August 5, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Science Journal Takes Political Sides

It might seem unusual or even improper for a science journal to encourage its readers to vote for a particular presidential candidate, especially for voters in a different country than its publishers’ domicile.  Nature Aug. 5 contained two such articles that could hardly be defended as non-partisan.  An editorial1 said in ostensibly neutral terms, “Researchers should seize an opportunity to make their voices heard, whatever their political persuasion,” but made it abundantly clear what that persuasion should be.  “The Bush administration has been heavily criticized in scientific quarters,” it says, and reports on the Union of Concerned Scientists claiming that Bush has been guilty of “the politicization of science.”  Kerry, however is not so criticized; the editorial quotes a group of scientists that claims “John Kerry will restore science to its appropriate place in government and bring it back into the White House.”  Though trying to appear neutral, the editorial seems clearly tilted left.
    That leftward stance is reinforced by a news article in the same issue2 that gives prominent coverage to Nobel laureates who are campaigning for Kerry.  It has nothing positive to say about Bush: just allegations, criticisms and the anger of certain scientists, with no opportunity for rebuttal.  It mentions nothing about Bush’s space initiatives for NASA or any other accomplishments.  Kerry, in contrast, is cast in an entirely positive light: for instance, “Already, science has taken an unusually high profile in the Kerry campaign.  Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, mentioned the Hubble Space Telescope and the Cassini mission to Saturn in her speech at the Democratic National Convention last week.”
    Science has been a little more nonpartisan lately.  Last week it gave Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham3 an uncontested column on Bush’s Climate Policy, and this week, it presented a more balanced view of the election campaign as it pertains to science: David Malakoff4 presented both sides of the controversy over stem cell research.  Nevertheless, conservatives will find evidence of bias in certain statements, such as the prominence given to Matthew Nisbet (Ohio State) commenting on Kerry’s making stem cell research a campaign issue.  Malakoff quotes Nisbet: “’It allowed Kerry to highlight a major policy difference between the candidates on a health issue that is relevant to millions of Americans,’ he says.  ‘It also allowed him to reinforce reservations that undecided voters may already have about Bush being ‘an ideologue who doesn’t listen to experts who hold other views.’”  These charges are only weakly rebutted in Malakoff’s article.

1Editorial, “On the campaign trail,” Nature 430, 593 (05 August 2004); doi:10.1038/430593a.
2Geoff Brumfiel and Emma Marris, “Nobel laureates spearhead effort to put Kerry in the White House,” Nature 430, 595 (05 August 2004); doi:10.1038/430595a.
3Spencer Abraham, “The Bush Administration’s Approach to Climate Change,” Science, Vol 305, Issue 5684, 616-617, 30 July 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.1098630].
4David Malakoff, “The Calculus of Making Stem Cells a Campaign Issue,” Science, Vol 305, Issue 5685, 760, 6 August 2004, [DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5685.760].

We predicted last year that a survey would find academic scientists to be predominantly liberal Democrats (see 09/22/2003 editorial), and now we have evidence right from Nature’s editorial page: it says plainly, “In the current polarized political climate, it is hardly surprising that some scientists should swing behind Kerry in this way — the research community traditionally votes overwhelmingly Democratic.”  Let no one conclude that this means smart people vote Democrat.  These are the ones that brought us sunbathing fish evolving into humans, remember? (see 08/03/2004 headline).  No; rather, it means two things: the (1) Darwin Party that rules Big Science and the journals cannot tolerate anyone who believes in God and absolute moral standards, and (2) Big Science needs its entitlements to keep its Starving Storytellers welfare state going (see 12/22/2003 commentary).  From day one, Nature was a mouthpiece for Charlie Darwin’s musketeers (see 03/04/2004 commentary).  Since Darwin described himself as “liberal or radical” (see 02/13/2004 headline), it is not surprising his mouthpiece continues to be a propaganda machine for political liberalism as well as the moral relativism that fits leftist ideology and Darwinian theory like hand and glove (see 06/28/2004, 06/07/2004, 06/03/2004 and 05/17/2004 headlines, for instance).

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