Blinding us with science

BLINDING US WITH SCIENCE…. Earlier this week, introducing Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu as the next Energy Secretary, Barack Obama made a pointed claim about his upcoming administration: “His appointment should send a signal to all that my administration will value science, we will make decisions based on the facts, and we understand that the facts demand bold action.”

Yesterday, Obama’s commitment to restoring the role for science in government was reinforced even further.

In a sign that President-elect Barack Obama intends to elevate science to greater prominence, John P. Holdren, a Harvard physicist widely recognized for his leadership on energy policy and climate change, will be appointed White House science adviser this weekend, the Globe confirmed yesterday. […]

“I think they’ll be restoring the role of science in the federal establishment,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge-based advocacy organization. “We’ve got a bunch of people across the [new] administration who get it.” […]

Holdren, who was an adviser to the Obama campaign and a member of a scientific advisory committee to President Bill Clinton, is a specialist on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation.

Now, “White House science adviser” may sound like an impressive honor, but it’s actually a post with key responsibilities. Joseph Romm noted yesterday that the position “oversees science and technology funding, analysis, and messaging for all federal agencies.” Romm also said the combination of Holdren and Chu sends a signal that Obama is “dead serious about the strongest possible action on global warming,” adding, “[A]fter eight years of Bush spreading disinformation and muzzling scientists, putting Holdren in charge of the ‘bully pulpit of science’ is just what the nation and the planet need if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic warming.”

What’s more, I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that Obama is also poised to introduce Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which adds to the sea-change in elevating the importance of science in the next administration.

The Washington Post explained that Lubchenco is “a vocal proponent of curbing greenhouse gases linked to global warming,” and her appointment represents a “radical” departure for NOAA under Bush.

We’re talking about science-related choices from Obama that are, for lack of a better word, enlightened. After eight years in which science, reason, and evidence have been treated with disdain, when they weren’t being ignored altogether, it’s going to be a breath of fresh air.