Obama is down with observation

by bryan kennedy on Jan. 20th, 2009

I was very excited to listen to Barack Obama's inauguration address and hear him speak the words, science, data, and statistics with pride and emphasis. We will keep a watchful eye over the next four years to make sure that science policy adheres to the agenda and principles that our new president has set out.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

I had to do a double-take when I read your headline. Is our first African-American president "down with" observation in 2009 or in 1979?

posted on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 1:22pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

I wasn't even alive in '79, and I'm "down with" lots of things.

posted on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 2:13pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Unfortunately, Obama's top science advisor, John Holdren, has a record of extrapolating observations further than they can be supported. In 1980 he famously predicted that the world would run out of certain key metals; ten years later, those metals were cheaper and more abundant than before. He openly supports the work of Paul Ehrlich, a scientist whose predictions of mass starvation and population crash have been wrong for some 40 years. And now Holdren is dising Bjorn Lomborg on climate change -- another complex system which thus far has not been behaving as computer models have predicted.

Observation is great. But how you interpret those observations is at least as important, and Holdren's track record isn't good.

posted on Fri, 01/23/2009 - 1:46pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Some people like him.


posted on Thu, 01/29/2009 - 12:15pm
DO's picture
DO says:

It will be nice to have an obsrvation and reality based science aadviser rather than a faith-based one. And I would not call Paul Ehrllich as scientist!

posted on Fri, 01/23/2009 - 3:50pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Ehrlich is a scientist alright. Some would claim he's just not a very good one -- or, at least, not when he strays from his specialty, which is butterflies.

The faith-based initiatives of the previous administration were by and large charitable in nature, not scientific.

posted on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 7:25pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Here's an op-ed piece from the Washington Post by Duke University engineering professor Henry Petroski. [Full disclosure: I have a big fat geek-girl crush on Henry Petroski.]

It begins,

"'We will restore science to its rightful place,' President Obama declared in his inaugural address. That certainly sounds like a worthy goal. But frankly, it has me worried. If we want to 'harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories,' as Obama has decreed, we shouldn't look to science. What we need is engineering."

He goes on,

"Most people who aren't scientists or engineers seem to think that science and engineering are the same. They're not. Science seeks to understand the world as it is; only engineering can change it."


"Some of our greatest energy challenges require engineering breakthroughs, not scientific discoveries. The principles that explain how a battery works, for example, are old news. But a lightweight and cost-effective battery pack with enough juice to power a car over long distances remains an elusive goal.

The same is true of fuel and solar cells. Scientists established long ago that natural processes involving chemicals and sunlight can produce electricity. We need engineers to make the cells lean enough to compete with coal and oil. Science alone is never enough."

And wraps up with,

'Obama should keep his promise to "restore science to its rightful place' -- and put engineering on at least an equal footing."

posted on Fri, 01/30/2009 - 2:15pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Are we still keeping tabs on politics and science in the second term?

Misstatements about global warming in second inaugural address.

posted on Tue, 03/05/2013 - 7:36am

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