The Corner

Hillary on Science

To mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, and to lay out her science policy, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech on science today. It is, needless to say, full of the usual litany of accusations against the Bush administration and its “war on science.” These have been rehearsed ad nauseam in recent years, but a few of the points she chose to repeat do merit a re-refutation.

Speaking of embryonic stem cell research, she repeated the often-heard lines that:

Within these cells may lie the cures for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Huntington’s and more. 100 million Americans live with these conditions — and their families live with them too.

Of all the ludicrous nonsense uttered in the stem cell debate, this 100 million figure has got to be the silliest. So one in three Americans is suffering from a debilitating deadly disease? Is that really the image of America in Mrs. Clinton’s head? Where in the world did this figure ever come from and what could it possibly be based on? (Certainly not from the NIH or any source the NIH could find, as Ramesh pointed out here a while back). Let alone the irresponsible over-promising of cures, which actual stem cell scientists have begun wisely to steer away from.  

She continued:

“One report recently found that the percentage of research papers on embryonic stem cell science authored by researchers in the United States has dropped from more than a third of all published to roughly one quarter in just three years. And that negative trend may continue.”

This is a gross misrepresentation of what seems actually to be an enormous and stable American lead in the field, and tremendous growth in stem cell science achieved during the Bush years, with help from public funding made available in ways that advance the research but do not encourage the further destruction of human embryos, as I’ve noted here before.

She said: “I will also have an advisor for science in the White House who reports directly to the President.” Mrs. Clinton, meet John Marburger and his predecessors.

And she pledged to increase funding for the National Science Foundation and have “new fellowships at the National Science Foundation to allow math and science professionals to become teachers in high-need schools,” both of which, essentially word-for-word as in her speech, are proposals President Bush made last year.

There is lots more wrong with the picture of science policy Clinton paints, but these highlights begin to offer a flavor. “Evidence-based” it is not.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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