Sunday, June 04, 2006

War on Science Update

Seed Magazine, the originator of the web's largest conversation about science, has an editorial: The American War on Science.  There have been many such articles lately, but this one is different.  It examines the logistical aspect of the war.  By that, I mean that the author, Christopher Mims, discusses the complex issues involved in the supply of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers in the USA.  
It is possible that American students' accelerating disinterest in science and engineering, coupled with a dwindling supply of foreign replacements, would set up a Peak Oil-type scenario in the US, where demand for these workers continues to grow while supply plateaus and then dwindles.
There is another issue that is peripherally related to this: The Undercover Activist Blog, a blog that allows public employees to post anonymous criticisms of their agencies and governmental activities, has posted some new information (1 2) about the industry push to get controversial pesticides approved by the FDA.  
EPA scientists protest pending pesticide approvals

In a PEER-released May 24th letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, leaders from three unions representing 9,000 scientists, risk managers and other specialists are publicly objecting to imminent agency approval for a score of powerful, controversial pesticides.

The letter is in reference to an August 3, 2006 deadline for the EPA to issue final tolerance approval for 20 organophosphate and carbamate pesticides. The scientists cite “compelling evidence” which EPA leadership is choosing to ignore that these “pesticides damage the developing nervous systems of fetuses, infants and children.”

Today’s Wall Street Journal article (subscription) broke the story and cites political pressure by agency managers and pesticide-industry officials to allow the continued use of a family of pesticides that might be harmful to children, infants and fetuses. The letter asks EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to either adopt maximum exposure protections for these agents or take them off the market.
It seems ironic that persons who advocate for a "culture of life" would want to make it legal to poison fetuses.  Of course, no one is saying that these pesticides actually kill fetuses, just that they damage their brains.  The real irony is that it is going to be a lot harder to keep up the supply of scientists and science teachers, if we poison their developing brains.