The LA Times has this story (free, reg. required) about the Bush administration’s new rules governing Health and Human Services (HHS) employees’ attendance at World Health Organization (WHO) meetings. Under the present system the WHO invites experts to serve on panels. However, Tommy Thompson’s spokesperson claims:
No one knows better than HHS who the experts are and who can provide the most up-to-date and expert advice. The World Health Organization does not know the best people to talk to, but HHS knows.
The new system requires all requests for government experts to be vetted by the political appointees in HHS.
Civil service and other regulations “require HHS experts to serve as representatives of the U.S. government at all times and advocate U.S. government policies… The current practice in which the WHO invites specific HHS officials by name to serve in these capacities has not always resulted in the most appropriate selections.”
So the administration’s stance is that it has scientific opinons, and unless all government employees espouse those scientific opinions, they are not allowed to go to meetings. I remember reading that Bush also thinks that creationism and evolution should be given equal time in science classrooms. There’s a difference between being a creationist and having it be the official policy of the US Government, but there is a reason that science should not be politicized in this way. Since they can declare science policy by fiat, we could end up with a government that demands that all employees espouse the equivalence of creationism and evolution. But then they’d come under fire — or would they?