During the last half century U.S. has been the leader in the ideas business, but the U.S. innovation base is slowly dwindling," said Dr. Burton Richter, the 1976 winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry, told reporters on a conference call Monday. "Little attention is being paid to the research that is the basis for our leadership in the ideas business."
And despite the administrationŐs claims to the contrary, federal investments in science have been inadequate under President Bush, the scientists say.
They note that under the administrationŐs budget projections through 2009, science funding across the federal government -- bar the space program -- will decline between 4.7 and 15 percent.
Overall increases during the first three years of the Bush presidency have largely been under the rate of inflation, according to the scientists and the Kerry campaign, and the lack of commitment is harming the nationŐs competitiveness.
Dr. Harold Varmus, a former head of the National Institutes of Health and a 1989 Nobel laureate for medicine, told reporters the Bush administration has had a "cavalier attitude to the way it receives advice from the scientific community."
Richter, who helped generate the letter of support for Kerry, added the "top levels of this administration are far too ideological."
The Bush campaign dismissed the importance of 48 Nobel laureates opposing the President -- in a statement Schmidt noted that 22 signed a petition opposing the war in Iraq and 16 have given money to Democrat political candidates or organizations.
Richter said the endorsement reflects "how seriously all of us think the errors of our present course are." The letter from the 48 Nobel laureates follows a statement in February by more than 60 leading scientists that also criticized the Bush administrationŐs science policies.
That statement alleged the administration has suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, and taken actions that have undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels.
June 26, 2004 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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