Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Phantom Menace

Seed Magazine recently posted a troubling report about how the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History delayed and "toned-down" an exhibit about global warming because there were fears that the White House and Congress would react negatively to it.

The associate director for public programs at the National Museum of Natural History, Robert Sullivan claims that all sorts of attempts were made to insert uncertainty into an exhibit presenting scientific conclusions about the effects of global warming on indigenous flora, fauna and human populations in the arctic. If you don't believe all of these are affected, the NYTimes printed a story today about this very issue!

In the Seed article, he says that:
"Nobody was specifically asking us to do it, the Congress was not asking, the White House was not asking.” But he added: “It was insidious. It’s never stated as a policy, but it’s always kind of there, this kind of shadow. The knowledge is always there that you have to be careful, and that’s recent, really in the last decade."
Is public funding for the public understanding of science a phantom menace?

Considering that the Smithsonian gets 70% of its income from Federal allocations, it is reasonable that we think a little bit more about how to effectively shelter presentations of science from political meddling.

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