Monday, July 03, 2006


Disappearing Books

Glenn Branch, Deputy Director of the NCSE (go donate some money to them, now!) left the following comments in connection with my latest post about Sen. Barack Obama's recent speech. I'm moving it up here partly because it deserves all of what little attention my efforts can give it and partly because of a confluence of events that will become obvious:

Glenn pointed out that the Senator's web site had the following under "Obama bytes":

On science and faith in the classroom: "Intelligent design is not science. We should teach our children theology to get them to think about the meaning of life. But that's separate from how atoms or photons work."
And from a speech last year to the American Library Association:

And at a time when truth and science are constantly being challenged by political agendas and ideologies; a time where so many refuse to teach evolution in our schools, where fake science is used to beat back attempts to curb global warming or fund life-saving research; libraries remind us that truth isn't about who yells the loudest, but who has the right information. Because even as we're the most religious of people, America's innovative genius has always been preserved because we also have a deep faith in facts.
The Senator is right that Americans have a deep faith in facts but that also means that some American have a deep fear of those facts because they damage their theological, political or economic interests. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has just revealed that the Bush Administration has deleted $2 million from the Environmental Protection Agency's 2007 budget for the EPA’s network of technical research libraries. Amounting to 80% of the EPA’s total budget for libraries, the agency, without waiting to see what Congress does, has begun to close access to collections and reassigning library staff. Access by the general public is now "greatly reduced or no longer available."

As the PEER news release put it:

The dogged insistence by the Bush administration on a $2 million cut in an overall EPA budget of nearly $8 billion is particularly curious. EPA internal studies show that providing full library access saves an estimated 214,000 hours in professional staff time worth some $7.5 million annually, an amount far larger than the total agency library budget of $2.5 million.

"The Bush administration apparently decided that it was politically easier to close the libraries than to burn the books, although the end result will be the same," Ruch added, noting that the EPA Administrator brushed aside an earlier request by the scientist unions to bargain about the library shutdowns internally.

In their letter, the EPA scientists cite library closures as "one more example of the Bush administration’s effort to suppress information on environmental and public health-related topics." At the same time, other outside observers, such as the Chair of EPA’s own Science Advisory Board, are expressing growing concerns over the viability and coherence of EPA’s research program.

Or another way to put it might be that 'A lotta knowledge is a dangerous thing to certain narrow interests.'

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