Don't let Ideology Trump Science

Last week's Science mag editorial, written by Al Leshner is a gem.

"A flurry of activity over the past few weeks has followed the effort of a right-wing religious group to call into ques-tion almost 200 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants focusing on behavioral and social aspects of issues such as sexuality, HIV/AIDS transmission, and drug abuse (Science, 31 October 2003, p. 758). This incident could have been written off as noise by a fringe group had it not come almost on the heels of the near-passage in the House of Representatives last July of what came to be known as the “Toomey Amendment,” after its author Rep. Patrick Toomey (R-PA). By a vote of 212 to 210, the House just missed defunding four NIH research grants on sexual behavior that had already been through rigorous scientific peer review..."

First off: why would a PA Rep. want to do such a thing? Though the money from these four may not have gone to Philly, State College or Pittsburgh, the next time some wing-nut comes along to meddle in the funding process after peer review, it may very well affect PA. Looking at towns like Scranton, you wouldn't want the tax-payer-amount equivalent of one GPS-guided missile slip out of your hands. It's one thing for a Rep. from a state that has little medical research and an ideologically conservative constituency to do such a thing, but WHY does the state I hope to live in soon constantly elect these extremists?

Back to the article:

"The moral judges who are doing this don’t like the fact that HIV is spread through sexual contact, and they believe that drug addicts have made bad personal choices that have led to addiction. Is their disapproval of these behaviors a justification for stifling research on the diseases that result? Do they suppose that some form of national denial will make these problems go away? Regardless of personal feelings about the etiology of these illnesses, we need to understand their causes and transmission patterns if we are ever to get a handle on some of society’s most pervasive public health problems."

Well said, Al...