Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Harkin's War on Science: Bipartisan Ignorance

As if we needed reminding that ignorance and anti-science attitudes are not the sole propriety of social conservatives, here comes Tom Harkin to make sure we don't forget. Tom was instrumental in the setting up of the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, a government agency charged with investigating and validating alternative medicines. The problem? After a decade and countless taxpayer millions wasted, it has not found a single alternative medicine it could grant scientific validity. And that is not what Harkin had in mind at all:

"One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short," Harkin said.

The senator went on to lament that, since its inception in 1998, the focus of NCCAM has been "disproving things rather than seeking out and approving things."

In other words, Harkin had a very unscientific attitude towards this scientific venture. He didn't want evidence found and followed where it led. He wanted his pet therapies declared valid, and to hell with the data, or worse, assumed his own views to be beyond reproach and thus any conclusion that ran counter to them must be flawed.

Thanks Tom, for the reminder than crank science is not bounded by ideology, even if some do foster it more than others. Anyone whose confidence grows beyond the need for evidence can fall into this trap. You can get detailed analysis of Harkin's comments, here, here, and here.

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